Vanity Faire

February 6, 2014

Films of the Hollywood “golden era” are often filled with images of a glamorous starlet primping for an evening out on the town, in front of a stunning & dreamy vanity table. These tables went out of fashion in recent decades, but are now making a big comeback. Sure, you don’t actually need one — not in the way you need a bed, a couch, or a closet full of vintage shoes. But a vanity table suggests intimacy, romance, and vintage style. If you pick the right one, it adds an element of glamour to any room.

While roaming the antiques faire, I often talk to our sellers who have the talents of painting, refinishing, and selling old furniture.  The past couple of years, I’ve seen the resurgence in popularity of the bedroom vanity aka the dressing table. I’d say it is one of the most requested items I get as a show producer.  Women are going back to the ritual of putting on their face in a place of their own since space in the bathroom usually has to be shared. The desire to beautify oneself is back in fashion, with so many options in cosmetics and affordable vintage vanity tables within reach.

Vintage vanity at The Alameda Point Antiques Faire by Pretty N Chic furniture, painted by Kimberly Burbine

The history of the vanity begins with a box. Since ancient civilization, ornate boxes have been designed to hold a variety of beautifying paraphernalia, including jars for cosmetics, flasks for rare perfumes and exotics oils, implements for applying makeup, and mirrors. It was in the late 17th century in Europe that the form of the vanity as we know it today began with the high society Europeans commissioning luxurious and customized furniture from craftsmen.

In America, dressing table designs were simpler, with the Chippendale style among the most popular. During the 19th century, dressing tables were made in many revivalist styles including Rococo, Renaissance & Colonial revivals, Gothic, and Elizabethan to name a few. By the later 19th century, the dressing table — like other cabinet furniture — became a matching part of the bedroom suite and is still collected today. During the Art Deco era in both Europe and America, luxurious dressing tables epitomized the modern concept of glamour. Hollywood films of the 1920s & ’30s, with their fantasy worlds of razzle dazzle, were popular during this period and often depicted the femme fatale heroine sitting at her ornate and elegant vanity table in the bedroom or dressing room.

Lucille Ball at her dressing table


Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight at her glam vanity table

You can be a modern day diva and own the vanity table of your dreams. Having a place to do your hair and apply makeup is important to most women. This area should be be pretty and feminine, and serve as a functional and practical space for displaying toiletries. With all this in mind, there are three things that I believe are the most important when finding your perfect dressing table/vanity area: lighting, comfort, and storage.

Satin vintage vanity table

Like most luxury items of the past, a vanity can be found at The Point within most any gal’s budget. If you can’t find the space, you can still find many dressing table objects and decorative storage items at our shows. We have many options for men too. Shaving kits, tie boxes, and cuff link cases can be found for very little investment. Dressing accessories make great gift ideas for both guys and dolls. These beautifying options can also be found at the Alameda Point Vintage Fashion Faire.

So slip into some satin, pour a glass of bubbly, and primp & prime yourself this Valentine’s Day while he watches you wallow in your femininity. If you’re single and not spending some dough on a dude, make a date…with your vanity table.

Happy Valentine’s Day Vintage Lovers!

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