1950s Black Bag with Vanity Section by 'Minois', France
This glamorous item immediately struck us as something rather different to the 1950s vanity cases that we come across from time to time! That decade saw a trend for neatly-sized accessories that were designed to hold a variety of evening 'essentials' - these included cosmetic products such as powder and lipstick, but also other items, for example, cigarettes and a comb. British and American compact companies produced metal cases (often with a handle) that incorporated sections made for specific items - they tended to be referred to as 'Carryalls' in America, and 'Party Cases' in the UK.
In this instance, rather than having a metal casing, the vanity section is enclosed within a stylish and attractive evening bag! The handbag is formed from stiffened black fabric that displays a smooth, rich texture - its shape flares gently outwards at the sides, and it has a strap handle. The bag is held closed by the simple, yet effective, method of passing the handle through a loop on the bag's top front edge. The fabric that forms the body, handle and loop is likely to be satin, and it displays a soft, subtle sheen. The front face has been embellished with an elegant bow detail, again in black fabric. Opening the bag reveals the vanity section in gleaming goldtone metal. One side of the vanity section (incorporating the powder compartment) is fully attached to the interior of the bag, whilst the other section (incorporating the mirror) is held to an opentopped fabric pocket - gently pulling the mirrored section forwards gives access to the pocket. The framed mirror is positioned above an area designed to hold a comb; the original plastic comb (with imitation tortoiseshell finish) is still present, and it states 'MADE IN FRANCE' in gold-coloured lettering. Removing the comb reveals an inscription on the smooth and shining goldtone metal. The inscription reads: 'BREVETE S.D.G.D. CREATION WERBER PARIS FOR. PAT. APPL. MADE IN FRANCE'. This information reveals that the bag's design (or elements of it) carried a degree of legal protection in France, and that an application had also been made for a patent outside France. We have not come across the Werber name before finding this item, and unfortunately, we have not been able to discover any details about this company; its logo (two joined letter 'W' with the word 'PARIS' above) can also be seen inscribed onto the metal of this item.
The other side of the vanity section has purpose-built spaces for powder, a lipstick case and a perfume bottle - we were particularly pleased that the lipstick case, bottle and comb have survived to accompany this item, as elements such as these can often be removed and lost over time. The powder compartment has a separate lid (with a catch on the right side), and its surface is decorated with a pattern of flowers. Opening the door reveals a well for loose powder, plus the original powder sifter; the latter displays a fine fabric mesh, and a sturdy cardboard frame. The sides of the well have been lined with felt, to minimise powder spillage. The cylindrical lipstick case shows the same floral decoration, and its smooth metal top is embellished with the Werber logo, as described above. Pulling the two sections apart reveals an inscription on the base, again stating 'MADE IN FRANCE' and mentioning the element of protection for the design. At the time this item was produced, lipstick refills could be widely bought and inserted into metal cases such as this one - needless to say, the move to 'throwaway' plastic lipstick cases put an end to the system of buying refills. Nowdays, this style of refillable lipstick case fits into the category of being an item of interest, rather than having a practical use. The slim glass perfume bottle has a screw-top cap, and the words 'Made in France' can be seen within the glass base. Undoing the gold-coloured cap reveals a little rubber stopper in the neck of the bottle; the stopper shows the 'BREVETE' inscription and a figure '5'.
The vanity section is hinged along its base, and secured shut via a catch along the top edge. The reverse side of the vanity section contains another, more concealed, inscription within the metal - this states 'MADE IN FRANCE "MINOIS" DÉPOSÉE'. The final word indicates that the design for this item was registered, and we presume 'Minois' to be the brand name. We wondered what this word could mean, and an internet search suggests a definition along the lines of 'pretty face' - if correct, this would seem to be very appropriate in connection with a vanity item!
Country of manufacture:
Product ref: C243
Very Good. This desirable vanity item has seen use in its past, but has nevertheless survived in very appealing condition. Any evidence of age or wear is minor in nature, and in our view, it does not detract from a well-preserved and highly attractive overall appearance. As mentioned earlier, it is particularly pleasing that the interior accessories (apart from the powder puff) are still present. The bag itself remains robust, displaying a neat outline and undented shape. The fabric handle and loop are strong and firmly attached, and this simple method of securing the bag continues to be efficient. Close examination of the exterior fabric reveals some small, superficial marks here and there, but there is very little in the way of scuffing or other wear to the fabric. The same is true of the interior fabric, which has a clean and robust appearance. There is a small scuff to the fabric to the top left of the mirror, and this looks likely to be where the fabric of the pocket has been folded back in the past, allowing the edge of the metal mirror frame to come into contact with the fabric; however, this is a small fault, and the fabric remains intact.
The metal that forms the interior vanity section is in excellent condition, and displays an impressively smooth and gleaming appearance! The mirror has only has a very slight degree of age-related clouding or spotting, and the comb looks to have been rarely, if ever, used. The interior of the lipstick holder appears not to have held a lipstick, and the metal shows a shining and scratch-free exterior; its top and base continue to fit tightly together. Judging by the pristine appearance of the powder sifter and powder well, they have also not seen use. Given this, it is slightly puzzling as to what happened to the puff, but perhaps the owner took it to use with another of her compacts? Whilst there is no longer any perfume within the glass bottle, it has been filled in the past, and a fragrance is still detectable when the bottle is closely examined. The goldtone surface of the bottle cap displays no evidence of wear, and the survival of the little rubber stopper is an added bonus. The catch at the top of the vanity section closes firmly and securely. Rather than being a usable bag today, we think this item will make a fitting addition to a collection of compacts or vanity cases. It displays a less regularly seen design, and its condition and virtual completeness are also desirable aspects - in addition, its French heritage brings with it an air of stylish sophistication!
Material: Stiffened fabric exterior, fabric and goldtone metal interior
Measurements: Bag - w:170mm (at widest point) x h:145mm (plus handle drop of 125mm). Interior vanity section - w:108mm x h:92mm (measurements of each side)