Refilling a Vintage Compact

Dear Constant Reader,

I hope you’re all doing well.

Last month Christine McConnell released a video for her Patrons where she refilled vintage makeup containers with modern cosmetics. This inspired me to show off some of my vintage cosmetic items on Instagram. Someone asked if I was going to make any of them functional as well and I got thinking.

I found this compact at Streamline Antiques, a local shop specializing in Art Deco items. I loved that it had a compartment for lip rouge as well as one for powder and even had traces of the makeup inside! It’s an Elgin American, a popular compact manufacturer in the early 20th century, but other than that, I don’t know anything about its history.

First thing I needed to do was clean the old makeup out. That proved to be a challenge. The lip rouge was quite fossilized. I tried warming it up with a little boiling water poured into the compartment, but it stayed firm. Then I took my own advice and remembered that oil takes off lipstick. I poured a few drops vegetable oil into the compartment and sure enough, it started to soften. I used toothpicks to get into the crevices and get all the old gunk out.

To clean out the oil, I turned to my old friend Dawn. Soon the compartment was perfectly clean. I also washed out the powder compartment. It also needed a bit of an oil treatment, because there was residue from a sticker on the lid.

When everything was clean, I used a little precious isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the compact. Christine boiled many of her cases, but I didn’t want to harm the mirror or the enamel on the lid.

I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my Atomic Cosmetics lipsticks (since they’re not being made anymore) to this experiment, so I grabbed some classic Cherries in the Snow. I cut off a chunk and melted it in a spoon held over a candle. Yes, I know how that looks. Then I poured the melted lipstick into the compartment and let it harden. It wasn’t a perfect pour, so I tried to smooth out the surface with a hairdryer with limited success.

Then I took some setting powder and mixed it with a little isopropyl alcohol. I packed the resulting paste into the powder compartment and smoothed it with a butter knife. Then ended up using a cotton swab like a tiny rolling pin. Then I pressed a piece of lace onto the surface, weighted it with an Altoids tin, and left it to dry out. It did dry into a solid cake of powder, but you can’t really see the lace design.

There is a divot in the lid of the powder container, which I suspect held a powder puff. None of my powder puffs are the right size or shape, so I made a new one. I used a rectangle of cotton quilt batting and covered it with white satin. I wanted some white or pink velveteen for the puff part, but I didn’t have any. I took a drugstore powder puff and dismembered it for the velvety fabric. It was barely enough to cover my square of cotton. I ended up gluing some narrow ribbon over the edge to seal it. It’s not my best work, but we do what we can under the circumstances.

And voila!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 4 May 2020 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! This week’s tip is a follow up to last week’s:

Making your own bath products is easy and fun.

Here’s my recipe for a simple bath fizz. This makes about a quarter of a cup and it doubles well.

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Epsom salts
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. citric acid

Then you can customize it with dried herbs and flowers, essential oils, and even color! This is my favorite blend:
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops purple food coloring (optional)
1 1/2 tsp. dried lavender

Lavender is very relaxing. Experiment with invigorating citrus or romantic rose. Try mint and/or eucalyptus for when you have a cold.

Moisture will cause premature fizzing, so keep all equipment dry and store bath fizz in a tightly-sealed container.

Place the salts in a bowl, add the essential oil and food coloring and mix well. Add the baking soda and citric acid, then crumble in the herbs.

To use, add a scoop to a warm bath and enjoy the fizz!

And if you don’t want the flowers floating in the water, just use last week’s tip!

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

P.S. That is my bath tub and my vampire mini-rubber ducky. Someday I’ll make an excuse to show you the glorious mosaic that’s just out of frame.

Published in: on 22 March 2019 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Review: Mix-Your-Own Mask

Dear Constant Reader,

The other day I took my own advice and used a skin care mask. I’d done three weekends of shows, hadn’t been sleeping well, and winter is settling down here in New England. All this conspired to make my skin look very tired. I’m actually terrible about taking said advice because commercial face masks need to be refrigerated and I’d always use a mask once and then forget about it in the fridge until it dried up or got moldy.

