vintage chic and french ~~ elegance

I love vintage compacts…LOVE them.  I don’t collect them but I think I should.  But to me, nothing says chic and elegant more than a beautiful compact carried in one’s fabulous handbag.  I have seen this image over and over whenever I watch a vintage film or see old fashion photos:


I think it is so elegant and one of the many lost graces of our modern society.  I want to bring it back.  Let’s bring back the compact!  (My next post will show you how I have done just that!)

If you do a simple search on Etsy (or Ebay or Google “images of compacts”), your eyes will dance at what turns up.  Just look at some of these beauties:

Vintage Evans Compact Silver Mesh Compact Enamel Compact Powder Compact Mirror Compact Lovebirds Compact


Vintage Compact Powder Compact Rouge Compact Mirror Compact Evans 1930s Art Deco Excellent Condition


1950s Opulent Art Deco Snakeskin Diminutive Compact / Cigarette Case by Evans


1920's DANCE PURSE by EVANS - never used - price tag still on - pristine condition - gold - jeweled


Aren’t they gorgeous????  I never tire of looking at them.  You will note that I featured only Evans compacts and that is simply because they are my favorite.  Other companies such as Estee Lauder and Volupte have made many a lovely compact through the decades.   But I came to love the Evans brand when I found my first vintage Evans Elegance handbag.  It was a brown leather box bag that contained all of a woman’s needed accessories; lipstick holder, cigarette case (now could be used for business cards), comb  and compact mirror.  It was a work of beauty.  The quality and workmanship that went into the handbag and all the little accoutrements was breathtaking.  I (sadly) sold that bag and instantly regretted it.  But not long after I found a replacement:


Bakelite accents.

All needed accessories for a proper lady (which is probably why I don’t carry it often).

All accessories properly stowed away while in transit.

Isn’t she great?  Do I use her?  No, not really–maybe once in a blue moon.  But she is a permanent part of my vintage handbag collection, which has been culled many times and significantly reduced in its size.

Another super cool thing I have learned about Evans (Elegance) is that they partnered with Dodge in the mid-1950s to provide the ultimate car package for the woman driver–the Dodge La Femme.  I SO would’ve had bought this car:


Bonjour, bebe!!  And notice what came with the car according to Wikipedia:

“The interior of the car also received attention and features. 1955 La Femme interiors were upholstered in a special tapestry material featuring pink rosebuds on a pale silver-pink background and pale pink vinyl trim. The La Femme came with a keystone-shaped, pink calfskin purse that coordinated with the interior of the car. The purse could be stowed in a compartment in the back of the passenger seat,[2] and its gold-plated medallion faced outward. This brushed-metal medallion was large enough to have the owner’s name engraved on it.

Each purse was outfitted with a coordinated set of accessories inside, which included a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter and change purse, all made of either faux-tortoiseshell plastic and gold-tone metal, or pink calfskin and gold-tone metal, and all were designed and made by “Evans”, a maker of women’s fine garments and accessories in Chicago.

On the back of the drivers seat was a compartment that contained a raincoat, rain bonnet and umbrella, all made from a vinyl patterned to match the rosebud interior fabric. Marketing brochures stated that the car was made “By Special Appointment to Her Majesty… the American Woman.” “

I would’ve done the super swoon if I had been a woman shopping for a car in 1955.  Goodness.  If one of the car makers of today could get it done oh so right.

In other “elegance” news I watched the French film “The  Hedgehog” over the weekend.

(via amazon)

 I must say, it was very charming.  I read the book (Elegance of the Hedgehog) a few years ago but I really didn’t remember it all that well.  It was very thought-provoking as it examined the different ways in which people choose to live their lives…sometimes convincing oneself  “it really doesn’t matter what I do” or “it’s my life, I can do what I want”.  While in essence that is true (due to free will), when it is done in a way that shuts out opportunity, or more importantly positive relationships,  it can be a very self-damaging thing to do/way to live.  If you watch it have a BOX of tissues.  I was not prepared for the ending…I was floating on cloud of happiness with some tears mingled in and then…


P.S.  I am not the only one gaga over compacts.  In doing some searching for this post here are some other interesting things I saw:


49 thoughts on “vintage chic and french ~~ elegance

  1. One of my favorite gifts of all time was the Towle sterling cosmetic set I received when I gradated college. The compact mirror, in particular, was my favorite piece and was sadly lost when my purse was stolen. You’ve motivated me to search the web for a replacement.
    Oh, and I love, love, love that red bag!!


