I believe it’s a basic truth that everyone over the age of 12 needs their own desk. I also believe it’s a basic truth that every woman over the age of 12 needs a well-appointed dressing table.
I’m a girly girl. Get over it. (I’m also reasonably smart and getting really good at basic home repair.)
One of my early memories is of my father building me a dressing table/desk. I don’t think it had anything to do with his recognition of these basic truths. I’m pretty sure he was having an attack of need-to-play-with-tools-and-wood manly-man-itis. I was about 6 or 7. In terms of aesthetics, the dressing table/desk left a lot to be desired. In short, it was a piece of plywood on pre-fabricated legs painted white with a border of gold paint along the top edges of the table. I can remember us discussing the “fancy” line of gold. I loved it, though I don’t remember what happened to the table. More than likely it was discarded during one of our moves.
At the age of 11 or so, my mother went on a tear and “did” my bedroom in Sears French Provincial with hot pink, glue-down carpet squares, jungle green walls, and a lime green canopy. It was my first coordinated furniture and, um, stunning. Mom is colorful.
A couple of years later, when I began wearing makeup, I turned the nightstand into a dressing table with the help of a bean bag chair. From the beginning, I’ve had issues with standing in a bathroom trying to apply eye shadow. It’s not comfortable, the lighting is usually horrible, and, well, it’s just wrong. I suppose there is something very amusing about a young, wannabe hippy sitting amidst faux French Provincial furniture on a faux fur beanbag chair in front of a daisy-shaped, lighted makeup mirror and experimenting with tres chic lip gloss as well as green mascara. And reeking of Wind Song. With a well-thumbed copy of Siddhartha on the nightstand.
After the death of the French provincial, in the midst of the Disco Era, I resorted to sitting on the bed with a basket and a mirror. The room was decorated in Early Attic with touches of brass and a fair amount of wicker. The makeup had expanded to include glitter eyeliner, concealer, and vivid lipstick.
In the late 80s, my antique phase, I acquired a late 40’s table. It was designed to be covered completely in lots of gaudy fabric with a 3-panel mirror, but mine had no fabric or mirror. I stripped it, stained it, hung a mirror on the wall, and added an ice cream chair. It was quirky. It was functional. It was cheap. It was a lot of flippin’ work.
Sitting at the table, my thoughts on the necessity of a dressing table began to coalesce. It was nice having a place dedicated to the morning ritual of coffee, makeup, and staring out the window. It had a drawer, far-too-small, into which went the understated and ridiculously expensive makeup of a young woman on the move. The top of it, far too small, was littered with baskets to hold the stuff that wouldn’t fit in the drawer.
In what was probably Not A Good Idea Financially, but never regretted, I cashed out a little more of the house equity to decorate the master bedroom when buying out the ex. In all our years of barn remodeling drama, the master bedroom kept getting pushed to the end of the list (and it was a very long list). It was a horror story (the décor, that is). Delighted to be sleeping alone, I wanted the room to be comfortable and decadent. I started looking at bedroom furniture.
Inexplicably, I did not want antiques or quirky. While I love those things, as my home will attest, I wanted something different for the master bedroom. I kept returning to what the designers refer to as traditional. And I wanted it all to match. And I wanted a dressing table.
The dressing table proved to be a problem. In the past couple of years, dressing tables have begun making a comeback and more and more manufacturers are including them with bedroom suites, but at the time I was on the forefront of an emerging trend. The only ones I could find, precious few, were in high-end lines of furniture. I may be a hedonist and financially imprudent, but I am not stupid. Twenty-five thousand dollars for bedroom furniture is not just stupid, but possibly criminal. However, I had found exactly what I wanted and the dressing table was breathtaking.
I knew the markup on furniture was insane and after months of searching, online and off, I found a discount distributor who could get it to me for less than 25% of retail. Woo Hoo! It was all perfectly legal and proof that the markup on furniture borders on criminal.
The delivery of the furniture was high drama due only in part to having to hoist it up to the second floor and angle it through the silly French doors that lead to nowhere. A good deal of the drama was centered on the fact that I had never seen the furniture up close and personal. I found it online and, after much dithering and hand-wringing, special ordered it. No refund, no return.
It was (is) magnificent and perfect. The dressing table is beyond wonderful. Even after a few years, I marvel at it. It is freakin’ awesome.
Being in possession of the best dressing table on the planet, I feel qualified to list the absolute necessities of the proper dressing table.
It must have drawers.
It must have surface space.
It must have comfortable seating.
It must be well-appointed.
The well-appointed thing probably varies, but I think there are basics.
Mirror – one large and one smaller magnified one. The large one is required so you can double-check that no one is sneaking up on you when you’re pretending to be a chanteuse of remarkable talent and singing into your deodorant/microphone. It’s best if it’s mounted on the wall. A magnifying mirror helps keep eyeliner on the eyes and lipstick on the mouth and is really helpful in eradicating unibrows and menopausal mustaches.
Hairbrush – a good hairbrush is critical. You can’t sit at a dressing table and not brush your hair. It would be bad form and get you thrown out of the Diva Hall of Fame. If you insist on keeping the deodorant in the bathroom, the hairbrush can serve as a microphone.
Clock – ornamental and battery-powered. If you’re like me, you may lose time sitting at the dressing table first thing in the morning. It’s good to have a reality check that isn’t too disconcerting. Digital is out. So are cords.
Lighting – flattering, but realistic. This is the trickiest one, but crucial. While you don’t need reality (especially first thing in the morning), you do need enough representativeness that you don’t end up looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker portrayal. You also need morning light – it’s cheerful, refreshing, and inspiring.
Geegaws – not too many. I am on a de-cluttering, anti-junk binge, but that doesn’t mean that ornamental mementos and somewhat useless crap are completely verboten. A dressing table practically begs for it. The rule is that you must absolutely love it and that it be tied to some memory that makes you smile.
Perfume – in a pleasing bottle.. I rarely wear perfume as I work with many folks with allergies and/or asthma. However, I do have a signature perfume that I’ve been wearing exclusively since the Wind Song ran out. (Lord! How I hate that term signature fill-in-the-blank.) Nonetheless, perfume that’s been chosen for its personal appeal and not because it’s been heavily marketed or has a nice bottle is required. I wear perfume for special occasions, so just simply smelling it brings back good times. I don’t particularly like the bottle that my perfume comes in, so I’m on the lookout for an antique or reproduction spray bottle – you know, the kind with the little rubber squishy sprayer thingie.
Makeup – using the term loosely. I don’t always wear makeup. But I do always sit at the dressing table. Whether it’s just moisturizer or body lotion, applying something is a good way to re-link the inner and the outer after a night where body and mind go their separate ways.
Tranquility – No bills. No junk. No clutter. Don’t use the dressing table as a desk except, possibly, journaling.
Black Silk Pajamas – While not absolutely necessary for the dressing table, every woman should own a pair. Just because. (A Beloved Robe goes without saying.)
And there you have it – the well-appointed dressing table.