Compact reflections

Vintage compacts, either for sale or from my own collection.

Compact jackpot.

On Friday, my friend Amy emailed me a photo of a compact/vanity set she saw while out poking about at Antiques on Elm.

Amy thought I'd like this. (photo by Amy Janine Coleman)

Amy thought I’d like this. (photo by Amy Janine Coleman)

BEAUTIFUL. It’s a Shari Langlois set…originally it held powder, rouge, lipstick, and perfume, and there was a glass lid in matching pink Depression glass that would have covered the whole thing. While this set is missing the perfume and the lid, I still had to have it – the details on the powder and rouge compacts are simply stunning.

On the bottom of both compacts, you can read the Langlois New York hallmark.

On the bottom of both compacts, you can read the Langlois New York hallmark in an elegant script.

Lately I’m on a crown kick. How could I pass up this bejeweled beauty?

While exploring Antiques on Elm, a shop I’d never visited before, I found two more treasures that simply had to come home with me: a Girey compact with its original box and an Evans carryall that will be perfect for Easter.

In a recent post highlighting my Evans collection, I lamented that my carryall is missing its lipstick. Well, this one isn’t! Everything in this carryall is intact…the comb, lipstick holder, and powder puff are all accounted for. And while I’ll admit that I’m typically not a fan of pastels, this piece feels Eastery to me. It will work nicely with my blue Heart of Haute Milan dress.

So pretty and springy!

So pretty and springy!

I rationalized treating myself with these nice finds as a “congrats on your new job” celebration. Not that I need much of an excuse to buy compacts.

 

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More vintage aprons

My vintage apron collection is growing! Last time I visited my mom in Connecticut, she gave me two lovely aprons that belonged to Memere. We think she made them both by hand.

I love, love, love this.

I love, love, love this.

I love red and adore polka dots. The rick-rack and piping pull everything together. So cute. The next one is more of a smock:

Bright fruit print against a polka dot background.

Bright fruit print against a polka dot background.

It’s summery! It’s eye-catching! It’s definitely one of a kind. Whimsical, if you will.

A view of the back.

A view of the back.

Detail of the zany pattern.

Detail of the zany pattern.

These two aprons join the others I’ve received from the wonderful Lisa Kiner and my mom. I still need to figure out a way to display them, although as the collection grows to include more patterns and colors, I imagine the display will become more… schizophrenic? Eclectic? It will be something, all right.

Compact makers: The Elegance of Evans

As I mentioned before, the Evans Case Company made some of the compacts I love the most… as well as this wonderful handbag my mother-in-law scored for me:

Handbag, lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

Handbag, lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

I’m surprised that I haven’t blogged much about Evans before now. Based in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, Evans operated from 1922-1960, producing lighters, cigarette cases, compacts, vanity cases, handbags, and men’s accessories such as tie clips and cufflinks. With the tagline “Evans is elegance,” the company lured in women looking for something a bit more glamorous than the commonplace drug store powder compact.

From "The Evans Book" by Larry Clayton. Copyright 1998 Larry Clayton.

From “The Evans Book” by Larry Clayton. Copyright 1998 Larry Clayton.

Evans manufactured beautifully matched sets: each carryall came with a matching lipstick holder; handbags included a variety of accessories, such as a lipstick holder, mirror, comb, powder box, cigarette case and lighter.

I wish I owned more Evans pieces–for whatever reason, I’ve found more Elgin American and Volupte in my travels. The few Evans pieces I do have, however, offer a good representation of what the company produced…including some packaging.

The carryall I own is pictured in this ad from The Evans Book – I love the multi-colored metal waves. A small detail that really gives the piece more depth and complexity.

The waves have subtle color variations, alternating between a bright gold and a rosy tone.

The waves have subtle color variations, alternating between a bright gold and a rosy tone.

My carryall is missing the lipstick holder. Someday, I'll find one.

My carryall is missing the lipstick holder. Someday, I’ll find one.

I also have a lovely smoking set with compact…although, like the carryall, mine is flawed. When I purchased the set online, the mirror in the compact was intact. Unfortunately, the shipper didn’t pack it well and by the time it arrived, the mirror had broken. I was crushed. And since the mirror is framed into the case, I can’t replace it on my own. I keep looking for a matching compact so I can have the full set. I love the herringbone pattern.

