Vintage vanity items such as mirror and brush sets, lipstick holders, compacts, perfume bottles or vanity cases are a simple and easy way to add some old-fashioned glamour to a modern day dressing table or bathroom. Here’s our quick guide to these beautiful collectibles.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century women would carry their make-up in their personal compact and lipstick holders, which were often customized with their initials or little love messages from an admirer. At home, they would get ready for the day sitting on their vanity table, applying make-up and styling their hair.

Today you can still find plenty of vanity items – from Twenties art deco to Fifties design – in a variety of materials such as metal, Bakelite, Lucite, and celluloid. Adding some beautiful vintage perfume bottles and a brush and mirror set to your boudoir or bathroom will instantly add some serious glamour to your morning routine, while carrying your lipstick in your own holder will be so much more indulgent than today’s cheap plastic cases.

If you are completely new to vanity items, then Vintage Compacts & Beauty Accessories by Lynell Schwartz will be a good starting point. The guide not only details the range of vanity items available but also gives a great historical insight into the manufacturers and designers behind them such as make-up pioneer Max Factor. The book also explores European influences and features early advertisements and unusual promotional techniques, including the evolution of cosmetics through celebrity endorsements and trends.

51VYTXRHY7L__SL500_AA240_Finding vintage vanity items is relatively easy with both eBay and Etsy selling a huge range. A simple search will get you started in no time. Otherwise Vanity Treasures and Steptoesantiques have a fabulous online selection. Don’t forget to have a look round your local car boot sales and charity shops too, which often stock sets at bargain prices.


7 Responses

  1. Sheila Brady

    Oh the glamour of it all, I want that dressing table. I love vintage items, but, particularly compacts, lipstick cases, hair brushes etc. The ladies of this time seemed to have just that time! A site I have found very good as a ‘hunting ground’ is ZUCCHINI22, (on ebay).

  2. Lesley Shuman

    My dressing table looks glamourous! I made it so by using a little silver tray to keep all of my perfume bottles and makeup brushes and little vintage pictures of my favorite stars all around my mirror.

  3. Mary

    oooo! love vintage vanities, too!

    my friend, Rita of Falls Avenue Vintage Fashion on Ruby Lane just acquired a tempting array of vintage cosmetics/perfume bottles that she will be listing shortly, too….you can find her shop here:

    and we’ve got a couple of powder tins and an early plastic pyralene hair brush that are lovely additions to a vanity!

  4. La Sweeta Deeva

    Depression glass dressing table sets! Amber is my fave. I share a very wide but narrow dressing table with my partner. It fits a weird space and has enormous mirrors – yay!

    To theme his stuff appropriately, I have placed a few classic Amber Avon Men’s aftershave bottles (a vintage car, a chess pawn etc.) on his side (well, it’s a small half, OK?). Teams up well!

  5. Heather Jackson

    Hi i have a little vintage shop which i am closing down due to health problems have lots of items or a whole shop of items i have beeen collecting, hats bags ,clothes bling looking for a buyer to purchase alos hand made childrens vintage clothes . Regards Heather

  6. Loretta

    Love the photo of Jean Harlow. I also love the dressing table, I have been checking around in places for one, I have my mother’s bedroom set and the dresser with the mirror ( from one end to the other) is perfect! however I have been thinking of taking the middle drawers away and creating a vanity of it…if I could find a really good furniture person to do it.
    I also love your site!!