Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life's Lost Little Luxuries #1: The Dressing Table

Jean Harlow at a dressing table— not for Hollywood only

My mother had a dressing table. It had a kidney-shaped top, a white organdy skirt and two fussy little lamps on either side. She used it too. I wanted one, but when I finally got my own room the goal was to be an Author not a Beauty. I opted for a desk.

We now live in a 1920's bungalow, beautifully renovated by the previous owner (thank you). I especially love the bathroom. The original claw-foot tub and black and white hexagonal floor remain. The sink was turned into a unit that has cupboards and drawers and a built-in dressing table. I purchased a wooden "ballroom chair", very classic and Victorian, the kind that looks like turned bamboo. Mine is gilded silver with an ivory cushion. I bought a sweet little lamp, a mirror on a stand that tilts, a tray to hold potions and scents. I set it up perfectly for a photo shoot in Elle Decor. But for the past eight years I have thrown my makeup on, usually on the fly, while standing at the sink and aiming at my reflection in the medicine chest mirror.

The recent need to be off my foot forced me to sit and play paint-by-number from the vantage point of the dressing table. And guess what? Not only was the light better, the mirror at a good height, and the paint pots and brushes easier to access, I actually felt— for a brief few minutes— like a Lady.

I tried to do research on the dressing table, and not much exists. It would appear that as a man's home was his castle, the mistress could carve out this tiny bit of territory to call her own. It was usually in the bedroom, as was my mother's. Oh and the funny semi-hidden drawer (under the skirt) was a place to stash mementoes, old love letters, etc. and would be considered Off Limits.

Just as there is a "slow food" movement afoot, I would like to draft a "slow dressing" movement. Do you have any space to create, if not a room of one's own, at least a niche of your own? You'll need a chair, of course. It can be one of those girly, flimsy little perches that won't truly function in any other capacity. You can display some photos of your loved ones. Finally a place for those itty-bitty frames that disappear on a big tabletop! How about a real flower— a single bloom in a bud vase perhaps? Don't forget to sniff. You can then take just a few moments to compose yourself and reflect (forgive the pun) while getting ready for the world.     

Some tools of the trade on my dressing table

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