Vintage Compacts

Todays guest blog comes from Tilly from Lavender Hill Antiques. She shares with us her love for vintage compacts and shows us some of her favourites. But beware the collectors out there….if you havent fallen in love with these little handbag treasures yet, you may do soon!

Don’t Forget to Powder Your Nose!

vintage mirror

I still love to use the phrase “I’m just going to powder my nose” (in the old fashioned sense you understand!), and I always have my latest favourite vintage powder compact in my handbag.  25 years ago, I purchased my first vintage compact from a small village antique fair in Cheshire and I was totally hooked from that day on!  Since then I have collected (well hoarded!), traded, swapped, repaired and loved each and every one that has passed through my hands.

The vast array of gorgeous, tactile pieces all have their own special appeal and history.  Researching compacts, their history, makers and values has become somewhat of an obsession for me over the years.  Did you know that from Victorian times right through the 1930’s; gifts from a boy to a girl were monitored closely by strict parents of the period,  anything other than chocolates, sweets, flowers or by the 1920’s a powder compact, would have been considered too personal.  By the Art Deco period, a lovely mirror and powder compact would have been a desirable present from a suitor, or a girl-friend as a thank-you gift, or for a special birthday, their timeless appeal has been that they are pretty and practical.

vintage mirror

Initially powder compacts were small and simple with loose powder and a puff, and of course the mirror.  As make-up became generally more acceptable and different rouge colours were explored, the popularity of powder compacts grew, lipsticks & in some cases tuneful musical variations, were added to ever more decorative cases, and eventually ladies of the 1940’s could carry powder, lipstick, comb, money, cigarettes all in a compact dance purse or “carry-all”.


During World War II, powder compacts were a popular gift, servicemen would send sweethearts gifts from around the world, pictures, locks of hair and love notes were kept safely in powder compact compartments, and many forces personnel were issued powder compacts with the name of their regiment or tour of duty as souvenirs.

vintage coronation


I have found that collecting powder compacts is a fabulous hobby, treasure hunting for special pieces that I have not seen before, finding little beauties that have me speculating about who? where? why?.  Most collectors have themes when they start collecting such as Dogs, Cats, Art Deco, Geometric, Butterfly Wing, Silver, Ballet, Flowers, Scenic, Souvenir, Wild Animals, Military etc…… yes! the list is endless, and it is easy to find oneself with several “themes”.   There are lots of different makers and trademarks; Stratton, KIGU, Mascot, Gwenda, Volupte, Bourjois, Coty and Boots to name a few, some makers have a long, rich history and were prolific manufacturers in the first half of 20th Century, some are still producing today, however others produced for short periods of time are more difficult to come by, these are the ones that are worth the extra searching effort.

Collecting vintage vanity items such as powder compacts is still a relatively cheap antique & collectable genre with prices ranging from £10 right up to £1000 for a unique or desirable piece.   There are lots of vintage fairs, antique shops, on-line stores and dealers, with a little searching and detective work, 1000’s of powder compacts can be found.  There are still bargains to be found, try auction sites, charity shops and car-boot sales, undiscovered pieces can still be found for a few pounds!

vintage art deco

When starting a collection, look for those that you find personally pleasing, handle and hold them if you can, open the catches check for damaged mirrors (although some can be replaced), look for worn paint to the exterior.  Collecting and buying vintage or pre-loved powder compacts means that your purchase will not always be pristine, but to me that is part of the appeal.  If you are buying on-line deal with a reputable dealer, ask lots of questions and look carefully at any pictures posted.  Caring for the powder compacts is relatively easy.  Personally, I always remove the powder from the powder well as I find it too messy.  I use a little olive oil to clean off sticky labels and a bit of WD40 on a cotton-bud to remove dirt and improve the hinge and catches, simple window cleaner will refresh the mirror.  Some compacts are more delicate than others and a little TLC goes a long way in preserving finds for enjoyment later on.  Square or round felt pochettes are easily made for storing and will help to keep the compact in good condition.


There are lots of good reference books written on the subject and there are several well written resources on-line, Pinterest is a great place to view and admire other collector’s treasures and a quick Google search will open up a whole world of forums, clubs, collectors & dealers.

Happy hunting!


Check out Lavender Hill Antiques for more compacts as well as other vintage treasures.



I love


  1. Jo Lesley
    1 December 2012 / 10:48 pm

    These are lovely. I have collected compacts for about a year now, I love having them in my handbag as they are so glamorous and pretty at the same time x

  2. Jenny Williams
    7 February 2021 / 1:28 pm

    Lovely article! I’ve just found out that my mum used to work for Searchlight Products in 1963 which produced Melissa compacts. Having looked into the subject now I’ve been captivated by the history and beauty of these little treasures!

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