My lady's dressing-table, with its dainty-cover and array of bright silver and pretty china or glass, is generally the first object on which the eye falls when entering her room. However much or however little may be spent on both table and accessories, it may always be a pretty sight.
The table itself may be a beautiful Sheraton affair, or a simple wooden one draped with lace over colour, an old and dainty fashion that has been revived. Of course, the ideal dressing-table is a genuine old Chippendale or Sheraton sideboard adapted for the purpose. The side drawers are perfectly suitable for holding all little oddments. Either a large single mirror or a triptych can be affixed to the back. When the table is placed against a wall-which is only possible, of course, in a room with a great deal of light-the writer has seen a big overmantel mirror, such as is used in theatrical dressing-rooms, fixed to the wall behind it. This has the advantage of not injuring the table, and it is ideal for affording a good idea of one's tout ensemble when dressing. No one should ever attempt to judge of the effect of a coiffure or a hat from a small glass that only shows the head and shoulders. For this reason a full-length mirror should always be put in every room, as well as a smaller one on the dressing-table.
An ancient spinet is also sometimes converted into a very charming dressing-table. Then, of course, there are many new tables made after old models. Some of these are most beautiful pieces of furniture. Such, for instance, is a Queen Anne table of figured walnut, with its delightful colouring and pleasing curves. The chased brass handles, too, are an added attraction. Tables on Jacobean lines are very charming, but not generally quite so successful as toilet-tables, as the severe simplicity of their style does not lend itself well to such a purpose.
There are also charming modern tables with triptych mirrors, but unless one can afford to have something very excellent in wood, it is possible, in the writer's opinion, to get a far better effect with the delightful old-fashioned flounced dressing-table, that gives a wonderful effect of brightness in a room. In a little room quite a small one looks pretty, but in a fair-sized room the larger the table the better, for the sake of both convenience and attractive appearance.
A simple dressing-table which is most effective with its dainty draperies and heart-shaped mirror
A large circular-fronted one has a charming appearance in a big bow window, while a big square one has the advantage that the underneath part can easily be fitted up with receptacles for hats. These should take the form of sliding trays, or one huge tray, made of a framework of wood and covered with holland.
We all know how convenient it is to have our hats near the dressing-table, so that they can be taken out from their hiding-place without leaving one's seat in front of the glass. For this reason, if an ordinary undraped table is used, it is useful to have under the table a big chintz-covered cardboard box, such as was described in an earlier article in Every Woman's Encyclopaedia (page 241). Under the draped table a shelf for boots could be arranged, and the space might be divided between boots and hats, so as not to waste any valuable room.
With regard to the covering of these tables, it is much better to use curtains than muslin by the yard, as to do so saves work, especially in the case where frills are required. Some people drape the muslin by catching it up with little rosettes, but a plain deep flounce looks better. Then, with a rounded-top table, the muslin toilet-cover falls in long points at each side, and gives a draped appearance. Muslin curtains with a hemstitching and little insertion of lace can be employed with very good results, or lace curtains of the Marie Antoinette type can be used. Where the space under the table is turned to account, the curtains should be made to divide in the middle and draw back, so that the boxes underneath can be pulled out.
A special stool for the dressing-table, instead of a chair, is also well worthy of consideration.
We all know how inconvenient is the back of a chair when brushing the hair, or when turning round to get the back view of a hat. The stool should have a little frilled cushion on it, covered with the chintz used generally in the room.
To pass on now to the toilet accessories. Here again, one's choice will be regulated by one's income, but the woman of a limited purse will not be debarred from dainty possessions. For brush and comb sets de luxe French gold is gaining in popularity. This is nothing more nor less than very good silver-gilt, which, when decorated with engine-turned designs, is very attractive.
Sheraton sideboard adaped for use as a dressing-table
Sets of French gold are also pleasing with a plain surface edged with a decorative border. A very delightful powder-puff box to go with one of these sets has been seen, made of cut glass in a vase shape with a silver-gilt top. The silver-gilt costs about a third more than plain silver. The French gold sets should all be of one pattern, and not be made up of odd pieces, as is permissible with a silver set. In silver, also, engine-turned effects are popular, being considered in better taste than anything more ornate. They are not so easily scratched as the plain silver with fancy borders which they have superseded.
Ivory, however, has a great attraction for those who grudge the expenditure of their own or a maid's time
A circular-fronted draped dressing-table is very effective in a room with a large window.
The draping of the table gives scope for much individual taste. A camp candlestick fixed above the mirror is a simple method of lighting
A charming modern dressing-table with a triptych mirror, that is both practical and artistic in the cleaning of silver. Certainly nothing looks worse than tarnished silver, and it is better not to have it unless the owner can be sure that it will always be kept in good condition, a difficult matter in our climate. The hairpin-boxes sold with these sets are the most inconvenient things imaginable. It is impossible to take out one pin without the whole collection depositing itself on the dressing-table, thence to be picked up and returned to the box. A little silver, china, or pottery cup or mug is, however, an ideal receptacle, as pins can be picked out from it one by one without disturbing the others.
Apart, however, from the display of toilet accessories, the dressing-table can be greatly beautified by pretty glass or chinaware, and even pots of plants, if there is room for them, and, of course, a dainty pincushion. The china toilette sets, which are an imitation of old china, are made abroad. One very useful item which they include is a tray for the curling-lamp, with a division down the centre, so that the tongs can be put on one side and the lamp on the other. These sets are extremely pretty. English cut glass is much used, and looks equally well with gold or silver. The plain glass patterned with gold is also very attractive, especially when seen with a French gold toilette set. Sets of Wemyss pottery are likewise fashionable, and not by any means expensive. This pottery is made in Fifeshire, some charming designs being a large rose and a sweet-pea. It presents a surprising number of possibilities in the way of useful and ornamental things for the dressing-table. One large round-fronted dressing-table had even a couple of pots of this pottery in the rose design, one on either side of the mirror, with a palm in it. Then there are little vases with " Hatpins " written on them, and biscuit-boxes to match, also big pomade-pots for holding the cold-cream, which every woman living in London who wishes to keep her face clean uses, even if she does not believe in cosmetics in the ordinary sense of the word. A big heart-shaped tray serves to hold the brushes, and there is a longer narrow one for the curling-lamp.
Large scent-bottles are an improvement to any table. These are an importation from abroad, and are decorated round the top with coloured flowers or with gold. Suspended on a chain around the neck of each bottle is an enamelled label bearing the name of the scent contained in it. Though most alluring, these bottles are quite inexpensive, costing only a couple of shillings each. The labels are 3s. 6d. each.
As regards pincushions, various ideas have already been given from time to time in these pages. For small tables, the long, narrow ones are best, but for large tables the cushion variety can hardly be too big. They look best covered with lace or embroidered linen, threaded with ribbon. There is a vogue in America for very long, narrow cushions extending the whole length of the table, and, although this idea will appeal to many as ensuring their having a pin always at hand, most people will object to this pincushion as taking up too much room.
The lighting of the table at night is an easy matter where there is electric light, and where a globe can be suspended directly over the mirror. Very tall cut-glass candlesticks fitted with electricity are how to be had, and are very. popular. If gas is the only illuminant, it is often difficult to obtain a good light directly over the table. An excellent plan, however, is to procure some of the brass hanging candlesticks included in camp furniture, and affix them over the back of the mirror.