History of Dressing Cases and Vanity Boxes

Towards the end of the 18th century, dressing cases were manufactured specifically to accompany upper class gentleman during travel. Dressing cases were originally rather utilitarian but they spoke volumes about their owners’ wealth and place in society, as at that time, travelling was only undertaken by the elite.

Gentleman’s dressing cases would contain bottles and jars for colognes, aftershaves and creams as well as essential shaving and manicure tools. As these boxes became more popular, many further travelling item options were offered for inclusion. By the early Victorian era, ladies also began to travel and suddenly their requirements were anything but utilitarian! Ladies dressing cases could feature a wide range of decorative bottles and jars as well as a vast array of beautification tools, all designed with pure luxury in mind. The exterior of the box became almost as important as the interior and these boxes started being veneered with beautiful exotic woods from all over the world.

As demand for gentleman’s boxes lessened, the dressing case started to also become known by the more feminine term ‘vanity box’. These boxes, with their excessive price tags, were now considered as true works of art and beauty in their own right, and were often bought as status symbols rather than actual travelling companions.

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

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

Magnificent Antique Dressing Case from Asprey, Displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Magnificent Antique Dressing Case from Asprey, Displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

Antique Dressing Case in Rosewood with Silver-Gilt / Gold Fittings by Asprey.

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.

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.

Coromandel Antique Dressing Case by Jenner & Knewstub and James Vickery.

Coromandel Antique Dressing Case by Jenner & Knewstub and James Vickery.

Coromandel Antique Dressing Case by Jenner & Knewstub and James Vickery.

Coromandel Antique Dressing Case by Jenner & Knewstub and James Vickery.