    • I hope you will find exactly what you are looking for! I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if you found one almost identical to the one that was stolen. Let me know!


    • Thank you! I know, wouldn’t a car like that be awesome? Just want to give you a heads up that I will be emailing your for some advice on a couture item I stumbled upon yesterday. ; )


    • Awww….I love Doris Day. When our daughter got married she told me she wanted me to find her Doris Day pajamas (peignoir set). And you know I did.


  2. What a cool car! I want one! 🙂 The beautiful lady with the compact is such a sharp contrast to what women wear to Walmart these days. I see sooo many gals in their PJ’s! The vintage compact designs are beautiful–again, such a contrast to our present day plastic cases that seem to break so easily. The movie intrigues me–did you find it locally, or on Netflix?


    • Kelly, you can watch in on Netflix (Play it Now) or get the DVD. I had it in my queue forever and it always said “really long wait” so I forgot about it until I saw it pop up on the “Play It Now” suggestions. So I watched it on Saturday and guess what arrived in the mail on Monday? Too funny. I might watch it again though–I think Brett might like it.

      And you don’t want to get me going about what women wear today. Eeek gads. Plus, I hope my next post doesn’t disappoint you. ; )


  3. Oh, I read that book earlier this year when we were in Sydney…BOX of tissues is no exaggeration! But I loved the writing style and hope to blog about a part of it I copied down, it was so evocative. Your red bag is absolutely gorgeous and that car reminds me a lot of my Grandpa’s last car, though it wasn’t La Femme. It was a peculiar pinkish brown colour, though, and had silver/purple/pinky coloured upholstery; also, it was a Chrystler. It is all the accessories tucked away in their own special pockets that is really wonderful. I love beautiful compacts, but I associate them with broken powder and back when I was still young enough to wear face powder I discovered that loose powder applied with a brush worked better for me. I gather that applying lipstick or powder in public here in Britain doesn’t have the same cache as it would in the States, it’s considered poor manners to do such things in public (not that everyone’s manners here are so correct, mind!).


    • Let me know if you see the movie…I think I am going to have to read the book again.

      I am not sure applying lipstick and powder is as accepted as it once was–especially at the dinner table. However, I would MUCH RATHER see that than have to listen to people’s LOUD CELL PHONE conversations any day. Yes, please powder your nose and keep your mouth shut.

      Sorry, my inner brat just got away from me for a second.


  4. This is brilliant – I love vintage compacts as well and have thought about collecting them, because that’s just what I need – more stuff! Your little handbag is gorgeous, I wish I was more ladylike. But the car? The car has it all!! What a beauty, who wouldn’t love it? I was thinking yes, must order that movie, but not if it’s going to require a truckload of Kleenex!!


    • Hold on…I am swimming in the “brilliant” part of the comment. ; )

      Vintage handbags, compacts and cars…sounds like the perfect combination to me. I should have a store that sells those things with books, desks, stationary, vintage jewelry and coffee/tea. Perfect.

      Please try the movie!


  5. I love the red handbag. It not only speaks vintage but classy chic as well. I came across a similar bag a few months ago and wished I had purchased it now after seeing your post. You mentioned having a collection of them. Do you display them in some way?

    Heading off to watch The Hedgehog! I read the book a few years ago and so glad you mentioned watching it. Thank you for mentioning it.

    P.S. I am so glad I came across your blog Heather! Looking forward to your next post!


    • I have a small collection. I actually use most of them in my daily wear. For example, I am carrying a vintage Coach Willis bag today. A couple of days ago I used my Patricia Smith MoonBag. The Evans Elegance usually comes out when wearing a LBD or something similar. So yes, I guess you can say I display them on me. : )


  6. I just received a compact as a gift from a reader and friend. It’s new, not vintage, but it has a vintage vibe.
    I love your red pocketbook (hard for me to call it a purse or handbag). It’s darling!
    “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” had me in tears at the end like no other book has before it. I hesitate to watch the movie because I don’t want to cry that much again!


