Retro/Vintage

Spotlight on vintage lipstick tissues

The life of a makeup museum curator is insanely glamorous.  For example, a lot of people go out on Friday nights, but not me - I have way more thrilling plans.  I usually browse for vintage makeup at Ebay and Etsy on my phone while in bed and am completely passed out by 8pm.  EXCITING.  It was during one of these Friday night escapades that I came across a fabulous box of vintage lipstick pads and naturally, that sent me down quite the rabbit hole.  Today I'm discussing a cosmetics accessory that has gone the way of the dodo:  lipstick tissues.  This is by no means a comprehensive history, but I've put together a few interesting findings.  I just wish I had access to more than my local library (which doesn't have much), a free trial subscription to newspapers.com and the general interwebz, as anyone could do that meager level of "research".  I would love to be able to dig deeper and have more specific information, but in lieu of that, I do hope you enjoy what I was able to throw together.

The earliest mention of lipstick tissues that I found was January 1932.  It makes sense, as several patents were filed for the same design that year. 

Lipstick tissue compact patent

Lipstick tissue patent
(images from google)

While they might have existed in the 1920s, I'm guessing lipstick tissues didn't become mainstream until the early 30s, as this December 1932 clipping refers to them as new, while another columnist in December 1932 says she just recently discovered them (and they are so mind-blowing they were clearly invented by a woman, since "no mere man could be so ingenious".)

December 1932 newspapers referring to lipstick tissues

In addition to the tear-off, matchbook-like packages, lipstick tissues also came rolled in a slim case.

October 1933 ad for Rolay lipstick tissues

This lovely Art Deco design by Richard Hudnut debuted in 1932 and was in production at least up until 1934.  I couldn't resist buying it.

Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

February 1934 ad for Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

By 1935, restaurants and hotels had gotten wind of lipstick tissues' practicality for their businesses, while beauty and etiquette columnists sang their praises.  Indeed, using linens or towels to remove one's lipstick was quickly becoming quite the social blunder by the late 30s.

Restaurants offering lipstick tissues, 1935 and 1939

May 1936 beauty column - lipstick tissues

Kleenex was invented in 1924, but it wasn't until 1937, when the company had the grand idea to insert tissues specifically for lipstick removal into a matchbook like package, that these little wonders really took off.  You might remember these from my post on the Smithsonian's collection of beauty and hygiene items.  The warrior/huntress design was used throughout 1937 and 1938.

Kleenex lipstick tissues, ca. 1937(image from americanhistory.si.edu)

Kleenex started upping the ante by 1938, selling special cases for their lipstick tissues and launching campaigns like these "true confessions", which appeared in Life magazine (and which I'm sure were neither true nor confessions.)  With these ads, Kleenex built upon the existing notion that using towels/linens to remove lipstick was the ultimate etiquette faux pas, and one that could only be avoided by using their lipstick tissues. 

Kleenex lipstick tissue ad, April 1938

These ads really gave the hard sell, making it seem as though one was clearly raised by wolves if they didn't use lipstick tissues.  Or any tissues, for that matter.  Heaven forbid - you'll be a social pariah!

Kleenex True Confessions, February 1938

Kleenex True Confessions, October 1939

Look, you can even use these tissues to cheat on your girlfriend!  (insert eyeroll here)

Kleenex True Confessions, September 1939
(images from books.google.com)  

Not only that, Kleenex saw the opportunity to collaborate with a range of companies as a way to advertise both the companies' own goods/services and the tissues themselves.  By the early '40s it was difficult to find a business that didn't offer these gratis with purchase, or at least, according to this 1945 article, "national manufacturers of goods women buy." And by 1946, it was predicted that women would be expecting free tissue packets to accompany most of their purchases.

Diamond Match Company lipstick tissues - Dec. 1945

Needless to say, most of them consisted of food (lots of baked goods, since apparently women were tethered to their ovens), and other domestic-related items and services, like hosiery, hangers and dry cleaning.

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Curtiss Candy company lipstick tissues(images from ebay and etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from ebay.com)

Naturally I had to buy a few of these examples for the Museum's collection.  Generally speaking, they're pretty inexpensive and plentiful.  The only one I shelled out more than $5 for was the Hudnut package since that one was a little more rare and in such excellent condition.  Interestingly, these have a very different texture than what we know today as tissues.  Using contemporary Kleenex to blot lipstick only results in getting little fuzzy bits stuck to your lips, but these vintage tissues have more of a blotting paper feel, perhaps just a touch thicker and ever so slightly less papery.  It could be due to old age - paper's texture definitely changes over time - but I think these were designed differently than regular tissues you'd use for a cold.

Lipstick tissues

Anyway, Museum staff encouraged me to buy the cookie one.  ;)

Lipstick tissues

I took this picture so you could get a sense of the size.  It seems the official Kleenex ones were a little bigger than their predecessors.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Wouldn't it be cool to go to a restaurant and see one of these at the table?  It would definitely make the experience seem more luxurious.  I certainly wouldn't feel pressure to use them for fear of committing a social sin, I just think it would be fun.

Lipstick tissues
(image from etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from mshhistoc.org)

I figured having a restaurant/hotel tissue packet would be a worthy addition to the Museum's collection, since it's another good representation of the types of businesses that offered them.  I'd love to see a hotel offer these as free souvenirs.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Here's an example that doesn't fit neatly into the baked goods/cleaning/hotel categories.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

This one is also interesting.  Encouraging women to be fiscally responsible is obviously more progressive than advertising dry cleaning and corn nut muffins, but it's important to remember that at the time these were being offered by Bank of America (ca. 1963), a woman could have checking and savings accounts yet still was unable to take out a loan or credit card in her own name.  One step forward, 5 steps back.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Of course, cosmetics companies also made their own lipstick tissues.

Tangee lipstick tissues(image from etsy.com)

I was very close to buying these given how cute the graphics are, but didn't want to spend $20.  (I think they're now reduced to $12.99, if you'd like to treat yourself.)

Dubarry lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Plus, I already have these DuBarry tissues in the collection.

Dubarry lipstick tissues

Funny side note:  I actually found a newspaper ad for these very same tissues!  It was dated July 27, 1948, which means the approximate dates I included in my DuBarry post were accurate.

DuBarry lipstick tissues ad, 1948

By the late '40s, lipstick tissues had transcended handbags and became popular favors for various social occasions, appearing at country club dinner tables to weddings and everything in between.  I'm guessing this is due to the fact that custom colors and monogramming were now available to individual customers rather than being limited to businesses.

Lipstick tissue ads - 1946, 1950

Lipstick tissue gift suggestion, 1946

Lipstick tissue favors, 1950 and 1944

"Bride-elect"?  Seriously?

Lipstick tissue wedding favors, April 1951

While the matchbook-sized lipstick tissues are certainly quaint, if you wanted something even fancier to remove your lipstick, lipstick pads were the way to go.  These are much larger and thicker than Kleenex and came imprinted with lovely designs and sturdy outer box.  This was the item that made me investigate lipstick tissues.  I mean, look at those letters!  I was powerless against their charm.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I couldn't find anything on House of Dickinson, but boy did they make some luxe lipstick pads.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

This design is so wonderful, I'd almost feel bad using these.  If I were alive back then I'd probably go digging through my purse to find the standard Kleenex ones.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I also couldn't really date these too well.  There's a nearly identical box by House of Dickinson on Ebay and the description for that dates them to the '60s, which makes sense given the illustration of the woman's face and the rounded lipstick bullet - both look early '60s to my eye.  

