February 28, 2013

Collection: Vintage Guerlain Météorites

I've been inspired by Eugenia from Ommorphia Beauty Bar and Toya from Beauty Obsessed to start a series on my makeup collection. It didn't take a lot of convincing, as I love collection posts more than kittens. There's something about seeing all the makeup pretties laid out neatly (and swatched!) that makes both my Pisces and Virgo sides dance around in glee.

I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of how to organize this series (by category? brand? category within brand? colour within category within brand?), but I thought I should start with something that occupies a special place in my collection.

This is the only real vintage piece of makeup I own, and it has a profoundly personal meaning for me.

Guerlain Météorites in the original cardboard packaging.

Label from the underside of the packaging, copyright 1982.

This is one of the first items of luxury makeup my mother owned.

We moved from Poland to France in 1982, during the Communist regime. At the time, Poland was under martial law and my mother could not abide the thought that she would stand in line for hours to try to buy food, only to find out that there was nothing but vinegar left on the shelf. She wanted a better life for her family. My father left the country first to establish himself in the US, and we followed after a year. We were not able to join him in New York right away, and instead made our way to an intermediary stop in France - a stop that lasted two years. When we arrived, my mom had instructions that she had written down in phonetic French, and we each had a bag. At the time, I was a cranky and sick 4-year-old, and acting every bit of it. I'm amazed she didn't pitch me head-first into the Seine.

In retrospect, I know what an extremely brave and selfless thing it was for her to do, uprooting us and taking an incredible chance on a better life. We had some extraordinary friends waiting for us in France, including the matriarch to end all matriarchs, who I came to know as Grandmaman. We also had Anne, who was just...Anne. One of the kindest, sweetest, most elegant women ever, a great friend and soul sister to my mother, and the ultimate image of "chic" that was forever etched in my mind. I don't remember much from that time, but I remember the scent of certain flowers, the feel of lace and fine cotton - and those ladies. (My mother also says I ate butter by the fistfuls, astonished and made greedy by its abundance. But that's a story for a different time.)

Anne was a beautician, and took my mom under her wing. I'm not sure if she bought the Guerlain Métérorites for her, of it's something my mom eventually got for herself in later years. In my memories, they always seemed to be present on her vanity. I was so fascinated by them, by the violet smell and the colours and the shimmer of the powder. Eventually she passed them on to me, presumably so I could play with them the way kids do. Instead they took on an almost magical property, became a little totem of sorts. The beauty junkie in me can be traced back to these little beads, and a French ideal of feminine grace and beauty that, to me, is synonymous with love and generosity.




One of the questions I was asked - repeatedly - after I posted my makeup collection video online was "aren't you worried about your makeup going bad?". To answer that question technically: powder products can last a lot longer than the suggested best-by date, especially if you take care of them. With these, I gently spill them out over a paper napkin and spray them with an alcohol mist, and then clean out the jar with more alcohol. I let everything dry and then decant the beads back in. The process removes any surface bacteria that may be lingering. 

I don't actually use these anymore though - I keep them because because of what they evoke. Makeup may be transient in nature, but its value cannot be dictated by a best-before date.

And yes, it still smells of violets.

25 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post and gorgeous memory! Look how perfect they still look, and apparently smell! So lovely! I wish I still had my mother's Revlon Tangerine lipstick. She would wear it out for evening gatherings and I wore it on Halloween when dressed as a gypsy! Amazing how makeup and fragrance evokes such memories! Lovely!

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    1. It really is amazing, isn't it? Especially scent - it's a direct line to your limbic system and your long-term memory.

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  2. Those are gorgeous, and what a lovely story behind them. I am a new subscriber (to your Youtube channel) and new reader to your blog. :)

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    1. Hi Rebecca, I'm so please to "meet" you! :)

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  3. Wow. I just threw my barely used box out a few months ago. I should have kept them. Lovely stuff from years gone by. And yes, mine still
    smelled of violets. :-)

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    1. These almost went the way of a purge a few times, but every time I thought about it I just couldn't. The memories are too precious, faded as they are, for me to abandon a tangible link to them.

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  4. Aww, very nice. And nicely written. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Miss Mabel. =)

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  5. What a lovely intro post to start your collection series, Maggie!! This was so touching, I loved reading the history of your past and this beautiful collectors piece. I lived in Poland for 7 months several years back, so additionally I have such an affinity for anyone linked to the country :D This was the perfect way to begin my dear, good luck and I can't wait for the next installment!

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    1. Thank you so much, Toya! I had no idea you lived in Poland - wow! Was it for school or work?

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  6. To begin with, thank you for the shout -out, my friend - I am honoured.

    Your eloquence is amazing, Maggie; I swear, your words completely transported me into the unfolding story. Love it when that happens!

    Secondly, thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life; as a child of parents who emigrated here from Greece for a "better life", I empathize with everything your mother endured, and I love how all her sacrifices were rewarded by such good friends, with such great taste! You own a special part of history -- your history -- and I'm so happy you kept this little gem. Also, the care with which you've maintained this product has definitely proven beyond a shadow of any doubt, that you really do revere beauty. As if there were any doubt, lol!

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    1. Eugenia, thank you. <3

      On the subject of Greece and beauty - I consider my reverence for beauty in all its forms as my personal ode to Aphrodite. ;)

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  7. You know how I love this post. <3

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    1. <3

      And thank you for sharing my post on your blog. :)

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  8. What a beautifully written story -- thanks for sharing it with us! How courageous of your family to start anew in a foreign land. Your vintage Meteorites are lovely and I think it is so great that you've kept them all these years. I recall a pretty mother-of-pearl makeup palette that my mother gave me back in the early 80s and often wish I had held on to it! xx

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    1. Thank you!

      It's funny the things that stick in our memories. I think it's part of what I love about vintage makeup, and vintage-inspired makeup, like the Mad Men series.

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  9. I love the memories that these evoke for you. Plus they must look pretty amazing on your vanity. Hope you keep them for many more years.

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    1. Thank you! I hope to be able to maintain and treasure them as long as I can. :)

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  10. I found this post through Liz's blog.
    Somehow I feel there is "magic" in these Meteorites. It isn't mere makeup.
    It's oppportunity, struggle, grace and above all, love.
    Thank you for sharing you and your mom's story.

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    1. I agree...makeup IS magic. The root of magic is transformation, after all. ;)

      Thank you!

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  11. love this story!

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  12. What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing it with us. I adore Meteorites for many reasons and you just gave me another. :D

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  13. What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing it with us. I adore Meteorites for many reasons and you just gave me another. :D

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