August 25, 2009

Vanity Cases of Yesteryears

I must have been a fairly normal Chinese girl wishing for a Prince Charming and dreaming of a grand wedding with lovely lace gowns and going away carrying a nice red leather vanity case like the stars in the Hong Kong Shaw Brothers movies.

In those days a vanity case in hand added status to a girl coming out of a plane. It also added value to a bride who was given such a case as part of her "peng" or bridal gifts. Thus even before her marriage if a girl owned a vanity case it would have indicated she had money and understood good breeding. One could see vanity cases every where in Sibu in the 60's:in the motor launches and in the hair dressing salons and even in the coffee shops. Several of my aunts owned very good vanity cases to indicate their wealth and awareness of beauty regimes.

Sometimes one could even catch a lady of the night (wink++)riding away in a trishaw with a vanity case in hand. Ha....those were the good days...

But all these years later I continue to wonder about vanity cases. Do all the brides end up happily married ever after? Must all girls own a vanity case? Are they really that important? A friend even told me that "Happiness is a Vanity Case" (re: Peanuts) And would a girl with a vanity case make all that difference to a man?

May be many of my friends did not know that I got married in a rented genuine cotton (Swiss?)lacy gown . My bouquet was top of the crop - White Borneo Orchids from Mrs. Ho Kah Moh. My shoes were handmade (yes at that time we had a simple street cobbler who could hand make tiny shoes for the likes of me with tiny feet at around twenty dollars). He was my Jimmy Choo but he had long passed on. I made my own pill box hat for the veil. I did not have a handbag nor did I wear the compulsory gloves. And I did not have a vanity case!

Vanity cases always remind me of the beauticians of Sibu. There are even more now. Like coffee shops they have sprung up everywhere. But beauticians no longer carry these leather vaniy cases. Looking at all the slimming and beauty centres you would like to think that every woman wants to look good and there is a great demand for services of beautician. One aunt told me once that a cosmetician or beautician would never starve but instead get a good catch. I am also thinking of the Helen of Troy who set sail a thousand Greek ships and caused one of the longest wars known to mankind!!

Recently almost all my teeth (not a full set mind you) dropped out as the saying goes when I found that a relative's wife is collecting vanity cases for her exotic treasures!! And so one afternoon last week I was invited to tea with the group of happy women and have a look at cosmetics and other things which can "attract" men!! hahahahaha.....

But three of her vanity cases in particular brought back lots of memories and nostalgia for this old girl who grew up in the 50's and 60's....and dreaming of Prince Charming to help me make a beautiful home on the banks of the Rajang River....The red one is the one I had envied and wanted to own...I believe a few of my Sibu friends still keep their bridal gift of a vanity case.

Enjoy the photos!

This is an Echolac Vanity Case.

this is a Diplomat Vanity Case.

By golly! It's a Coach!

This must be the "original" Coach Vanity Case.


Ah Ngao said...

hehe...,reminds me of the James Bond bag well-to-do business men used to still have the keys ?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ha ha Ah Ngao...I never owned one. These belong to a friend. She has all the keys to her vanity cases. Yes they are similar to the James Bond bags....status symbols....Almost every man in Sibu had one too. Perhaps I should blog about them too....thanks for stopping by.


Uncle Lee said...

Hello Sarawakiana, I remember very well those vanity cases women around the 50's and 60's up to 70's carried with them.
And on and off I would have fun with my aunties, married or otherwise.
Should I see an open one at a family gathering or potluck party, I would discreetly sneak in a condom, ha ha....yes, I would buy them to have fun, pranks I mean. Apart from helping ladies in distress with them....

The laughs we got when the maiden aunt discovers the condom, or another aunty being a busybody was hilarious. And nobody found out it was me, heh heh.

Talking about condoms, I have used it to repair a lady's car's broken radiator hose, another lady's broken car wiper, etc....should have seen their faces then, ha ha. Condoms do have its many uses.
(Did a couple of blog postings on these before).

My mom had several of those vanity cases, one was an Echolac I think.
With those vanity cases was the sarong kebaya and cheong sums. Today, no more vanity cases, no more cheong sums. Sure miss those days.
Have a pleasant week, Lee.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Dear Lee
Hahaha..your condoms snippets are hilarious. Most people would categorize these rubbery things under XXX or unmentionables but you make them sound funny...

My condom stories are of course "under wraps"...and girls used to swap jokes about them....I had a few during the university days.

But I still think vanity cases can still conjure up lots of good stories and memories of course...

I will have my sarong kebaya stories out later.

Have a good week!

Benghui said...

Looks like fishing box daddy carry on fishing trip

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahaha Benghui
How is grandpa? He is lucky to be able to eat well! men spend more money on their fishing gadgets than on their pretty wives!!
When you grow up remember to treat your wife well...she is like a very valueable get many times back!! ahahahahahah....

fufu said...

wow...antique i would say!!! XD

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Fufu
I noted that you have just come back from your welcome home ..
The collection is about 25 years old ...not that old but the fashion of carrying this type of vanity cases has gone out. May be your mother might recognise it.

Anonymous said...

A maid who looked after us for more than two years one day disappeared. She left behind a letter saying that she was going to get married. Many years later she came back to our house carrying a vanity case and wearing very nice high heels with a lot of makeup. She gave my mother a present too. This was in the 70's. We could not believe that she had gone with someone to work in KL and she then came back to open a hairdressing shop...I call this a success story even though we would never know how badly she was treated. She is a real survivor.

Somehow I cannot forget her and her vanity case.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous

Many people grow attached to their maids and remember them in many ways. I have had a few maids in the past. Most of them have contacts with me. Some have just gone else beyond contact. I remember one in particular because she would make juices for me in the morning and make sure that I had all my medicines broken into halves! And she tried her best to cook like a restaurant chef. She has really made her mark in her own way.
gone are the days of housemaids from Sarawak and the old blacka and white ah sams.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs Ho, Please inform Mr Ho that an ex staff of HSBC KL by the name of Mr S. H. Leong wants to get in touch with Mr Ho Kah Moh who used to work for HSBC Sibu. Mr Leong plays golf with a group of senior citizens and I, Andrew Yeo a Sarawakian from St Joseph's School Kuching, is one of them. My e mail is and my mobile is 013-3918536. I left Kuching in 1970 to work in KL.
Andrew Yeo

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