House of Dickinson lipstick pads
 
However, the use of "Milady" and the beveled shape of the lipstick bullet, both of which were more common in the '30s and '40s, make me think the ones I have are earlier.  

By the mid-late '60s, it seems lipstick tissues had gone out of favor.  The latest reference I found in newspapers dates to November 1963, and incidentally, in cartoon form.

Nov

I'm not sure what caused lipstick tissues to fall by the wayside.  It could be that there were more lightweight lipstick formulas on the market at that point, which may not have stained linens and towels as easily as their "indelible" predecessors - these lipsticks managed to easily transfer from the lips but still remained difficult to remove from cloth.  Along those lines, the downfall of lipstick tissues could also be attributed to the rise of sheer, shiny lip glosses that didn't leave much pigment behind. 

While these make the most sense, some deeper, more political and economic reasons may be considered as well.  Perhaps lipstick tissues came to be viewed as too stuffy and hoity-toity for most and started to lose their appeal.  My mother pointed out that lipstick tissues seemed to be a rich people's (or at least, an upper-middle class) thing - the type of woman who needed to carry these in her handbag on the reg was clearly attending a lot of fancy soirees, posh restaurants and country club dinners.  This priceless clipping from 1940 also hints at the idea of lipstick tissues as a sort of wealth indicator, what with the mention of antique table tops and maids.

March 20, 1940 - etiquette

Lipstick tissues were possibly directed mostly at older, well-to-do "ladies who lunch", and a younger generation couldn't afford to or simply wasn't interested in engaging in such formal social practices as removing one's lipstick on special tissues.  Plus, I'm guessing the companies that used lipstick tissues to advertise labored under the impression that most women were able to stay home and not work.  With a husband to provide financially, women could devote their full attention to the household so advertising bread recipes and dry cleaning made sense.  This train of thought leads me, naturally, to feminism: as with the waning popularity of ornate lipstick holders, perhaps the liberated woman perceived lipstick tissues as too fussy - a working woman needed to pare down her beauty routine and maybe didn't even wear lipstick at all.  Lipstick tissues are objectively superfluous no matter what brainwashing Kleenex was attempting to achieve through their marketing, so streamlining one's makeup regimen meant skipping items like lipstick tissues.  Similarly, after reading Betty Friedan's 1963 landmark feminist screed The Feminine Mystique, perhaps many women stopped buying lipstick tissues when they realized they had bigger fish to fry than worrying about ruining their linens.  Then again, one could be concerned about women's role in society AND be mindful of lipstick stains; the two aren't mutually exclusive.  And the beauty industry continued to flourish throughout feminism's second wave and is still thriving today, lipstick tissues or not, so I guess feminism was not a key reason behind the end of the tissues' reign.  I really don't have a good answer as to why lipstick tissues disappeared while equally needless beauty items stuck around or continue to be invented (looking at you, brush cleansers).  And I'm not sure how extra lipstick tissues really are, as many makeup artists still recommend blotting one's lipstick to remove any excess to help it last longer and prevent feathering or transferring to your teeth.

In any case, I kind of wish lipstick tissue booklets were still produced, especially if they came in pretty designs.  Sure, makeup remover wipes get the job done, but they're so...inelegant compared to what we've seen.  One hack is to use regular facial blotting sheets, since texture-wise they're better for blotting than tissues and some even have nice packaging, so they're sort of comparable to old-school lipstick tissues.  Still, there's something very appealing about using a highly specific, if unnecessary cosmetics accessory.  I'm not saying we should bring back advertising tie-ins to domestic chores or the social stigma attached to not "properly" removing one's lipstick on tissues, but I do like the idea of sheets made just for blotting lipstick, solely for the enjoyment of it.  I view it like I do scented setting sprays - while I don't think they do much for my makeup's longevity, there's something very pleasing about something, like, say, MAC Fruity Juicy spray, which is coconut scented and comes in a bottle decorated with a cheerful tropical fruit arrangement.  As I always say, it's the little things.  They might be frivolous and short-lived, but any makeup-related item that gives me even a little bit of joy is worth it.  I could see a company like Lipstick Queen or Bite Beauty partnering with an artist to create interesting lipstick tissue packets.  Indeed, this post has left me wondering why no companies are seizing on this opportunity for profit.

Should lipstick tissues be revived or should they stay in the past?  Why do you think they're not made anymore?  Would you use them?  I mean just for fun, of course - completely ignore the outdated notion that one is a boorish degenerate with no manners if they choose to wipe their lips on a towel, as those Kleenex ads would have you believe.  ;)

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Fake baking on a Friday: fun faux tanning ads

I was originally going to write a meatier post about the history of tanning that included sunless tanning, but there's actually been plenty of research already.  Rather than essentially re-writing what's already out there I decided to go the more visual route and show ads for products promising to give you that sun-kissed glow for both face and body.  I will include some history and links throughout, but mostly this is a way for me to share my never-ending obsession with vintage beauty ads.  :) 

Prior to the early 1920s, having tawny, sun-drenched skin simply wasn't desirable - at least for women.  Fair complexions were associated with the leisure class, while tan skin indicated a lower social status (i.e. people who had to work outdoors).  While the beauty industry was in its infancy, there were still plenty of products, such as this Tan No More powder, that promoted the pale skin ideal. 

Ad for Tan No More, 1924(image from library.duke.edu)

Just five short years later, however, the tan tide had turned.  Coco Chanel is credited by many historians as the one responsible for making the bronzed look stylish following a cruise she took in 1923, essentially reversing the significance of pale vs. tan complexions (i.e., tans were now associated with having the time and money for a luxury vacation in a sunny paradise, as well as good health.)  By 1929 products were on the market to achieve the glowing effect on the skin without the need to travel to some far-flung destination, such as this Marie Earle "Sunburn" line of makeup.  (Cosmetics and Skin has an excellent history of this company.  While not much is known about the founders, the Marie Earle line had some fairly innovative, if ineffective products, like breast-firming cream and eye masks.)

Marie Earle ad, 1929
(image from library.duke.edu)

Interestingly, in 1928 Marie Earle was bought by Coty, so it's probably not a coincidence that Coty released their Coty Tan bronzing powder and body makeup a year later.

CotyTan ad, 1929

CotyTan ad, 1929(images from cosmeticsandskin.com and library.duke.edu) 

The 1940s saw an increase in the number of bronzers and tanning body makeup, the latter influenced partially by the shortage of nylon stockings during World War II - women resorted to painting their legs with makeup or staining them with a tea-based concoction to create the illusion of stockings.  Always looking to sell more products, companies soon began offering tinted body makeup to mimic a natural tan.

Ad for Paul Duval Safari Tan, 1941(image from pinterest.com) 

Ad for Paul Duval Safari Tan, 1946(image from ebay.com)

Um...would you like a side of racism with your liquid body bronzer?