Compact, cigarette case, and lighter.

Compact, cigarette case, and lighter.

I have a beautiful Evans compact – with the mirror intact. And the original packaging…it’s fun to see the advertising for other Evans products. The back of the little brochure says, “Makers of automatic lighters for more than 20 years.” Since Evans started making lighters in 1928, that probably puts the compact’s manufacture date at  1949 or 1950.

The compact and literature.

The compact and literature.

The inside has never been used.

The unused puff, with the Evans label.

The unused puff, with the Evans label.

My last Evans piece is another handbag. This one didn’t have any of the original accoutrements with it, but I can always just use my other Evans pieces to fill it, if I want to be a stickler. I found this bag at Treasures Antiques in Amherst. Their website is terrible–the shop is much better in person!

I think I paid just $12 for this.

I think I paid just $12 for this.

An ad for bags like mine...with a similar clasp, but different shapes. The set that came with the top bag looks like the one I shared pictures of.

An ad for bags like mine…with a similar clasp, but different shapes. The set that came with the top bag looks like the one I shared pictures of above.

According to The Evans Book, the company stopped making handbags in 1955, when the wife of owner Alfred Reilly attempted to take over the handbag division and the women who had been managing it quit. I always think it’s interesting to learn how personality conflicts and political activity have a far-reaching impact on manufacturing, finance, and the like. Anyway, the company went on making lighters and compacts for another five years, until 1960.

You can learn more about Evans on the blog Collecting Vintage Compacts in a series of remarkably well-researched posts full of great photos.

An incredible Evans find

My mother-in-law is starting to understand my taste.

That’s very cool for a variety of reasons. Mostly because it means I’m important to her and she wants to choose gifts I like. But it’s also awesome because she volunteers with her church, which holds rummage sales as fundraisers.

She gets to see the rummage before it goes on sale.

When she saw this bag, she thought of me.

Gorgeous vintage clutch

Gorgeous vintage clutch

Another angle...

Another angle…

She called and tried to describe it over the phone, but I’m extremely visual and had trouble picturing the bag she was talking about. What I did get: It was old and had an interesting closure. She offered the people running the sale $10. They gave it to her for $4. She did some research when she got home and felt guilty that they gave it her for so little. Then I started feeling better, because it meant I would feel less guilty if I didn’t like it.

The elegant Evans emblem, hidden inside the purse.

The elegant Evans emblem, hidden inside the purse.

Then she told me it was an Evans. The odds that I wouldn’t like it plummeted. Evans made some of the compacts I love most…their styling and craftsmanship captivate me. Even their logo is striking.

My mother-in-law cautioned me that the interior of the bag had some holes in the cloth lining, and there were two small dings in the leather on the front. To a certain extent, things like that make me feel like it’s OK to actually USE my vintage items – I’m not putting an intact collectible at risk of losing its value, I’m simply continuing to make use of an item that already has a bit of wear and tear.

Yes, the interior shows signs of age. But I'm the only one who will see that.

Yes, the interior shows signs of age. But I’m the only one who will see that.

Inside pockets for lipstick and a compact.

Inside pockets for lipstick and a compact.

While the compact that probably came with the bag originally didn’t make it to the rummage sale, there were still some goodies inside:

Even more treasures inside: lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

Even more treasures inside: lipstick tube, change purse, and comb.

 

Bow and basket weave clasp

Bow and basket weave clasp

The lipstick holder has the same basket weave as the bag’s clasp. It’s obviously never been used. So cool. And I love the blue jewel at the tip. I’m not certain of this set’s age, but I’m looking forward to doing some research to see what I can find.

Display shelves

A long time ago, I mentioned that I didn’t really have a good way to display my compacts…they were just sort of scattered willy-nilly throughout my office. I started building some shelves with old drawers I found in the loft over our garage, but got stalled when it was time to figure out how to hang them.

Drawers from the loft in our garage.

Drawers from the loft in our garage.

Fortunately for me, Tim stepped in and decided to surprise me while I was travelling for work. He came up with a way to connect and hang the shelves in a way that captured the juxtaposition I was going for. I like unexpected contrasts…something rustic up against the industrial, or something rough and unfinished paired with something polished and ornate. It’s not for everyone.

