9 May 2011

Mystery Object No. 5 - the Solution

 This pretty little thing is actually a lipstick case!
(c) Geffrye Museum, London

As the clue we posted gave away, it was made in the US. The text reading 'Exotic 2' is the shade of lipstick it was made to hold.

This particular lipstick was made between 1920 and 1960, but lipstick was used far earlier than that. It's thought that people started wearing lipstick as long ago as 5000 years. It's thought that ancient Mesopotamian women invented it by crushing semi-precious jewels, and it was very popular among Ancient Egyptians: Cleopatra wore lipstick made from crushed insects!

Lipstick wasn't used in England until much later, when Queen Elizabeth I first made it popular for upper class women in the 1500s. But it wasn't until 1884 that the first 'modern' lipstick was sold in Paris, made from deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax, and sold wrapped up in silk paper.

At first, all make-up had to be stored in small containers like pots and dishes - you can see many of these in museum collections of ancient objects - but this did make them quite tricky to use. The 'push up' lipstick everyone knows today and which makes lipstick much easier to use wasn't invented until the 1920s and 30s,  which is when manufacturers started producing make-up in many different shades. That was when objects like this one arrived - perfect pretty cases for telling your different shades apart!

You can read more about this particular lipstick case here.
Congratulations to anyone who guessed right on this or any of our other mystery objects - personally, I think some of them were quite tough!

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