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1941(image from library.duke.edu)

Ad for Elizabeth Arden Velva Leg Film, 1946
(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1948(image from ebay.com)

By the late '40s cosmetics companies made sure women could also artificially tan their faces, as a slew of bronzing powders entered the market.  I couldn't resist purchasing a few of these ads.

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Pond's Bronze Angel Face powder, 1948

Ad for Pond's Bronze Angel Face powder, 1951
(image from pinterest.com)
 

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan, 1949

Here's a detailed shot so you can see the ad copy...and gratuitous cleavage.  LOL.

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan, 1949

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan ad, 1951
(image from pinterest.com)

And more casual racism from Germaine Monteil. 

Ad for Germaine Monteil, 1947

Ad for Germaine Monteil, 1950(image from ebay.com)

Once again, I fell victim to the idea that a beauty product has only been around for a few decades.  But it looks like spray tans have been around since at least the mid-50s!

Guerlain Misty Tan ad
(image from fashion.telegraph.co.uk)

Spray tan ad, 1955(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

In the late 1950s Man Tan sunless tanning lotion - or what we call self-tanner more commonly these days - debuted, featuring a new way of getting tan without the sun.  Instead of traditional tinted makeup that merely covered the skin, Man Tan used an ingredient known as dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which works on the amino acids on the skin's surface to gradually darken its color.  It sounds like a harmful, scary process that relies on synthetic chemicals, but DHA is actually derived from sugar cane and is still used in most self-tanners today.* 

Man Tan ad, ca. late 1950s

Miss Man Tan ad, ca. late 1950s
(images from twitter and pinterest)

In 1960 Coppertone introduced QT, short for Quick Tan, and many others followed.  The poor models in these ads already look orange - I shudder to think of how carrot-like you'd be in person.

Ad for Coppertone QT, 1961(image from ebay.com)

Ad for Coppertone QT, 1966(image from pinterest.com)

You MUST watch these commercials, they're a hoot!

 

In addition to bronzers, around this time companies were also launching color campaigns specifically for tanned skin.  These shades aren't so different from the ones we see in today's summer makeup collections - warm, beige and bronze tones abound.  Both Max Factor's Breezy Peach and 3 Little Bares (get it?!) were seemingly created to complement a tawny complexion, while Clairol's powder duos and Corn Silk's Tan Fans line offered bronzer and blush together to artificially prolong and enhance a natural tan.

Ad for Max Factor Breezy Peach, 1962(image from pinterest.com) 

Ad for Max Factor 3 Little Bares, 1965
(image from pinterest.com) 

Clairol Soft-Blush Duo ad, 1967

Ad for Corn Silk Tan Fans, 1969(image from pinterest.com)

Meanwhile, Dorothy Gray had tan-flattering lip colors covered.  This was not new territory for them, as this 1936 ad referenced a new "smart lipstick to accent sun-tan".  In any case, the 1965 ad is also notable for the yellow lipstick all the way on right, which was meant to brighten another lip color when layered underneath...over 50 years before Estée Edit's Lip Flip and YSL's Undercoat.

Dorothy Gray ad, 1965(image from mid-centurylove.tumblr.com)

The tanning craze wasn't going anywhere soon, as various self-tanning and bronzer formulas for body and face continued to be produced from the '70s onward.  As skin cancer rates rose, there was also an uptick in the number of ads that emphasized protection from the sun over the convenience angle (i.e., the ability to get a tan in just a few hours and no matter the climate) - self-tanners started to be marketed more heavily as a healthy alternative to a real tan.

When it launched around 2004, I thought Stila's Sun Gel was such an innovative product.  Little did I know Almay had done it roughly 30 years prior.

Almay sun gel 1970(image from flickr.com) 

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983

Tried though I did, I was unable to find a vintage ad for Guerlain's legendary Terracotta bronzer, which debuted in 1984.  So I had to settle for these Revlon ads from the same year.

Revlon-pure-radiance-80s

Ad for Revlon Pure Radiance, 1984(images from pinterest and adsausage.com)

Bain de Soleil ad, 1990
(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

Chanel Soleil ad, 1990
(image from pinterest.com)

Estée Lauder self-tanner ad, 1991

Estée Lauder self-tanner ad, 1991(image from fuckyeahnostalgicbeauty)

I searched all the '90s magazines in the Museum's archives, but realized almost all of them were March, September or October issues, so I couldn't unearth any fake tan ads for most of the decade.  I did have better luck with finding ads online and in the Museum's archives for the 2000's, however.  It makes sense as I had started collecting by then, not to mention that the early-mid aughts were the Gisele Bundchen/Paris Hilton era so fake tanning was at its peak.  I just remembered that I neglected to check my old Sephora catalogs...I'll have to see if I can locate any photos of Scott Barnes' Body Bling, another hugely popular product in the 2000's.

Lancome Star Bronzer ad, 2003

Neutrogena ad, 2003(images from reed.edu)

Here are the ones from the Museum's collection.  Thanks to the husband for scanning them!

Armani Bronze Mania ad, 2005

MAC Sundressing postcard, 2006

Love this Armani ad, which coincidentally came out the same year Mystic Tan spray booths were launched.

Armani Bronze Mania ad, 2007

YSL summer beauty postcard, 2008

Benefit summer 2010 catalog

As the decade came to a close, there was some discussion as to whether tanned skin, real or fake, was passé.  But the continuing growth of the self-tanning market (as well as the influence of the bronzed Jersey Shore cast) showed that the infatuation with tanning wasn't slowing down.  The Paris Hilton era segued seamlessly into the Kardashian age, which also contributed to the popularity of the bronzed look.  Companies are still trying to keep up with the demand for bronzers and self-tanners.  For the past 5 years or so, Estée Lauder, Lancome, Clarins, Guerlain and Givenchy have released new bronzing compacts at the start of the summer, and just this past year Hourglass and Becca released a range of new bronzing powders.  Meanwhile, established products like Benefit's Hoola bronzer and St. Tropez's self-tanning line are being tweaked and expanded.

In terms of advertising bronzers and self-tanners, I think cosmetics companies do a damn good job.  The products themselves certainly look tempting, but one also can't deny the sex appeal of the glowy, bronzey look of the models (not to mention that a tan makes everyone look like they lost 10 lbs).  Who doesn't want to resemble a sunkissed goddess lounging about in a tropical paradise?  It's largely this reason, I think, that the tan aesthetic persists.  As usual, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano offers an insightful exploration of why tawny skin continues to be in vogue so rather than me rambling further I highly encourage you to read it in full.  As for me, well, I've largely given up on self-tanning.  It was messy, came out uneven no matter how much I exfoliated and how carefully I applied it, and still didn't look quite like the real deal.  I do, however, still use bronzer once in a while (mostly as blush, but occasionally in the summer I'll dust it all over my face) and have been tinkering with temporary wash-off body bronzers.  I don't consider bronzer a staple by any means - most days I fully embrace my pasty self - but the fact that I own 6 of them is proof of the long-standing allure of the tan and how effectively the products required to achieve it are marketed.

What do you think?  Which of these ads are your favorite?  And are you down with the tanned look or no? 

 

*Recent research has shown DHA to be safe for topical use; however, inhaling it, say, from a spray tan booth, is less safe.

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Quick post: Are you ready for this jelly?