    • Use it and help me change the world!

      Pocketbook is a totally acceptable word of choice in this neck of the woods.

      I thought I was going to hyperventilate at the end of the movie. Goodness. xo.


  7. Heather I love vintage compacts. I have for a long time. I can only remember buying one. I have no idea what happened to it. I want that car. I didn’t know they catered to
    women. Very interesting. Love the red purse. I’m glad my daughter loves vintage. Mom


    • I still have one that Grandma F. gave to me when I was a little girl. I will always keep it.

      Isn’t that the sweetest car package idea ever? I would love to own one. I would have it in the garage next to my vintage Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. xo


  8. I think I need a vintage compact! I do have a very lovely one that was my mom’s…its square and has a prismatic mother of pearl cover. The mirror will not stay attached!


    • Yes, you do need one so we can change the world one compact at a time. I don’t think you gals are taking me seriously on that score. ; )

      I think you just need a little glue to hold your mirror back in place. The compact sounds lovely.


  9. I like little hinged boxes. Also little tins; like the ones mints come in. I don’t really collect them but I’m drawn to them so I understand your love of the compact.


  10. Beautiful post … and photos – understand that you regret selling the bag – because the red you must still have ??? or ???? This fashion is back big time because of the TV series “Mad Men” – enjoyed this post very much .. loads of eye candy.
    Got my bag by the way – but was in plastic and not patent leather as stated. A pity but we have settled – found one in London over Ebay … from Hobb.


  11. Pingback: The Elegance of the Hedgehog and… | At Home With Cat

    • Thank you! I don’t remember my grandmas…or anyone else…using them. Maybe they did and I seriously didn’t care when I was 10. I do still have an old one my Grandma gave me.

      Home yet?


      • Estee Lauder used to make a limited edition one at Christmas and someone in the family used to give it to her from Christmas. I don’t know if in sister in law kept them.


  12. What a lovely post, Heather! It brings back many memories to my mind. I was offered my first compact by my Mom when I was thirteen (for my “communion solemnelle” as we say in France) and I still carry it in my purse. Precious.
    And like you I really love the movie “Le hérisson”. Such a moving story and so many great actors. Balasko is amazing and the little girl with her camcorder is adorable. Both the book and the movie were successful and it’s easy to understand why.
    Have a great evening 🙂
    xo from Florida,
    Anne (Playing with scarves)


    • What a wonderful gift you received from your mom…and that you still carry it is priceless.

      Balasko was SO good in the movie…so moving. I wanted to hug her so many times. When the little girl first does, I started bawling. I will have to research to see what else Balasko has been in.


      • Balasko played in many movies…. My favorites are “Le père Noël est une ordure” and “les bronzés font du ski” (two old French classics). She is amazing in “Un crime au paradis”. She is such a great actress!!!
        Enjoy 🙂


  13. Pingback: photography ~~ renewal (weekly photo challenge) | vintage french chic

  14. Pingback: chic ~~ the “change my world” compact | vintage french chic

    • I adore vintage brooches and wear them on my outer wear jackets all the time. You are right, the two things do go together nicely.


  15. I have probably 30 or 40 vintage compacts … never thought of writing about them, but this is a wonderful post! I even have the Eiffel Tower compact that my dad bought for HIS mother in 1946. The best vintage items are the ones with personal stories attached…..


    • Oh my goodness! 30-40!? You really should write about some of them. And you are right, the ones with stories are the best. I would love to see the Eiffel Tower one. I saw an Eiffel tower/souvenir compact in an antique store once–it was so pretty but I let it go. I have thought of it often. : (


  16. Love the compacts. I had a special one that was in my purse when it was stolen years ago and I never replaced it. You’ve inspired me. I think I may start looking for one now, just as soon as I finish watching The Hedgehog. Thanks for the recommendation. Merci! ~FTW


  17. Pingback: vintage ~~ an antique automobile afternoon | chez bliss

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