Color Connection #9
Curator's Corner, 1/19/2013

Book review: Mueller's Overview of American Compacts and Vanity Cases

Vintage compact bookI must say that the title of this blog entry is misleading.  There isn't really much content to review in this book, but there sure are some wonderful vintage compacts to drool over!  I guess it will be an overview of an overview.

Mueller provides a very brief (a mere 3-page) summary of American compact companies at the start of the book, and explains that it's not a pricing guide.  While I am curious to know what these pieces might go for if they were for sale, I was not disappointed that the book doesn't contain pricing information.  From there on it's all pictures of glorious compacts and even some ads for them.  Each one includes the sizes of each piece and the manufacturer.

I thought I'd give you a little taste of what you'll find in the book if you decide to purchase it.  And you really should if you like admiring pretty makeup* - because compacts are relatively small objects, there were usually 4-5 pictures of different ones per page.  So. Much. Eye candy!  You can buy it here.

Here are some of the compacts that jumped out to me immediately.

These iris and poppy compacts are from the early 1940s and according to the book, are very rare.


I love the little legs on this Volupté "Petit Boudoir" compact from 1950:

Legged compact

These four are by Rex Fifth Avenue.  The two on the right bear the signature of cartoonist Hilda Terry, whose designs of "bobby soxers" somehow made their way onto these compacts.


How adorable are these Bell lucite compacts featuring charming Paris scenes?  They're pretty similar in style to Nathalie Lété's Paris designs for Bourjois.


In addition to illustrated compacts, there were some fantastic blingy pieces, like these from Volupté and Evans.


I thought I'd save my favorite for last:  a zippered compact bearing a mermaid (!!!) and seahorse:


There are so many more pieces to ooh and aah over, including one with a map of New York designed especially for the 1939 World's Fair, the famous Dali compact, and even an enameled compact with a picture of fruit.  Mueller notes that depictions of fruit were very rare in compacts - how unlike the abundance I found in vintage ads!

I know I'll enjoy re-perusing all the compacts in this book, and I do find it helped me get a sense of what to look for in terms of vintage compacts.  As you know, the Makeup Museum is mostly focused on contemporary cosmetics, but I really want to add vintage pieces to the collection.  This was a great primer.

*I am not affiliated with the author in any way and received no compensation for writing about this book.

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