Hello!  It's been a while since I last posted as work nearly killed me recently, but I wanted to get something up today to 1. show that I haven't died from stress, even though I  thought I might; and 2. put up some summer fun in honor of what is easily one of the Curator's favorite days of the year, the solstice.  With that in mind, I present Anna Sui's summer makeup collection.  It's been a long time since I purchased anything from this line, but as soon as I saw this collection I knew I had to have nearly all of it.

The two nail polishes will not belong to the Museum's collection - I will be using them. As a matter of fact, this week I'm wearing S 105 (the lighter aqua blue) and it's beautiful.  It's almost as legendary as the ultimate mermaid nail polish.

Anna Sui summer 2017 makeup

I adore all the sea critters since they are friends of mermaids.  Side note:  when I was little I was infinitely fascinated with jellyfish in addition to mermaids.  There's just something about their movement, shape and their very biology that I find incredibly interesting.  They're such simple creatures on the surface - they don't have eyes, noses, or even a central nervous system - yet some of them actually glow in the dark, while the sting of others can be deadly.  I find the way they move to be strangely beautiful, and I hope to make a trip to the National Aquarium soon so that I can be totally mesmerized. (I really have no excuse for not getting there - it's literally less than a 20-minute walk from my home).

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

You would think the white plastic border and iridescent effect on in the middle of the case would look tacky and/or juvenile, but I honestly think it works here.  It reminds me of all the different tones you see in the ocean as the sun hits it.

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

And I just remembered I didn't take a picture of the inside of the palette, which has the same motifs (coral, starfish, seahorse, jellyfish and bubbles) but rendered in a vintage illustration style.  To my eye it almost looks like wallpaper.  You'll see it in a couple days in the summer exhibition.  ;)

The gold powder case has blue-green jewels that belong in a mermaid princess's crown.  As fun and blingy as it is, I couldn't bear to put the powder inside because then you couldn't see the lovely seashells embossed on it so I'll be displaying these separately. 

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder case

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder case

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder

Even the eyeshadow has a jellyfish!

Anna Sui summer 2017 eyeshadow

Bet you thought this was the first time a jellyfish appeared on a makeup compact.  I did too, until I remembered the number one rule that beauty historians need to keep in mind:  no matter how new and exciting something in the makeup world seems, it's probably been done before.  And I was right!  Here are two vintage compacts that feature my favorite invertebrates. 

Unfortunately I don't know the brand or even the approximate date of this one, but I'm guessing it's from the '40s or '50s. 

vintage under the sea compact

This one is a Stratton, probably from around the '50s given the rectangular shape,  purse clasp and the horizontal lines on the unmarked back (you can see a similar compact around the 3 minute mark in this very helpful video on dating Strattons.)

Vintage Stratton under the sea compact
(images from pinterest and antiques.com)

Naturally I'd give my eye teeth for both, in addition to all the vintage mermaid compacts I'm hunting down.  As for the Anna Sui collection, I thought it completely nailed the "magical aquarium" theme described on the website.

So what do you think of Magical Aquarium and the vintage compacts?  Do you have a favorite? 

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MM Mailbag: fab four

For the majority of inquiries I receive -  say, around 75% - I'm ashamed to admit that I can't provide any information.  I do enjoy researching them but I loathe not being able to give a definitive answer on the item or brand people are asking about.  Recently I receive an inquiry from a woman who was, sadly, going through her deceased mother's belongings and came across 4 gorgeous compacts that she wanted to know a little more about.  While I was still not able to provide solid information for a couple of them, I was able to delve a bit more deeply into 2 of them.  I guess 50% is better than my usual rate for inquiries!

First up is this lovely gold-tone number with a sunburst pattern on the front and a basket weave pattern on the back. 

Vintage Melissa compact

Fortunately the puff was still in there so I could see the brand.  The Melissa company, according to the British Compact Collectors' Society, dates from around the 1950s-70s.  Says one researcher: "Melissa is thought to have been based in Acton, London W3 from the early 1950s, but I found that by 1962 the company had premises in Arundel Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex.  In 1970, the company was still listed at this address in a telephone directory, but by 1972 another company occupied the site.  A local trade directory of 1976 listed Searchlight Products, so possibly the firm was still trading at this later date, but I have been unable to find out at what date it ceased manufacturing compacts." 

Vintage Melissa compact

Next up is a "sweetheart" black enamel compact, so named for their popularity among WWII soldiers who gave them as gifts to their loved ones during wartime.  Without a maker's mark I couldn't identify the brand, but from what I could make out the insignia in the heart looks a bit like the "prop and wings" motif from the U.S. Air Corps.  I asked the submitter if anyone in her family was in the military and she confirmed that her father was in the Army Air Force during WWII.  What a sweet gift for her mom. 

I'd love to write a comprehensive history of sweetheart compacts, but it's such a huge project that it will have to wait for when I have time...like, maybe when I'm retired.  :(

Vintage sweetheart compact

Vintage sweetheart compact

For these last two a little more information was available.  Zell was a leading compact company from the '30s-'60s and was  one of the "5th Avenue" lines, along with Rex, Dorset, Columbia and Dale.  Zell had some quite novel compact designs early on, including the "First Nighter" - a compact with a flashlight that was released in the '30s (can you believe that?!)  But Zell was primarily known as a solid brand that offered understated, stylish designs as well.  The compact in question is an elegantly striped square piece with rounded edges.

Vintage Zell compact

Vintage Zell compact

I tried to find a little more information from my local library about the company, but came up mostly empty-handed.  I learned through a few meager news clippings that the company was founded by David H. Zell, who passed away in 1944.  While his widow Sophie was technically President, it was the Vice President, one of their sons Daniel D. Zell, who was really running the show, given this clipping (not to mention numerous patents in his name.)

1951 clip

After I scoured the historical newspapers, I decided to try old-fashioned googling to at least try to find when the Zell company was founded and when it went out of business.  I didn't find those dates, but I did unearth something quite interesting and bought it immediately.

Zell compact ad 1946

Well, look what I spy!  It's the very same compact!  The ad indicates that this particular style actually had a name:  it was called the "Countess".  Here it is up close in case you couldn't make it out.  (The one above is the "Aristocrat" and the one below is the "Princess".  Ooh la la.)

Zell ad close up

When I originally researched this inquiry I guessed that the compact in question was from the '50s, as that was the height of Zell's popularity and, in my opinion, gold-tone compacts.  But I was wrong.  The promotional ad is from 1946, so it must have been released if not that year then around then. While I'm still a little miffed at not being able to put together a full history of Zell, I'm glad I could at least identify this particular compact.  It was complete luck but I'll take it.  :)

I saved the most interesting one for last.  I couldn't for the life of me recognize the brand, as the photo of the mark on the back was too dark and small.

Lucien Lelong tambourine compact

Thankfully the submitter included a picture of the puff.  I recognized the concentric L-shapes as the logo belonging to Lucien Lelong, a famed French couturier turned perfumer and cosmetics manufacturer.