Dr. Jen from Atomic Cosmetics had sent me a sample of her Mix-Your-Own Facial Mask. There’s a tube of wet ingredients and one of dry, that you store in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Keeping the two parts separate means she doesn’t have to use serious preservatives. You combine the contents of the tubes in a bowl (I found a fork helpful to mix it smooth) and slather the results on. There’s enough in the tubes for a single generous use (you don’t want to save the leftovers because of the aforementioned lack of preservatives). I used the dry/aging skin mask, which has fabulous ingredients like coconut water, evening primrose oil, French green clay, and powdered goat’s milk.

The result is a greenish goo with a funky aroma — that’s the goat’s milk. It made more than enough for me to spread all over my face, neck and decolletage. That frightening image to the right is indeed me under a freshly-applied layer of this stuff. Don’t say I don’t show you the true glamour of being a burlesque performer. Then I relaxed in my boudoir whilst watching a couple of Ask a Mortician videos, staying far away from where ordinary people could see my swampy visage.

Then I washed the dried mask off with some warm water, which was more of a challenge that I anticipated, seeing as I had the stuff ALL OVER myself. Next time I’ll step into the shower instead of trying to do it over the sink. However, it was worth it. My skin felt smooth & soft and most importantly, no longer looked tired.

Dr. Jen has four formulations of this stuff — dry/aging, oily/combination, sensitive, and custom blended for your unique skin issues. I think $7 (for a standard mix) is reasonable for a once-in-a-while skin treat.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 15 November 2017 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

From my Closet

Dear Constant Reader,

Summer is winding down here in New England and it never got terribly summery, but I’m glad I made these shorts.

They’re 1940’s-style high-waisted chorus girl shorts in crisp linen, like these I made years ago.

The big difference is that I put in pockets. It really makes me crazy when women’s clothing lacks pockets and they’re pretty easy to add. Such a big improvement!

Also, the originals have a button closure in the back. I was too impatient to try out the buttonhole attachment for my vintage sewing machine, so I just added a flat hook & bar. I’ll replace it with a proper button and buttonhole eventually. Yeah. Eventually.

I’m particularly pleased with these because it’s been quite a while since I sewed any everyday clothes for myself. I really should change that. maybe I’ll have another Dress Me contest (although the previous two have not had the most stellar results on my part).

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 5 September 2017 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

On Wigs

Dear Constant Reader,

I don’t have great hair. I love the color and the way it curls, but it’s very fine and rather thin and doesn’t grow very long before it starts looking straggly. I rarely seem to have time to go to the salon to keep it nicely trimmed and besides, my favorite stylist, Diamond DeVille, works in a different state. This is why I generally have my hair pulled back in a simple twist. When Scratch suggested I try wigs, I was resistant. It was like admitting I had terrible hair.

I had worn a wig before, at BettySioux Taylor’s first Salute to Bettie Page. Everyone wore Bettie wigs, so I was okay with that. Several people commented how different (and good I looked), but I was still sure wigs were not for me.

My first real wig wearing was because I was doing a tribute to a Legend who had a black pageboy in her heyday and my red head just would not do. Fortunately for this wig novice, I had the expertise of Sydney Lauren Robinson to help out. She took me wig shopping, styled the wig, put it on me the first time, and made me helpful videos demonstrating how to wear it.

Having seen me do the same act with the wig and without, Betty Blaize commented that I moved differently when I was wearing the wig. It did help get me into character to be wearing the wig and I became a little more of a convert. But not completely.

I ended up getting a couple of wigs to wear as The Diva in The Wrathskellar, which was okay, because she wasn’t me. Like in the above tribute, I was playing a character.

Somehow I realized I wasn’t sacrificing my personal integrity or anything if I wore a wig on stage. In fact, I began to embrace wigs. I could change my look for each act. I didn’t have to spend the time curling and pinning my hair. I didn’t have to worry if I was having a bad hair day. All good reasons for going with a wig.

A couple things I’ve learned about wearing wigs.

  • Use the right pin for the job
  • Net wig caps are easier to pin into than the stocking-type ones
  • A folding wig stand is a life saver
  • Get a good wig brush
  • And here are some backstage selfies (and one on-stage shot) of my different looks:

    My standard wig — taken backstage at The Teaseday Club last night

    Another standard, usually worn for French Champagne, although The Diva borrowed it for this picture

    The Diva again

    Yet another look for The Diva, worn with a smashing black coat & tall boots

    The Faerie Queene

    These days I am completely sold on wigs, although I still can be found with my real hair on many an occasion. How about you, Dear Reader? Are you a fan of wigs?

