Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and compact mirrors. You can find Jane's designs at www.vanroe.com and on Amazon in the EU & USA

Stratton powder compacts – my whistle-stop history of a vintage brand!

1953 stratton vintage powder compact advert

Stratton’s 1953 advert for Woman and Home

For stylish ladies of a certain age, British company Stratton needs no introduction. In the powder heydays of the 1950s and 60s, Stratton was the most recognised and prolific of the world’s powder compact manufacturers.

I first discovered Stratton when, as a 15 year old vintage-addict, I saw an amazing compact in the vintage shop in my hometown. I always regretted not buying that compact, so when I started my own business I couldn’t wait to make up for lost time!

From Stratton Knitting Needles to 1930s Glamour

1950s stratton vintage powder compact advert

Advert for Country Life magazine, 1950

Stratton started out in 1860 as a knitting needle manufacturer, and marketed their first powder compacts in 1923. These early compacts were imported, part-finished from the USA, and given the less than glamorous name “Stratnoid” – the same brand as the company’s knitting needles!

By the early 1930s, the compacts became “Stratton”s, borrowing the name from the hero in a popular novel. I’d love to discover which novel… I imagine a Mr. Darcy type in a high period romance! The rebrand was a success and by the mid 30s, Stratton produced over half of all compacts used in the British cosmetics industry.

Vintage Stratton flamingo compact - probably 1950s or earliest 1960s

Vintage Stratton flamingo compact – probably 1950s or earliest 1960s (Vanroe Compacts)

Wartime Struggles to a Must-Have Innovation

However, in 1940, disaster struck. Germany’s WWII blitz of Britain claimed four of the five Stratton factories. Production was forced to a halt. Manufacture resumed after the war, but British shortages meant that raw materials, particularly metals, were in short supply. Compacts of this time can even be found made from aircraft alloy.

An early 1950s Stratton powder compact for loose powder

An early 1950s Stratton powder compact for loose powder (Vanroe Compacts)

Luckily, the arrival of the 1950s brought major success for Stratton. The booming love for cosmetics, particularly the powdered and polished Hollywood look, made compacts a must. Stratton introduced their now famous “self-opening lids”. These inner lids hold loose powder safely, and unclasp automatically as you open the compact. Patented in 1948, the innovation was designed to prevent chips in nail polish… and became a major selling point!

Vintage Stratton powder compact with self-opening lid

Vintage Stratton powder compact with self-opening lid

One of my favourite vintage Stratton designs - probably first printed in the early 1960s, but produced for many years

One of my favourite vintage Stratton designs – probably first printed in the early 1960s, but produced for several years

“Glamorizers” & “Convertible” powder compacts

By the 1960s, there were Stratton agents worldwide and the company thrived. Designs changed with trends in cosmetics – the growing popularity of cream (pressed) powder drove new patents, including a great sounding 1956 innovation for “Improvements relating to toilet powder boxes or compacts”. Very Mad Men! “Glamorizer” designs were marketed for pressed powder refills, “Convertibles” for both loose and pressed powders… And artists began to sign the tremendous range of lid designs produced.

A red lacquered 1960s Stratton "Glamorizer" compact

A red lacquered 1960s Stratton “Glamorizer” compact, signed by the artist Erika (VanRoe Compacts)

But, sadly, you can guess the rest. The 1970s brought radical changes in makeup, and this time the look was au natural… a body blow for powder. Stratton acquired many of their struggling rivals, but failed to reposition quickly enough. By the early 1990s the once global company had become a niche manufacturer, and went on to be sold a number of times.

A gorgeous later vintage Stratton compact - probably early 1980s

A gorgeous later vintage Stratton compact – probably early 1980s (Vanroe Compacts)

Rediscovering the Great British powder compact brand

I started Vanroe Powder Compacts as a new mum last year, restoring vintage powder compacts at my kitchen table. During my research on Stratton, I discovered that the company was still based in Birmingham, UK, and still manufacturing! Excitedly I placed an order, and was immediately blown away… I had to stock Stratton’s new powder compacts on my site. I’m now lucky to have two sets of customers – those glamorous ladies and collectors of a certain age who have loved Stratton since the 1950s… and ladies like me rediscovering the brand for the first time!

You can now find new Stratton powder compacts and replacement Stratton powder sifters at my shop, Vanroe Compacts. You might also like my post on How to Refill your Vintage Powder Compact, or read more about powder compact collecting!

A modern best-seller - Stratton's 1930s-style gold wave compact

A modern best-seller – Stratton’s 1930s-style gold wave compact. The lid is gilt- and chrome-plated cast metal (sold by Vanroe Compacts)

With thanks to…

Stratton expert, Juliette Edwards, head of the British Compact Collectors Society. Juliette’s book “Powder Compacts – A Collectors Guide” is a brilliant introduction.

This post was first written for Lydia’s wonderful The Vintage Mama

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17 comments on “Stratton powder compacts – my whistle-stop history of a vintage brand!

  1. Pingback: Which vintage or new powder compacts fit Max Factor Creme Puff? | The Powder Compact Diaries

  2. Perdita
    October 30, 2011

    WOW- fascinating that the brand has lasted all these years. I had no idea they were still around.

    • Jane Johnston
      November 2, 2011

      Crazy, isn’t it! I’d no idea either, so it was so exciting to find them!

  3. Pingback: Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage

  4. Pingback: Gorgeous Vintage Compacts « The Daily Pot

  5. Nicole Berube
    April 11, 2012

    I have a purchased a few years ago an old Stratton square powder & lipstick compact and have not been able to see this replica online. It has a a brass casing and has a self opening lid. Can you tell me how old this compact is?

  6. shirleyelmokadem
    July 4, 2012

    Are the new Stratton compacts made in England?

  7. Pingback: My Vintage Stratton compact mirror… | The Witty Knit

  8. Valerie Waines
    March 4, 2013

    very interesting. how do I find out about an old, unused compact covered with gold spider wevs on a dark green background. I have searched for it but to no avail, can you please give me a lead. Thank you.

  9. Barbara
    June 18, 2013

    Hello! recently acquired a compact Stratton Queen, I share with you in my blog! regards
    http://barbararizzutimakeupartist.blogspot.com.ar/2013/06/mi-polvera-vintage-stratton.html

  10. Marie Aldridge
    September 22, 2013

    You can use Max Factor Bronzing Powder or Creme Puff Powder to fit Stratton Compacts. One can also use Collection 2000 Blusher or Bronzing Powder which also fit perfectly and brings your compact up to date and you can use your favourite facebrush with it

    • Jane Johnston
      September 23, 2013

      Thank you for the great tips, Marie!

  11. Pingback: Intermission: Madame Batifole Rouge G visits Chicago | Dad's American Beauty

  12. Pingback: Great resources: How to date a Stratton compact, Juliette Edwards and the British Compact Collectors Society | Vintage Beauty & Powder Compacts

  13. Teresa Hopwood
    November 7, 2013

    I have a blue and white Stratton compact bought for me years ago by one of my children, he saved the money from his paper round to buy it. I do treasure it but don’t use it so much now as am afraid of damaging it.

  14. karen
    December 12, 2013

    I have bought a Max Factor Creme Puff refil but how do I fit it into my Stratton compact
    It doesn’t seem to fit

  15. Marisi Ridgway
    March 24, 2014

    Thanks for the article. My 94 year old granny died recently and a gold embossed powder compact was found in her draw. Being all 20th century people no one wanted it except my 6 year old. On a whim I decide to google and from what I can tell its a 1950’s addition. My gran grew up in KZN and then moved to Johannesburg both in South Africa, however my grandfather and his family came from the UK.

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Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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