Lucien Lelong tambourine compact

The design of the compact is truly fascinating.  The intricate, regal birds are reminiscent of motifs found on royal crests, and I can't say I've ever seen a compact with little rings attached to it.  Off I went to find more information and found a few ads so I could give a date of when this compact was released.  Known as the "tambourine" compact, it looks like it first appeared in September 1948. The rings could be simply decorative and just there to be "pleasant sounding", or perhaps Mom could attach some charms to them - seems they were really pushing this as either a Valentine's Day or Mother's Day gift.  It may also have waned in popularity by 1950, given the price drop from the original $5 to $0.99.  As a side note, my mind is always blown by the retail prices of vintage pieces!  They seem so inexpensive, but according to this online calculator a $5 compact would cost approximately $52 nowadays.  Still, that's a reasonable price for a nice compact...and it would be only $10.13 on sale.  :)

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, September 1948

LOL at "gifty!"  These old ads crack me up sometimes.

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, February 1949

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, May 1950

I was really curious to know why Lelong decided to introduce this compact, as it didn't seem to have a connection to any of the company's fragrances or couture.  I did come across this "Ting a Ling" perfume bottle which also had rings attached and was released around the same time as the compact. 

Lucien Lelong Ting a Ling perfume
(image from collection.cooperhewitt.org)

But as you can see, it has bells, whereas I didn't see any Tambourine compacts with bells.  According to the New York Times ad above, the compact was a replica of a vintage French tambourine, which, when I first laid eyes on that description, sounded like utter marketing garbage.  However, thanks to extensive information provided on Lelong by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, it's entirely possible that the design was indeed inspired by a vintage tambourine.  Lelong employed the services of noted artist Peter Fink to create novel, unique packaging for his perfumes and lipsticks, such as the Ting a Ling bottle and Full Dress lipstick mentioned in the ad above, so it's probable that Fink came up with the tambourine compact design as well.  As for the notion that the compact was specifically a French tambourine replica, that's also credible given Lelong's love for his home country.  So maybe the advertising isn't a complete pile of crap spun by unscrupulous marketing directors.*  ;)  Anyway, I was happy that I could find a name and date for this compact.  This is definitely one I'd love to add to my collection, but they are rare (read: expensive, especially when in good condition) and tend to get snatched up immediately.

In closing, I'd like to thank the person who took the time to share these items with me.  Since I was able to provide a couple tidbits, this was one of the few inquiries that didn't end with me getting very upset at finding zero information.  Plus, all of the compacts are great from a design standpoint.  Even if I didn't find a single thing about them, I would have just enjoyed looking at them.

What do you think?  Which of these is your favorite?

 

*Eh, it probably is. Another newspaper ad from December 1948, which I didn't clip since I refuse to upgrade to the "premium" subscription of newspapers.com (they're such jerks - this stuff should be free!), and my local library didn't carry the particular newspaper, notes that the tambourine is an "exact replica of a g---y's tambourine".  Oof.  That would be pretty unacceptable language now, not to mention that it makes me doubt how inspired the design was.  Or it could also be a matter of marketing to different geographic areas - perhaps the advertising people thought that "French" would be more appealing to what they perceived to be a high-fashion East Coast crowd so they used it in the ad that ran in the New York Times, and changed the description to the g-word for simple Midwestern folks, whom they assumed had less stylish taste than New Yorkers and may have been put off by anything described as French (the g-word ad was found in the Indianapolis Star.)

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Found! Some vintage inspiration for Benefit

I was eagerly scrolling through Instagram (which has, incidentally, become my favorite social media platform - please join and follow me, it's so much fun!) and came across a familiar image from one of the many vintage ephemera accounts I follow. 

Vintage Flexees lingerie mannequin
(image from instagram.com)

I knew it was makeup-related, but couldn't recall which company had used something that looked just like this lingerie mannequin.  Was it Too-FacedThe Balm?  Nope.  I racked my brain but just couldn't place it.  It wasn't until I started packing for a weekend at my parents' house that it dawned on me. 

Benefit Lana makeup bag

Aha!  I believe I found the original source for Benefit's Luscious Lana, especially given that Benefit refers to her as a lingerie model.  In an alternate version of the makeup bag she has the rose up by her head, but not in the original green bag.  I'm guessing Benefit used a reproduction mannequin of the Flexees one since her face is a little different.  Naturally this serindipitous find got me interested in trying to track down other vintage mannequins to see whether they figured into Benefit's packaging and advertising, and I found another lingerie mannequin that appeared on many of Benefit's old catalogs.  Apparently both this model and the one used for Lana were mannequins meant to be displayed on a store counter top, so they're pretty small - not life-size or anything, which makes them cute rather than creepy.  Both also appear to be from the 1940s or so.

As with Lana the face on this one is ever so slightly different.

Vintage lingerie mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Benefit makeup catalog

While the features on this mannequin aren't as strikingly similar to the previous two, she still may have served as inspiration for Benefit's Beautiful Bermuda Betty, who appeared in various catalogs and a bag.  The downward-looking pose, hairstyle and smoky eye with thin arched brows look alike, although not identical.

Vintage Formfit mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Benefit Bermuda Betty

I dug a little more but still couldn't find any original sources for Gabbi Glickman, who is probably Benefit's 2nd best known mannequin mascot.  I did unearth a pair of mannequin heads that are identical, but there was no information provided about them.

Benefit Gabbi bag

The one I was most interested in finding though was the mannequin used for Simone, the dark-haired beauty sporting a lavish gold dress who is probably Benefit's most recognized mascot.  Full-sized Simones reside in Benefit's headquarters in both San Francisco and Canada, and she appeared as the cover girl for most of the aforementioned catalogs.

Benefit headquarters - Simone mannequin(image from sfgate.com)

Benefit holiday makeup catalog

I did find a mannequin that looked just like Simone, but I had no idea what company it was for or approximately when it was made.  This was displayed at a Chanel event but I don't think it was an official Chanel advertising piece.

Chanel mannequin
(image from pinterest.com)

It also doesn't look like a regular vintage mannequin but rather a reproduction.  Looking at both this and Benefit's other mannequins in their offices, I'm wondering if they're using a mix of authentic vintage pieces and reproductions.

Benefit office - mannequin heads(image from refinery29.com)

For example, the third mannequin from the right definitely resembles this reproduction...

Mary mannequin by Marge Crunkleton
(image from crunkleton.com)

...while the blonde right in the middle is a dead ringer for this vintage 1940s jewelry mannequin.

Vintage jewelry mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Why does Benefit rely so heavily on mannequins for their marketing?  One reason is that in their early days, the company couldn't afford to pay real spokespeople and models, so the mannequins served as a stand-in (this was also the reason Stila used illustrations).  Second, Benefit founders and Jean and Jane Ford always had an affinity for vintage fashion and beauty items.*  In a 2011 interview, Jean explained: "Over the years, Jane and I have collected vintage pieces for inspiration...we have vintage mannequins, compacts, posters, handbags and lots of old magazines.  There is something very romantic about the past.  For our packaging, we use both modern and old-fashioned images and styles to create fun products that women will want to carry in their bags or display on their vanity."  Indeed, using retro designs in a modern way has proved to be a dynamite strategy for the company.  I don't really see it as nostalgia for the past, per se, but rather an appreciation for the overall style and occasionally more kitschy aspects of selling femininity, such as those countertop display lingerie mannequins.  Sometimes I look at old makeup ads and burst out laughing - to modern eyes, the cheesiness and over-the-top tone are genuinely funny.  Benefit seizes the opportunity to celebrate the sillier side of vintage beauty and fashion and infused it into their entire brand.

