Weekday mornings, for nearly everyone, are rushed: we hurry through breakfast, yank keys from their hooks, and walk/run to the nearest public transit. And while you might arrive at the office on time, you realize, as the subway doors close behind you, that you’ve forgotten something fairly important: makeup. If, however, you have a hand mirror, mascara, lip gloss/stick (and maybe eyeliner), you’re in luck. This week, we’re time-traveling to the land of cool compacts – here are five retro mirrors which will help you glide into the office, mascara glimmering, lips shimmering, and on time. Brava, signora!

Piece #1: Gatsby Glamour, Now for Your Pocket

Retro Mirrors/ Vintage Compacts on Etsy (3)America is still languishing in an F. Scott Fitzgerald-induced haze: since Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of the author’s greatest novel, people are reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ more than ever before, and flapper chic is all the rage. That’s why I love the deliberate simplicity of this 1930s compact. The dancing couple is cartoonish but not silly – their smiles are cheerful (although the man’s face seems partly missing), and their attire is charming. Plus, the inside has a powder puff and room for a square of talc.

Details

  • Vintage item from the 1930s
  • Materials: mirror, brass

Buy online at etsy.com

Piece #2: Help the Fab Four Help You

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I don’t know about you, but if I was having a crummy day, a glimpse of the greatest band in the history of popular music might make things a bit better. One side of the mirror is a black and white photo of the Beatles, none of them looking at the same camera, mops of dark hair rippling in the wind, grins frozen on their young faces. I feel better already.

Details

  • Vintage item
  • Materials: paper, metal, plastic, mirror
  • Measures 3” X 2”

Buy online at etsy.com

Piece #3: And For the Lady

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Sometimes the most beautiful works have no author. This seemingly pristine compact from the 1960s is painted with a spray of delicate pink and white flowers. And while it’s a vintage find, the compact does not have the name of a maker of manufacturer embossed anywhere. It matters not – its design and charm are lovely reminders of feminine grace.

Details

  • Maker unknown; circa 1960s
  • Circular shape.
  • Materials: gold-tone metal, enamel top, mirror
  • Impressed radial design
  • Measures 2.75”

Buy online at etsy.com

Piece #4: Gifts from Grandma

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Don’t let the mention of your parents’ parents fool you: this is no frumpy/dumpy compact. The 1930s compact belonged to the shop owner’s grandmother, and has a design of flowers and a butterfly stitched onto needlepoint. The base is made of alligator skin, and the compact is held together by gold-tone metal. Truly an antique, but fit for the modern gal on the go.

Details

  • Vintage item from the 1930s
  • Materials: alligator skin, needlepoint, plastic, cotton, ribbon, metal, pearl
  • Clasp works by push button
  • Diameter: 3 5/8”

Buy online at etsy.com

Piece #5: Mad for Mod

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I’m seriously considering buying this eye-catching retro compact: its bold design of red, gold and white makes it a contender for a prop on ‘Mad Men’. The saddlebag shape is also striking, since compacts are usually round or square. And it’s a true vintage piece from the 1970s, made by Stratton of Great Britain, which was founded in 1860. Street cred, indeed.

Details

  • Stratton retro compact
  • Saddlebag shape
  • Lid is enameled black and has design in deep orange, gold and white
  • Diameter: 3”

Buy online at etsy.com


About Nandini Balial: I grew up in India, with an arty theatrical hippie mum who used to make her own jewelry, and vibrant patterns and materials – always on display at any relative’s wedding – quickly caught my attention.  Once I moved to Texas, I had to reconcile the ornate silks, mirrored scarves and silver hoops with glittery Coco Chanel earrings and Ralph Lauren polos. I’m still most comfortable in a vegetable/fruit-dye print cotton shirt and jeans, but my accessories will always vary. I proudly maintain that clothes are expensive and can’t always be mixed n’matched, but accessories are (on average) a bit cheaper, and can always move across your wardrobe (with/without irony). If you ever run across a fun accessory find, e-mail me with the details (and a photo, if possible), and I’ll try to include it in a future column.

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