Empowered by the Past: A Vintage Compact Tells a Special ’40s Story

by Sammy in Comment — Updated February 26, 2020

The memory of Caroline Henney’s mother remains strong thanks to the simple shine of a 1960s gold compact.

In today’s guest post for Empowered by the Past, Bag the Jewels Vintage founder Caroline Henney reflects on the past through a vintage mirror once owned by her mother and now in her personal vintage collection since she passed away 24 years ago.

Henney grew up during the 1950s in Great Britain. Her mother, who had served in Britain’s ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) during World War II in the 1940s, appreciated lipstick not just as a beauty booster, but a source of confidence and morale as influenced by her experiences in war torn England.

Last week, Sarara Vintage Couture founder Sara Brandon reflected on the ’70s style of mother, who grew up making her own clothes and as Sara shares, paving her own path in life.

Today’s article is testament to how the physical can be a reminder of the eternal: the love between ourselves and those who may no longer be with us, but whose history continue to positively empower our modern lives today.

Editor’s Note

This series is open to every reader who would like to share the photos and stories of the women in their lives who have inspired them. Whether your mother, grandmother, aunt or a teacher, neighbor, co-worker and the like, Empowered by the Past is an homage to yesterday’s fashion and the stories of the women who lived amazing lives wearing amazing (and now vintage!) style.Empowered by the Past: A Vintage Compact Tells a Special '40s Story 2

Are you interested in contributing to Empowered by the Past? Email me ([email protected]) for consideration.

Or say hello on TwitterFacebookInstagram or get a free excerpt of my e-book here!


vintage 1960s compact

The vintage ’60s compact that belonged to Caroline’s mother and which remains in her collection today.

Memories of Her Mother

I have a vintage powder compact that means such a lot to me. It is not an unusual compact, or very collectible. It would probably be worth only a few pounds, but to me it is priceless because of the memories it evokes.

When my mum died, over 24 years ago now, this ordinary compact was in her handbag.

It is a Goya in a gold tone patterned metal with the original paper label on the reverse declaring it to be “Misty Pink.”

1940s vintage fashion photo

Caroline’s parents in the 1940s. 

Magic in the Makeup

When I remember my mum, and I do every day, I have the best memories. She was very beautiful, with dark brown hair and red lips and a lovely smile.

When I was very small I used to watch her apply her make-up and check in her compact mirror to make sure her lipstick was just right. I remember the delicious smell of powder and the way the puff kissed her cheeks.

1950s children vintage photo

Caroline and her best friend Lyn as children in 1950s England.

caroline henney 1950s england

Caroline as a child in the 1950s.

My mum’s compact brings back memories of a happy childhood. I cannot hold it without seeing mum’s smiling face. She was never vain; she liked to try, as she put it, “to look decent.”

Even when terminally ill, she still liked to use makeup to present her best face to the world. She was a kind person—a brave human being with a wicked sense of humor.

1945 vintage fashion photo

Caroline’s mother and her best friend in the ATS, 1945.

Growing Up in 1940s London

Mum grew up in London during World War II and as a teenager served her country in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service).

Makeup was a luxury then, but it also boosted morale. A whole generation of women had the same idea as my mum and used a puff of powder and a slick of lipstick to make them look good and feel ready to cope with anything!

About the Author

caroline henney

Caroline Henney owns Caroline Henney Vintage Costume Jewellery and Accessories, known online as Bag the Jewels.

She started her business in a market stall, but over the past 25 years has grown to have  a worldwide customer base. Caroline has helped source jewelry for TV and film companies and her items have appeared on UK TV and BBC programs.

While she runs her business by herself, she also gets help from two grown daughters (who model and help her at markets and antique shows), proving that #vintagelove truly runs in the family.

In Caroline’s Words

“Most of the time my job doesn’t feel like work at all, it is the extension of a lifetime of collecting  “shiny things'” and loving to chat to folks!  So what are my ambitions for the future? I want more of the same. The pleasure of picking up a bargain and then being able to pass that item on  to the next recipient. The thrill of finding small treasures in the most unexpected places. The joy of discovering the history behind the jewels and accessories and how they were made and used. Fantasy nostalgic moments wondering who owned each piece of jewellery and where the items have been.  It would be great if the pieces could talk and tell me.” 

Visit Bag the Jewels!

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More Vintage Fashion

Empowered by the Past: Faye de Lanty is a ’60s Love Child
Sporty Vintage Chic: Sara’s Mother Used ’70s Style to Elevate Her Life
World War II: 1940s Clothing Styles & Trends
History: History of Vintage Costume Jewelry Designers
Plus: Are You an Aspiring Vintage Seller? A Formula to Price Vintage Clothing

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