What do you think?   

 

*In addition to the mannequins, I'm wondering whether Benefit was looking at these Max Factor doll lipstick mirrors when designing their 2016 holiday collection.


It's 5 o'clock somewhere: boozy makeup packaging

I remember thinking how cute and novel these wine bottle-shaped lipsticks were when they were making a sensation back in the fall.  (I do have one on the way but the package somehow keeps getting delayed so here's a stock photo for now.)  I'm not a wine person - gives me a horrible headache - but I do appreciate adorable makeup packaging so this gets a thumbs-up from me.  I mean on the one hand I'm not fond of wine once again being associated with a clichéd feminine stereotype (all ladies love wine, shopping, chocolate and shoes, amirite?), but on the other hand, this lipstick is just too cute.

Chateau Labiotte wine lipstick
(image from beautyboxkorea.com)

Turns out, this isn't the first time lipstick has been designed to resemble booze.  I was positively tickled when, during one of my customary Friday night vintage makeup searches on Etsy (I lead a very exciting life, I know), I came across this miniature lipstick cleverly packaged as a whiskey bottle.

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

It really is mini!

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

I'd never heard of Carstairs before, but apparently from roughly the '40s through the '60s they did a good amount of advertising for their White Seal whiskey, which is still sold today.  In addition to the lipsticks, they offered mini screwdrivers and toothpicks, along with seal clock figurines and the usual print advertising.  According to one (no longer active) ebay listing, the lipstick bottles started being produced around 1944 and other listings say they're from the '50s, so I guess they were used as promotional items for a few decades.  Here's a photo of one in Madeleine Marsh's excellent book, which also dates it to the '50s. 

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick in Compacts and Cosmetics by Madeleine Marsh

I'm guessing that for the most part, the lipsticks were provided to bars and liquor stores and given away as a small gift-with-purchase, as there are quite a few full boxes of them floating around. I would have bought this one in a heartbeat because how cute would it have been to display it alongside a whole Chateau Labiotte set?

Vintage Carstairs whiskey lipstick set

Chateau Labiotte set(images from etsy.com and labiotte.us)

But the individual lipsticks are obviously a lot cheaper and I have many things I want to purchase for the summer exhibition, so I had to pass for now. ;)  As for the lipstick itself, a company called Christy Cosmetics, Inc. was responsible for producing it.  I couldn't find much information about it online, other than it was a New York-based company and was also the manufacturer of a line called Diana Deering (who was an entirely fictional character, or, as the patent puts it, "fanciful".)

Christy Cosmetics ad, 1944(image from what-i-found.blogspot.com)

Diana Deering ad, 1944

Diana Deering/Christy Cosmetics patent(image from tsdrapi.uspto.gov)

I'm sure there's information about Christy out there somewhere, but as usual I lack the time and other resources to do proper research, i.e., looking beyond Google.  If anyone knows anything about their relationship with Carstairs and how they were chosen to produce their promo items I'd love to hear it.

Uh-oh, we have a situation here.  Once again a certain little Sailor is up to no good.  "It's just my size!" 

Bottoms up!

I better go get this wrapped up and into storage before he smears it all over his face in attempt to "drink" the non-existent whiskey.  In any case, Happy St. Patrick's Day and I hope these lipsticks have inspired you to let your hair down and enjoy some adult beverages tonight!


A day with "jeweler to the stars" Paul Flato

Tiffany?  Harry Winston?  Fred Leighton?  Forget about 'em.  While they might be supplying the sparkling baubles for today's red carpet, back in the late '30s and '40s there was a jeweler bigger than those 3 put together:  Paul Flato.  I'll get to why I'm talking about a jeweler in a sec, but first a brief bio is in order.  Paul Flato (1900-1999), moved from his home state of Texas to New York City at the age of 20.  He opened his own jewelry store shortly afterwards and employed several designers.  By 1937 he had another store on the West Coast to further solidify his status as the go-to jeweler for the biggest Hollywood stars (think Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn) as well as a jewelry designer for major films.

Now here's where his story goes off the rails.  In 1943 he was arrested for pawning over $100,000 worth of jewels that clients and fellow jewelers had entrusted to him on consignment and served 16 months in Sing Sing.  Upon his release from prison he started a lucrative business designing compacts, which was fortunate as his Hollywood career was basically over.  After the compacts, Flato continued to design jewelry in the store he opened in Mexico City from 1970-1990, then returned to Texas for the last decade of his life.  To my knowledge he never got back into Hollywood's good graces - I couldn't find anything about him supplying jewelry for movies/actresses after 1943 - but it didn't matter since he had already become a legend.

I had seen the Flato brand floating around previously during my various vintage compact hunts and figured one would be a good addition to the Museum's collection, but none of the designs really appealed to me.  Since they can be on the pricey side I decided to hold off to see if any really caught my fancy.  And as luck would have it this adorable compact and lipstick case, still in the original box, eventually surfaced.  Against my better judgement I got involved in a nasty Ebay bidding war, but ultimately won (and probably overpaid a smidge). 

Paul Flato compact box

Looking back it was totally worth it given how awesome the design is.  You may or may not know I have a thing for mint green/jade/bakelite so when I gazed into this kitty's glowing mint green eyes I knew she had to be mine.

Paul Flato compact

Paul Flato compact

Paul Flato compact

Love the matching design on the lipstick case!

Paul Flato lipstick case

I thought it would be good to discuss Flato's style a little so we can see how it translated to the compacts.  I find his pieces to be whimsical and tongue-in-cheek, while still piling on the sparkle.  Some examples, according to his obit in the New York Times:  "Among them were a diamond 'corset' bracelet, with garters in rubies and diamonds, based on Mae West's undergarment...a compact for Gloria Vanderbilt was studded with gold and enamel angels, including an angel on a chamber pot. A pair of little brooches of gold feet with ruby toenails was originally made for Irene Castle, a play both on her maiden name, Foote, and her dancing career."  Flato also drew on everyday experiences and items - his observation of fallen leaves one crisp autumn day turned into this brooch, while a basic belt buckle became a dazzling aquamarine necklace.

Paul Flato leaves brooch

Paul Flato aquamarine and ruby belt buckle necklace
(images from langantiques.com)

Another prominent motif in Flato's work was hands, according to this site:  "Hand imagery had always been of interest to Flato, who notably used antique hand sculptures to display jewelry in ads that appeared in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar during the 1930s."  Here are some quite literal examples.

Paul Flato hand brooches

Not only that, but Flato's own battle with hearing loss at a young age inspired a series of sign language pins.

Paul Flato sign language pins

Paul Flato sign language pins
(images from jewelsdujour.com)

This same playfulness mixed with a healthy dose of sparkle carried over to Flato's compacts.  I liked that he created designs that were different from his jewelry line but still maintained his signature style.  It looks like Flato filed the patent for the compacts in February 1948 and they were available for sale later that year. Interestingly, this wasn't the first time Flato had the idea to design compacts, as evidenced by this 1940 patent for a compact, cigarette case and lipstick combo.

