Estée Lauder Perfume Compacts

The FIDM Museum is home to a robust collection of fragrance and beauty objects, from luxuriously packaged Lucien Lelong lipsticks to the suggestive glass bottle of Schiaparelli’s Shocking perfume. One name in particular among our signature scents remains relevant in today’s cosmetics industry: Estée Lauder. In honor of International Fragrance Day, we are sharing a selection of our charming Estée Lauder mini perfume compacts – tiny, collectible trinkets filled with solid scent. Introduced in 1967, production of these one-of-a-kind compacts are now an annual holiday tradition for the company.

F20058602

Perfume compact
c. 1993-1997
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.2

Estée Lauder (1908 – 2004) was a celebrated business woman and beauty connoisseur, receiving both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Legion of Honour in recognition of her contributions to the industry. Born to Hungarian immigrants in New York, she got her start in the beauty industry by selling a line of cold creams produced by her uncle, a chemist.[1] She launched her own line of cosmetics in the early 1930s – formulating her first products by hand in her kitchen – and began selling the Estée Lauder brand at concession counters in Bonwit Teller and later Saks Fifth Avenue. Estée and her husband, Joe Lauder, became business partners and officially registered their company in 1946.[2] A hardworking and talented professional, Lauder had an innate sense of what women wanted and needed in their cosmetics. She took the personal approach to marketing, and attributed her success in sales to satisfied customers spreading the word about their favorite products.[3]

Lauder’s company truly took off with the introduction of her first fragrance, Youth Dew, in 1953. She knew that women typically received perfume as a gift once or twice a year, and rarely purchased scents for themselves. So Lauder created a new product: an affordable yet indulgent bath oil that a woman could buy easily for herself at the cosmetics counter. The bath oil was concentrated so the scent would last all day – no need for a separate perfume.[4] It was an ingenious creation that made perfume accessible, from the price point to the understated packaging.[5] The fragrance was a runaway success, and put the Estée Lauder brand at the top of the industry.

IMG_4620

Perfume compact
c. 1968
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.18

In the competitive world of cosmetics, companies constantly introduce new, original products to capture the attention of the consumer. Such is the case with solid perfumes; a fresh take on fragrance packaging, mini compacts were yet another way to seduce a buyer into picking up a new scent. Estée Lauder presented her solid fragrance compact filled with Youth Dew in 1967, and her peers Helena Rubenstein, Revlon, Max Factor, Avon, and others sold their own versions of this novelty.[6] Customers loved Lauder’s whimsical compacts that resembled charms on a bracelet – tiny animals, hearts, shoes, and other clever designs were plated in gold or silver and adorned with sparkling crystals. Small enough to remain affordable, customers found the compacts irresistible. A new line is still released every year, and collecting them has become a tradition for loyalists to the brand.

A self-made success with admirable business acumen, Estée Lauder truly wanted every woman who used her products to feel beautiful. To Lauder, building her company was never a question, it was a matter of taking action: “I was unstoppable, so great was my faith in what I sold.” [7]

F20058601

Perfume compact
c. 1996-1997
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.1

F20058603

Perfume compact
c. 1992-1995
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.3

F20058608

Perfume compact
c. 1996
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.8

F20058606-3

Perfume compact
c. 1996
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.6

F200586019

Perfume compact
c. 1993
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.19

F200586010

Perfume compact
c. 1993
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.10

F20058605

Perfume compact
c. 1997
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.5

IMG_4622

Perfume compact
c. 1995-2000
Gift of the Annette Green Museum at the Fragrance Foundation
F2005.860.676A-D

[1] “Estée Lauder,” Bloomsbury Business Library – Business Thinkers & Management Giants, 2007, pg 24.

[2] Linda Peterson, “Estée Lauder,” Biography (June 2000, Vol. 4, Issue 6) pg 76-82.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Roja Dove, The Essence of Perfume (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2008) 134.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Judy Penz Sheluk, “A Companct Collection with Character,” Antiques & Collecting Magazine (February 2004, Vol. 108, Issue 12) pg 34-38.

[7] Peterson, “Estée Lauder,” Biography .

8 responses to “Estée Lauder Perfume Compacts

  1. Does anyboby know where to buy Estee Lauder solid purfume compacts, also is there any groups or organisation for the purfume compacts? Thank you, kind regards Rosalind Sims

    1. Kate Smith says:

      Stephan Welz and Company Auction House has an Estee Lauder solid perfume collection coming up for sale on the 20th of June 2022. Over 120 different solids and powder compacts.
      It’s an outstanding collection and one not to be missed!!!!

  2. The International Perfume Bottle Association has many collectors of the Lauder perfume compacts.

  3. susan Payne says:

    Were all of the Estee Lauder perfume compacts marked ? If so where are the markings located?

    1. FIDM Museum says:

      Sorry, we don’t know if all these compacts were marked…

    2. Kate Smith says:

      Hi Susan,
      No, not all were marked. the earlier one’s were not. you are welcome to email should you have one you would like dated? I am busy working with an extensive Estee Lauder collection that is coming up for auction in June 2022 and Estee Lauder have dated the solid compacts themselves for the collector as a thank you for her various contributions to the brand over years. I’d be happy to help you if I can.

  4. Julia morgan says:

    I would like to know what the cost of the first Estée Lauder perfume compact was.
    Also is there a list of each design with date please

    1. FIDM Museum says:

      We’re sorry, we don’t know the answers to the questions you ask–but there are lots of online forums for people who share info on perfumes!

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