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What a Lady Might Carry in Her Reticule, Part 2:
Scents and Cosmetics

February 22, 2021

by Candice Hern

What a Lady Might Carry in Her Reticule, Part 2: <br>Scents and Cosmetics</br>

The latest installment in Candice Hern's video series, "Things That Might Be Kept in a Reticule," is now available online. —Editor

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The items featured in Part 2 of my video series, "Things that Might be Kept in a Reticule," are of a more personal nature. They represent items similar to what most women carry in their purses today: scents and cosmetics.

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Image courtesy of Candice Hern

I collect all kinds of scent bottles from Jane Austen’s time, but as they are typically made of breakable materials— porcelain, cut glass, crystal—they would not have been appropriate to carry in a reticule. But I do collect another type of scent bottle that actually would have been carried in a reticule: a perfume étui. An étui is a French term for a portable container. There were sewing étuis used to carry needles and thread and tiny scissors and such, or writing étuis with tiny pens or pencils and sheets of ivory to write upon. Soldiers often carried eating utensils in an étui. I collect perfume étuis, which were tiny non-breakable containers to hold breakable scent bottles. Perfect to toss in one’s reticule. Perfume étuis came in a variety of materials. I’ll show you examples made of enamel, shagreen, and tortoiseshell.

If you carry a compact of pressed powder in your purse, you might be surprised to learn that ladies in Jane’s time carried something similar. You’ll see a couple of small cosmetic cases in this video. The first time I saw one of these at a favorite antique dealer, I just had to have it. The fact that it still had remnants of rouge in the little ivory containers was an extra inducement. Later, I found an almost identical case at a different dealer and, of course, I had to have it, too. They don’t show up that often, but I’m always on the look-out for another one.

The last item I share in this video is one of my favorite objects. I’ve never seen another one like it. I don’t want to give it away before you see it, but I think you’ll find it as charming as I do.

Copyright Candice Hern

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Candice Hern is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical romance novels set during the English Regency, and her award-winning website is often cited for its extensive Regency World pages.