Paul Flato compact patent(image from google.com)

I meant to order this ad from hprints in time for this post and completely spaced on it.  Sigh.

Paul Flato compact ad, 1948
(image from hprints.com)

The ones shown in the ad above are fairly common.  I wouldn't mind adding the seashell one to my collection.  ;)  There's also a patent for it too, which is pretty cool.

Paul Flato shell compact
(image from pinterest.com)

The popular dogwood design:

Paul Flato dogwood compact
(image from etsy.com)

And this circular patterned one.

Paul Flato compact
(image from ebth.com)

Apparently the compacts were a pretty big hit right away, according to this news snippet from 1949.

News-herald-franklin-pa-dec.2-1949

Some more, just for fun.

Paul Flato compact ad, November 1949

Paul Flato stars compact
(image from pinterest.com)

Paul Flato luck compacts

Paul Flato "crown jewels" compacts
(image from perfumebottles.org)

It's not just a key design; it's a key holder!  Yes, you could have the key on this compact custom filed to fit your door.  Personally I'd be petrified of losing it - my keys need to stay on a ring - but you have to admit there's some innovation there.

Paul Flato key compact ad, December 1950

Paul Flato key compact
(image from pinterest.com)

Another key ad, plus the wonderfully blinged-out teardrop design. 

Paul Flato compact ad, May 1951

Paul Flato teardrop compact
(image from liveauctioneers.com)

This one definitely shows Flato's sillier side.  Would you like one of his "scatabout" pins while you're at it?  You know, to anchor your lapel flower?  Fashion sure has changed!

June 1950

Paul Flato circus compact
(image from etsy.com)

This one is also a lot of fun.  I couldn't find any ads for it but I wonder if it was a special release for Easter.

Paul Flato bunny compact

Paul Flato bunny compact
(images from liveauctioneers.com)

The kitty one I have seems to be relatively rare. In my searches I did see one other in a beautiful tiger-eye colorway instead of the green, but I can't seem to find the photo of it now.  In any case, I'm pretty pleased with this acquisition as I do think it's one of Flato's better compact designs.

What do you think, both of Flato's jewelry and compacts?  Most of them aren't my style but I appreciate them nonetheless.  If his jewelry is really striking your fancy you can always buy this lovely catalog of his work.


A vintage menagerie from Shiseido

Well well well, what have we here?

Plushies making new friends

To be honest, I really have no idea.  All I know is that when I searched for vintage Shiseido on Ebay, I came up with a spate of white porcelain animal figurines.  Some other things: 1. they represent the animals from the Chinese zodiac; 2. there were a few different designs of each animal; 3. I went into a frenzy trying to collect all of them (unsuccessfully), and; 4. they were produced, or at least sourced, by a company named the Connor Group for Shiseido.  What I'm struggling with is why they were made and for whom they were intended.  I'm also not certain about the exact dates of the various versions, since some of the sellers listed them as being from the '70s, others from the '80s, and still more were made in the '90s, according to accompanying paperwork. 

I'll go in the order of the zodiac, starting with the rat.  Cute, no?  Given the shiny finish (more on that soon) I'm assuming it's from 1972 or 1984, but it's impossible to say.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rat figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rat figurine

Next is the ox, from either 1973 or 1985.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac ox figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac ox figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac ox figurine

Here's a different version of the ox, which I think might be from the '90s.  I was able to save this image from the Ebay listing but unfortunately someone snatched up the figurine itself a while ago.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac ox figurine
(image from ebay.com)

Tigers!  This one came with a fold-out that made things even more confusing. 

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac tiger figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac tiger figurine

The style of the figurine is consistent with ones that are from the '90s, which we'll see later in this post, but the paper it came with clearly indicates it's from 1974.  Plus, there's no mention of Shiseido anywhere, not in the letter or even on the figurine - the other ones with the shiny finish have "Shiseido Japan" printed on them.  The seller also included the original shipping box it came in to the U.S. from Japan, but there were no clues there either.

Shiseido/W.E. Connor letter

Here's a different tiger. 

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac tiger figurine

RAWWWRRRR!

This rabbit could be from 1975 or 1987.  According to this Etsy seller who had one listed for sale previously, it's from the '80s, but without anything else to go on the date is uncertain.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rabbit figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rabbit figurine

My favorite is the dragon, again most likely from 1976 or 1988.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac dragon figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac dragon figurine

The snakes are pretty cool too, unfortunately I couldn't track them down.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac snake figurines
(image from hautejuice.wordpress.com)

The horse is also tricky.  This one could be from 1978, given that this Ebay seller has another style.  (I have one of them on the way to me).  I got so desperate for answers I actually asked the seller if they had any other information.  No answer yet.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac horse figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac horse figurine

This goat (or ram) is from 1991, according to the foldout it came with.  But it's in a similar style to the tiger that's allegedly from 1974, and also has the same non-shiny finish and no Shiseido name printed on it.  See why I'm frustrated?!

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac goat/ram figurine

Poor little guy has a tiny chip on his nose.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac goat/ram figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac ram fold out

Another version of the goat/ram, which was also sold before I could get my hands on it...no clue as to when it's from.

The monkey is also perplexing.  This one is apparently from 1992.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac monkey figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac monkey figurine

Shiseido monkey figurine foldout

And here's a different version, from the same Etsy seller who had the rabbit for sale, so maybe this one is from 1980?

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac monkey figurine

Shiseido Chinese zodiac monkey figurine
(images from etsy.com)

Here's this year's critter, which I also missed out on.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rooster figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac rooster figurine
(images from worthpoint.com)

This cute little akita was another that got away.  I'm assuming this one is also from the '80s.

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac dog figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac dog figurine
(images from etsy.com)

And finally, a little piggy, ostensibly from 1995. 

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac pig figurine

Vintage Shiseido Chinese zodiac pig figurine

Sadly, I don't think I'll ever solve the mystery behind these figurines.  I emailed both Shiseido and the Connor Group for more insight and was quite disappointed at not hearing a word from Shiseido.  You would think a company that is so committed to preserving their history would be interested in hearing from someone who is equally passionate about it and get back to me.  I don't think it's a matter of them not having any information either - again, since they have a whole museum and are clearly dedicated to recording all aspects of the company, I just know someone there knows something about these figurines!  I bet all the paperwork related to them is sitting in a basement in Shiseido's headquarters, but no one can be bothered to do a little digging.  I did get a reply from the Connor Group but they had no idea what these were and asked for more information.  So I sent pictures of both the figurines and letter that came with the tiger and never heard back.  Sigh.  My best guess is that these were either gifts to employees or gifts for Camellia Club members - in researching the rainbow powders, I learned that the latter group had access to exclusive Shiseido items (um, how awesome are these Erté dishes?!)  However, most of the Camellia Club gifts are labeled as such, whereas there is no such notation on the figurines or the papers they came with.  Shiseido also seems to collaborate with companies for other non-makeup items, like this anniversary plate produced by Noritake, so maybe the figurines were just some random item they had for sale.  Still, it drives me crazy that I don't have a definitive answer.

At least the plushies are enjoying playing with their new friends!

Let's joust!

Wait, don't we need lances for that?

