PUFFS & SIFTERS
THE ORIGINS OF THE COMPACT MIRROR
During the 1920’s, following the end of The Great War, attitudes towards female cosmetics changed dramatically. Contrary to preceding Victorian culture, women embraced new social freedoms, and consequently the use of beauty products flourished.
The first powder compacts were imported into Britain from the major French perfume houses in the mid-1920’s. Compacts of this period express Art Deco at its best, and often incorporated cigarette holders, combs and lipsticks.
By the 1930’s, compacts had grown in popularity as women became more independent and pioneered beauty on the move in Britain. Metal goods firms were embracing the trend and compact production accelerated, increasing the availability and the variety of these beautiful, yet practical objects.
Whilst the compact is still an essential in every handbag, a beautifully crafted, built-to-last compact is a rare sight indeed. However, these unsung cosmetic heroes have followed us through Britain's most turbulent and thriving times for more than 100 years. Compacts of the day were extensions of our personalities and lasted long enough to be passed down as treasured heirlooms.
The Charles Mallory story is one that surfaces in the 21st century, but spawns from the long history of movements in beauty, fashion and craft in Britain.
Charles Mallory remembers the minds, craftsmen and artists behind these once beautiful objects, and aspires to rediscover their fading legacy through our own collections.
WORLD WAR II
During the Second World War, compact production in Britain was forced to cease as the government rationed metal use. Instead, factories were commissioned to produce military supplies to contribute to the war effort.
Many lipstick manufacturers began making shell cases for ammunition, and makeup producers had to turn their hands to foot powder and camouflage makeup. Countless factories were bombed during these difficult years, many of which are still standing today, with painful evidence of the detriment that the war caused.
As the opposition attempted to starve Britain of its imports, scarcity temporarily shaped the production of luxury metal goods, which would later prove to inspire a new appreciation for lavish materials.
In times of extreme scarcity, it wasn't uncommon for companies to use emergency packaging made from paper or cardboard.
By the end of the War, women were desperate to hang up their uniforms and express femininity through independence, beauty and glamour. Compact production resumed at full throttle during the 1950’s. Blushed cheeks and red lipstick were all the rage as women aspired to the glamorous stars of the silver screen including Marilyn Monroe and Joan Mansfield.
With a strengthening economy and an explosion in consumerism came demand for innovative manufacturing solutions. Sadly however, these processes sought to serve the millions, and lost touch with the discerning. Whilst the end of the war was celebrated with new levels of capitalism, the 1950's would mark the beginning of the end in more ways than one.
As the shortcuts increased over the decades to follow, the once majestic and proud compact became disposable and soul-less. These now purely practical articles were, and sadly still are, made from plastic or steel. The compact has never been the same since, until now.
COMPACTS IN THE 1950s
Marilyn Monroe, circa 1955.
French powder advert, 1930.
Women producing military supplies during WW2.
The British Compact
Designed in England