Dressing Case Bottles and Jars
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, dressing case bottles and jars tended to be plainer in appearance, with more emphasis on functionality and practicality. It was really around the Regency period that more attention began to be given to the glassware, as well as their lids and tops.
With ladies dressing cases rapidly gaining popularity during the 1830’s and 1840’s, the interior fittings reflected this gendered influence; the glass bottles and jars were more decoratively and ornately cut, and the silver mounts were often engraved, gilded, chased, pierced or inlaid (sometimes with corals, amber, turquoise and even gold). Practicality started to take second place to aesthetics and overt displays of opulence. Less, certainly wasn’t more when it came to the contents of a dressing case. The more bottles fitted, then the more expensive and indeed desirable the dressing case became.
Dressing cases were designed to hold a variety of glass fittings necessary to contain perfumes and colognes, powders and pastes, lip and hair pomades, toothbrushes and toothpowders, nail brushes and nail polishes, bars of soap, writing inks, matches, spirits and other miscellaneous creams, lotions, tonics and absorbent materials etc.
Whilst many of the dressing case bottles and jars were intended to be multi-purpose, some had specific function:
Perfume and cologne bottles.
These are usually recognisable by their ‘neck and shoulder’ shape and are often situated along the rear compartment of the box. They have screw-threaded necks and tops, with either glass or cork stoppers in the neck to keep their contents sealed and airtight.
Double-ended perfume bottles (sometimes found in larger dressing cases) were designed to contain perfume at one end and smelling salts at the other. Partitioned in the middle, both ends are sealed with either a glass or cork stopper, or a cork-lined top. The tops themselves are screw-threaded or, as was more often the case with the smelling salts end, hinged with a spring-loaded opening mechanism.
Being the longest of the rectangular jars, and usually situated towards the front of the box, they sometimes had small drilled or pierced holes in the lid to aid the aeration of the toothbrush after usage.
Soap dish jar.
These jars are either rectangular or oval in shape, often included in pairs, with tight-fitting lift-off lids.
Matchbox and match striker.
This jar is rectangular in shape with a hinged lid, fastened by a spring-catch. Once unfastened, a small spring-loaded rod by the rear hinge allows the lid to pop up. The inclusion of a match-striking surface that also serves as a hinged cover to the match compartment underneath, differentiates this jar from other similarly shaped varieties.
Spirit bottle and beaker.
Though their inclusion in dressing cases was rare, the bottle and beaker set are usually placed in the middle of the rear compartment. The cylindrical glass bottle, with a silver screw-threaded top, sits snuggly within the solid silver beaker, and would contain a small measure of drinking alcohol.
The travelling inkwells fitted into dressing cases tended to differ from the more conventional and recognisable varieties found in writing and stationery boxes. Within dressing cases, these inkwells are among the smallest pieces of glassware in the set; the lid of the inkwell is fitted with a small inset folding handle that, when turned, screws it down tightly and securely. The underside of the lid has a circular cork or padded leather surface that engages tightly to the circular mouth of the glass well; this not only creates a seal, but also prevents spillage during transit. Note: This same screw-handle securing lid design is also found on some multi-purpose jars, used to contain other liquid-based substances.