The drawers had traces of BRIGHT PINK. Which I hate. So I sanded them down and stained them with a black stain that let traces of the wood grain peek through.

First pass with the stain.

First pass with the stain.

Tim cut some smaller pieces of wood for me to put inside the boxes to create more shelves. I stained those, we nailed/glued them in, it looked great and then….

They sat in the garage for months.

I got distracted. Fortunately, Tim decided that shelf-finishing was a great way to entertain himself while I was traveling for work. I returned from my trip to find beautifully completed shelves. Yay! He used copper plumbing fittings to connect the shelves.

My finished shelves!

My finished shelves!

They fit nicely in a corner next to my bookshelves. We live in a Cape, which has sloped ceilings in some spots that can make it tough to fit things in, but these work perfectly.

A close-up of the fittings.

A close-up of the fittings.

I love the way the compacts fit in here...there's enough room to stand them up or set them flat.

I love the way the compacts fit in here…there’s enough room to stand them up or set them flat.

Tim put a bit of a blue stain on the edges of the middle shelf. It’s subtle, but I like it. Sorry the photos are a bit dark – the light in my office is tricky and it’s tough to photograph. Overall, I’m really pleased with these. I like the hint of rawness in the shelves in contrast to the polish and delicate appearance of the compacts.

Consignment finds

Yesterday afternoon I was fidgety and decided to go for a drive. While I started off intending to hit up the usual antique stores, I changed my mind once I got close and decided to try the local consignment shops instead.

Good call.

At Second Avenue Consignment, I found the flour and sugar containers from a Beautyware canister set. I’d love to find the matching coffee and tea containers, but for now, the flour and sugar canisters work just fine.

I also saw a mid-century tea cart that I would have snatched up in a heartbeat if it weren’t for one teeny little detail…

Striking tea cart.

Striking tea cart.

It’s pink. I HATE pink. Sigh. I know some other vintage lady will love it. If you’re in the southern New Hampshire area and reading this blog, I think it was marked $49. You’re welcome.

I left Second Avenue with my canister set and headed next door to Twice As Nice Consignments, but didn’t find anything there. I got back in my car and headed toward Milford, thinking I’d check out the New Hampshire Antiques Co-op. Then I saw a sign for a barn sale. Whoo-hoo! I parked, got out of my car, and was greeted by these beauties:

vintage kitchen cabinets

vintage kitchen cabinets

Here’s a closer look at the pattern on top.

Red kitchen cabinet tops.

Red kitchen cabinet tops.

It may look familiar if you’ve been a regular reader. You may have seen it here. Or here. Or in any one of several other posts I’m too lazy to track down right now. That’s right. It matches my table. (Forgive the color difference of daylight vs. no light. They’re the same color. Really.)

My table.

My table.

As much as I loved the cabinets, I didn’t buy them. Mostly because we have no place to put them.

I did, however, add a new compact to my collection:

Washington, D.C. souvenir vanity case by Elgin American.

Washington, D.C. souvenir vanity case by Elgin American.

I love the deep burgundy of this vanity case. I didn’t have any souvenir cases in my collection, and this one is pretty and in great shape.

Basically, I drove around, saw cool stuff, and entertained myself for three hours. Good deal.

Fan-shaped compacts

In honor of our trip to Japan, here’s a post on fan-shaped compacts. In The Complete Dictionary of Symbols, author Jack Tresidder explains that in Japanese ritual, fan symbolism was highly developed “as an analogy for the unfolding of life itself.” Fans have  represented wealth and status, as well as mystery and femininity. They’ve been a prime accessory for flirtation, much like the powder compact.

fan compact

A fan-shaped powder compact, most likely made by Wadsworth or Henriette.

A number of manufacturers produced fan-shaped compacts, but Wadsworth and Henriette were probably most closely associated with this shape. I’ve seen a few from companies called Melissa and Elegance. Pink Lady also created lovely miniature fans in beautiful silk-lined presentation boxes. Though tiny, these compacts have great details, like the pearls at the fan’s handle. This thumb-sized compact is one of my favorites.

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Many of the Wadsworth/Henriette creations had gorgeous details (like the one on the homepage of my website)…one of the reasons many collectors find these pieces so appealing.