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

    Published in: on 3 May 2017 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
    Tags: ,

    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I’m exhausted. Wrathskellar Tales opened last night and hopefully I’ll be coherent enough later to write about it. For now, here’s your tip!

    Remember to pack a robe.

    Sometimes it gets cold backstage. Or you have to go through a public space to get to the bathroom. A robe is more comfortable for hanging out in the dressing room than your street clothes and more elegant than sweats.

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    Published in: on 21 October 2016 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! And best of luck to everyone performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame this weekend!

    Here’s your tip!

    Clean your false lashes.

    It’s better for them and for your eyes to give them the occasional cleansing. It’s easy and you only need a couple of items, which you already have (or should).

    1. Take off your lashes.
    I know that sounds dumb, but falling asleep while still wearing lashes is not unheard of… When removing them, grab the edge of the band, not the lashes themselves!

    2. Peel off excess adhesive.
    A little old glue can help the lashes stick better, but you don’t want a thick layer. Some recommend using tweezers, but I just use my fingernails to peel it off. Remember to hold the band, not the lashes when you pull off the glue residue. I’ve found latex-based glue comes off more easily than the non-rubbery stuff I use these days.

    3. Put the lashes back on their plastic thingy.
    It will help them keep their shape during cleaning.

    4. Dampen a cotton swab with a gentle eye makeup remover and gently brush it over the lashes from band to tip to take off the accumulated gunk.
    I like this remover from Atomic Cosmetics (of course).

    5. Dampen a second swab with a little water and repeat the process to rinse the lashes.

    6. Let them air dry on the plastic form.

    That’s it! You don’t need to do this every time you wear your lashes, but occasional cleaning will keep your lashes looking good longer. And it’s got to be healthier for your eyes!

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    Published in: on 3 June 2016 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
    Tags: ,

    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday (and long weekend for many)! Here’s another travel tip:

    When traveling, bring your own makeup towel. The hotel/your hosts will thank you.

    I bought a bunch of inexpensive and cheerfully-colored washcloths at Ikea and it’s no trouble to toss a couple into my suitcase.

    Hat tip to those who reminded me of this tip: Iva Handfull, the staff at BurlyCon, and Rae Bradbury-Enslin, who hosts dozens of haunt actors every October and is tired of having her guest towels ruined.

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    Published in: on 27 May 2016 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Friday Tip!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I’ve got some really exciting news before we get to your tip!

    For more than four years, I’m been writing these tips here for you. Now I’ve collected some of my favorites (and winnowing them down was so painful!) into an attractive volume. That’s right, I’m publishing a book! Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque will be available in March! I’m so excited!

    You can preorder your copy by backing me on Kickstarter. If the project is funded, I’ll be producing a lovely book. If it’s over-funded, I’ll be able to include even more tips!

    And speaking of tips, here’s today’s:

    Oil will remove lipstick.

    If you run out of makeup remover, you can use an oil that you might have in your kitchen cabinet, like olive or coconut. However, oils in food will also take off and smear around your lipstick. So avoid eating greasy foods when you’re wearing lipstick! (You can chow down on the fried chicken or BLT in the privacy of your own home — that’s what I do.)


    Published in: on 8 January 2016 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
    Tags: , ,

    How did I not know about this?

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I will confess, I came late to the false eyelash game. I didn’t like them the first time I wore them because no one had taught me how to properly fit and wear them. And that was that. No lashes for me.

    It wasn’t until I had my face done by the lovely Dana at the Shu Uemura counter at Barney’s that I embraced the lash. She gave me demi-lashes, which are perfect for my eyes. These are my go-to lashes these days:

    But I didn’t actually want to talk about lashes, I wanted to talk about glue. I used to get adhesive in a tube. I suppose some dexterous people can squeeze the glue directly onto the lash band without making a huge mess, but I’m not one of them. I would squirt some out, either too much or too little, into the lid of the tin where I store my lash paraphernalia, and then apply it to the lash with my sophisticated adhesive applicator — that is, the tip of a hair pin. It was messy & wasteful.

    Recently I ran out of lash adhesive and discovered that…

    Duo comes with a brush!

    This has made my life so much easier! I can brush exactly the right amount on without any waste. Bonus — the tube exactly fits in the above-mentioned lash storage tin.


    Published in: on 14 October 2015 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)