There is something so delicious about sitting down at a pretty dressing table to complete your skin care routine or apply a dab of lipstick. A beautifully set dressing table encourages a soothing self-care routine as well as making you feel like the leading lady in your own life.
I have been a long-time admirer of the dressing table and I will often press the pause button on my TV to study one. The ladies of Downton Abbey have such covetable dressing tables set with crystal perfume bottles, trinket jars, photos in silver frames, flowers and candles National Trust Houses and living museums can also be a source of dressing table inspiration. It’s especially wonderful to come across an Edwardian or Victorian dressing table set which usually includes an ornately handled hair brush, a clothes brush and mirror and sometimes a powder bowl or a button hook.
In my dream life, I own a complete silver dressing table set but full sets are collector’s items and therefore terribly price. In my more modest reality, I have nevertheless managed to assemble a few inexpensive but adorable individual pieces. Some of these treasures are purely decorative such as the old silver hairbrush. I’d never use it to brush my hair but it has all the glamour of a bygone era. Other treasures include a delightful silver button hook which has a surprising number of uses, a tiny art deco pillbox and a gorgeous bottle of perfume complete with pink ball pump atomiser.
I love old perfume bottles and have started a small collection which I mix with my modern favourites. When I’m choosing a perfume, a gorgeous bottle is just as important as a wonderful scent inside it. I like a bottle that harks back to the past and I’m especially fond of the bottle shape used by Penhaligon’s perfumers. Penhaligon’s was founded in 1870 and the elegant bottle design has hardly changed since that time. The full sized 100ml bottles are beyond my price point but I have a discovery set of five miniature 5ml fragrance bottles including a distinct bluebell eau de cologne.
A few years ago, I invested in a stylish mirrored dressing table which I’ve never regretted, despite the need to dust more regularly. But you don’t need to splash out to have a dressing table you adore. I acquired my first dressing from a charity shop in my 20’s. It was in dark wood, unremarkable and battered but it had a generous mirror and was in my modest price range. With a little rubbing down and polishing, it was soon restored to its former glory and I used a pretty glass trinkets tray to hide the only serious stain. I scoured flea markets and car boot sales for pretty fripperies and vintage ephemera to drape around my mirror. An aging mirror trimmed with fairy lights, feathers, faux flowers, lace remnants and vintage cards can give your boudoir a delightfully opulent, ethereal air.
As a child I used to love watching my mother at her dressing table as she prepared for a very rare evening out. Watching other women’s beauty routines has always held a fascination to me. I love to see what lotions and potions they use, how they apply them and what perfume they wear. Do they choose a heady scent or lighter floral or citrus notes? Even as a little girl, I instinctively knew that when a woman is at her dressing table, she should not be interrupted as seemed a sacred, cloistered space. It was a time to sit quietly and watch and talk only in whispered tones.
As an adult there’s nothing nicer than sitting down at the end of a busy day, lighting scented candle and applying a night cream or brushing your hair surrounded by pretty things, gorgeous perfume bottles, a tray of glittering brooches, earrings and glass beads, the precious photo of a loved one long gone, an arrangement of charmingly faded faux flowers or wildflowers spilling from a child sized glass milk bottle.
There are no hard and fast rules about what makes a perfect dressing table. Dressing table design and layout is completely down to personal tastes and practical preferences. If you’re makeup enthusiast, great lighting and plenty of storage may be your priority. If like me, you enjoy the elegance of a bygone era, you may seek to strike a balance between function and feminine touches.
If your living space is cramped, a dressing table doesn’t even have to be a piece of furniture; it could be a shelf with a mirror above it or a portable vanity case. You could even repurpose a vintage suitcase by adding legs to it, storing your beauty products in the trunk and adding a mirror to the lid. If you’re struggling to visualise this, go to Pinterest and type in ‘suitcase dressing table’ for further inspiration. You can be as inventive as you like and come up with something that feels uniquely you, fulfilling both your style and function needs.
Do you have a dressing table you love? Is so, what makes it so special to you?
If you don’t have a dressing table but would like one, you can use the Dream Dressing Table Worksheets printable to help you get started in designing your little self-care space.