Dressing Case Tools and Accessories

Vanity and travelling tools were essential components of most dressing cases and vanity boxes. Tools such as scissors, tweezers, nail files, retractable pencils etc, were often present in both ladies and gentlemen’s versions. Gentlemen’s dressing cases might also include cut throat razors, shaving brushes and boot jacks, whereas the ladies equivalents tended to incorporate sewing related tools such as needle cases, crochet hooks, bodkins and thimbles etc.

The tools themselves were manufactured from steel, brass or silver; these were sometimes then gilded for decoration as well as for stain resistance. Mother of pearl, ivory, bone, brass or silver were popular choices for the tool handles, and some of these finishes were further enhanced with engraving, engine turning, gilding, chasing, repousse or plating etc.

The photo below shows a detailed view of the vanity tool compartment from an 1884 Coromandel dressing case with Betjemann Patent mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Vanity Tool Compartment from an Antique Dressing Case in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

1. Corkscrew.  2. Pair of scissors.  3. Retractable tooth pick.  4. Stiletto/ Awl.  5. Double-ended medicine spoon.  6. Napkin hook.  7. Penknife  8. Pair of scissors.  9. Nail file and cuticle scraper.  10. Tweezers.  11. Bodkin/ ribbon threader.  12. Pair of scissors.  13. Mordan & Co retractable pencil.  14. Hinged perfume bottle corkscrew.  15. Crochet hook.  16. Pencil lead case.  17. Hinged glove buttoning hook.  18. Needle case.  19. Pair of scissors.  20. Wax seal stamp.  21. Bodkin/ ribbon threader.  22. Button hook.

Antique Dressing Case in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Antique Dressing Case in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

The photo below shows a detailed view of the vanity tool tray from an 1864 Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Walter Thornhill.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Walter Thornhill.

1. Button hook.  2. Nail file and cuticle scraper.  3. Nib case.  4. Ink pen.  5. Pencil lead case.  6. Two part corkscrew.  7. Needle case.  8. Screw-threaded hook.  9. Pair of scissors.  10. Napkin hook.  11. Pair of scissors.  12. Hand mirror.  13. Shoe horn.  14. Thimble.  15. Tweezers and ear wax scraper.  16. Penknife.  17. Powder spoon.  18. Stiletto/ Awl.  19. Crochet hook.

Antique Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Walter Thornhill.

Antique Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Walter Thornhill.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Coromandel with Silver-Gilt Bottles, by Betjemann & Son.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Coromandel with Silver-Gilt Bottles, by Betjemann & Son.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Burr Walnut with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey & Sons.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Burr Walnut with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey & Sons.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Calamander with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Vanity Tool Tray from an Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Hair and clothes brushes, combs, glove stretchers and shoe horns were sometimes included within the lower levels of the box, or inside the fitted drawers. They were manufactured from ivory, bone or silver and often further decorated with matching monograms or crests etc. The bristles of both hair and clothes brushes were usually made from boar hair, set into numerous rows of securing bore holes.

Glove stretchers or ‘glove expanders’ are essentially two prongs joined by a spring-loaded hinge. They were inserted into the fingers of the glove, and by pressing the handles together, the prongs would open out and thus stretch the finger compartments. Glove stretchers were indispensable for use with kid goat skin gloves, a very popular tight-fitting fashion accessory for the Victorian lady.

Ivory Brush Set From Antique Dressing Case with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Ivory Brush Set From Antique Dressing Case with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

A Pair of Glove Stretchers From Antique Dressing Case with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

A Pair of Glove Stretchers From Antique Dressing Case with Betjemann Patent Mechanism, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Antique Ivory Brush with Boar Hair Bristles.

Antique Ivory Brush with Boar Hair Bristles.

Strut Barometer, Silver-Gilt Perfume Bottle, and Strut Clock taken from an Asprey Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism & Candlesticks.

Strut Barometer, Silver-Gilt Perfume Bottle, and Strut Clock taken from an Asprey Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism & Candlesticks.

Asprey Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism & Candlesticks.

Asprey Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Betjemann Patent Mechanism & Candlesticks.

Match Box/ Match Striker and Travelling Inkwell from an Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Countess Coronet, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Match Box/ Match Striker and Travelling Inkwell from an Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Countess Coronet, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Countess Coronet, by Jenner & Knewstub.

Antique Jewellery Box in Coromandel with Countess Coronet, by Jenner & Knewstub.