Do you have any idea as to why Shiseido made these figurines?  And which one was your favorite?

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Back to the zodiac with Ziegfeld Girls

You might remember around this time last year I explored some great Elgin zodiac-themed compacts, along with Estée Lauder's lovely Erté zodiac compact series.  The zodiac seems quite popular as a decorative motif for compacts, since I came across yet more vintage zodiac compacts since then.  Tangentially related (obviously) to the popular Ziegfeld Follies, Ziegfeld Girl compacts made their debut in the early 1940s.  Collecting Vintage Compacts has an incredibly thorough history of the Ziegfeld Girls line so I implore you to go check it out when you have a chance.  Since my research skills are nowhere near on par with that blog's author I will just provide a brief summary of his amazing findings about these compacts.  The creator of Ziegfeld Follies, Florenz Ziegfeld, passed away in 1932; however, his enterprising widow licensed the rights to his name for use to other companies.  In the early '40s, a man named Walter Crane joined a plastics company owned by Dwight Hirsh.  These two businessmen got the idea to manufacture plastic compacts (a natural choice for material given the company's business and also because it was wartime) and somehow managed to secure the rights to the Ziegfeld name.  Crane filed a patent application for compacts in late 1943.  Several different types of Ziegfeld Girl compacts were produced prior to the zodiac series' introduction in 1946.  These were, sadly, a flash in the pan - they didn't sell well and were gone by 1947.

Now let's get to the compacts, shall we?  I found the designs to be so utterly charming - a different sort of playfulness than the Elgin ones, to be sure, but adorable nevertheless.  Like the Elgin compacts, however, these tend to be snapped up rather quickly once they pop up for sale.

I was unable to find an image of the actual compact for Aquarius, but you can see it in this ad.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact ad, February 1946

While encased in not-so-luxurious lucite, each one matches the sign's color. 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Capricorn
(image from worthpoint.com) 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Pisces
(image from ebay.com) 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Aries
(image from etsy.com)

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Taurus
(image from etsy.com) 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Gemini
(image from ebay.co.uk)

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Cancer
(image from etsy.com)

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Leo
(image from etsy.com) 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Virgo
(image from etsy.com)

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Libra
(image from ebay.com)

The one I'm most excited about, naturally, is the Scorpio one.  Not only did one of these compacts come up for sale after me keeping an eye out for many months, but it's also my sign. I couldn't believe my good luck!  You better believe I pounced as soon as I got that Ebay alert.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Scorpio

I have to say that the accompanying scorpions in depictions of the Scorpio sign creep me out a little.  I'm definitely a Scorpio personality-wise, but strictly from a design perspective I wish I were a Capricorn or Sagittarius.  Both are traditionally represented as mythical creatures - Capricorn is sort of a mermaid but with a goat head and Sagittarius is like a centaur.  Scorpions (and crustaceans for that matter - lobsters, crabs, shrimp, etc.), just look like big gross bugs to me.  :P  Oh well, I can't change my sign, right?

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Scorpio

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Scorpio

Anyway, these compacts are positively ginormous.  Here's a comparison photo with a Guerlain Météorites container so you can get a sense of the scale.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact - Scorpio

Sadly, I was also unable to find a photo of the Sagittarius compact, so I found an ad for that one as well.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact ad, May 1946

Speaking of ads, they were really cool to look at.  Just for fun here are some more.

I wish the compact I bought came with the little horoscope insert mentioned in this ad.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact ad, March 1946

Perfect for that glamorous cousin Gloria!  LOL.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact ad, November 1946

I liked this one not only since it features my sign but also because it shows all the different designs as well as an illustration of the horoscope insert.  This must have been from the official launch of the compacts, since it's from early 1946 and mentions special window displays. 

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girl compact ad, January 1946

And a sad sale ad a little over a year later.

Ziegfeld Zodiac Girls ad, April 1947
(images from newspapers.com)

Finally, a funny zodiac-related story: indicating just how obsessed I am with zodiac symbols and decor, a month or so ago I dreamed that Stila released their own zodiac palettes.  They were the same size and shape as the Look of the Month calendar palettes from 2004, and made of cardboard, but each had a Stila girl representing a zodiac sign instead of the month.  The zodiac glyphs were a continuous border around the edge of the palette.  For example, the Scorpio sign looks like a little M with a tail, so that was the border for my sign.  The Stila girls themselves were ridiculously cute...if I had any Photoshop or illustration skills I'd totally do a mockup!  I can see each design clear as crystal in my head but have no means of sharing them, sadly.  I remember being so happy at seeing Stila going back to their roots.

Anyway, did you like the Ziegfeld Zodiac Girls?  What's your sign and did you like the design for yours?


MM Smackdown: Brush holder bloodshed!

Mum.11-2016.smackdown.poster

In the spirit of Black Friday, which we celebrate in the U.S. by trampling each other to score cheap TVs and the latest must-have children's toy, I thought I'd put these ladies in the ole MM boxing ring to duke it out.  I found it pretty interesting that two companies decided to release vintage-inspired brush holders for the holiday season.  At first glance, they don't seem so different - both are from similarly sized brands, blonde with perfect cherry-red pouts and dainty pearl necklaces, but as we'll see each have their own unique secret weapons.

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

It's gonna be intense, so...let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllllle!  *ding ding*

"Step off, bitch!"  "Make me, whore!"

In one corner of the ring we have the Bésame brush holder.  With her bouncy ponytail that also acts as a handle and makeup straight from the 1940s, this girl packs a strong punch. Bésame is also available at Sephora, which could be seen as an advantage over her opponent.

Bésame brush holder

Bésame brush holder

But LM Ladurée won't be pushed around so easily.  She boasts an equally jaunty hair style with a striped bow, but her thick black eyeliner proves she's not playing around.  Her eyes seem to be closed, making her face (in my opinion) less creepy than Bésame's somewhat lifeless stare.  LM Ladurée is only available in the U.S. through international sellers, making it more difficult to track down.  However, this could be also be an asset in that hard-to-find items can be seen as more special than readily available ones.

LM Ladurée brush holder

While both appear to be made from ceramic, there are significant differences:  Bésame's shine and heftier weight pits her directly against LM Ladurée's featherweight feel and matte finish.  Bésame may be bigger and stronger, but what LM Ladurée lacks in brawn she makes up for in agility.  

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

And while the size disparity doesn't seem that big at first, adding brushes is the true size test.  As you can see, Bésame edges out LM Ladurée in terms of storage space.

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

I predicted this was going to be a particularly intense smackdown, and I was right.  Things are getting ugly!  LM Ladurée has seized Bésame's ponytail and is ferociously yanking her head around.  Bésame swiftly retaliated by tearing off LM Ladurée's hair tie.  Well, as long as they're not going for their jewelry I guess it's fair game.  Oh, I take that back!  They have now ripped off each other's necklaces...I just hope LM Ladurée doesn't reach for Bésame's earrings.  Hoooooo boy!  Someone's gonna get KO'ed soon, so in these final moments, tell me who you think wins.  Will Bésame's larger size and ergonomic shape take down LM Ladurée?  Or will LM Ladurée's international status, more subtle matte finish and lightweight feel allow her to cleverly maneuver past Bésame's blows?