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Antique dressing tables: an antique dealer’s guide

An antique dealer's guide to dressing tables


With a rich history dating back centuries, antique dressing tables remain a popular piece of furniture. Our expert’s guide will help you pick the perfect one.

While the flat pack age of the late 20th century contributed to a down turn in antique furniture sales, our growing environmental conscience and awareness, coupled with a glut of televised period dramas, have brought antique furniture back in vogue. The dressing table, originally known as a vanity table, is no exception.

While there is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians used a variation of the dressing table, it wasn’t until the Tudor era in the 17th century, that they became fashionable with the upper classes as a place to get ready. By the 18th century, they had become firmly established as an indication of social status, with privileged families having theirs adorned with family crests and emblems.

Throughout the ages, there have been notable styles of dressing table with easily distinguishable features.

Antique Georgian dressing tables

During the 18th century, dressing tables were referred to as gentlemen’s dressing tables and they featured a surface for washing and grooming supplies and drawers. Acknowledged as the first of what we identify today as a dressing table, Georgian dressing tables were crafted by master craftsmen whose innovative designs included hidden features such as folding lids and sliding mirrors. Most commonly manufactured in mahogany, these dressing table often have brass drawer handles with thin legs.

Antique Victorian dressing tables

Antique Victorian dressing tables are varied in style as makers emulated prevailing fashions. However, pieces are typically ornate in design with carved features and turned legs. Most Victorian examples have an attached mirror. Look for examples made from high quality wood including oak, rosewood or walnut.

Antique Edwardian dressing tables

Following on from the Victorian dressing table, Edwardian examples share similar features, including mirrors and drawers but are generally plainer and less ornate, with straighter lines. The Edwardians also added smaller mirrors to flank the main mirror, which can be found in shapes other than round, oval or rectangular.

Art Nouveau dressing tables

While the Art Nouveau movement overlaps the Edwardian era, an Art Nouveau dressing table will be more decorative, with organic lines and motifs, graceful curves and carved details.

Art Deco dressing tables

The Art Deco movement is easily identified, thanks to the era’s preference for a geometric aesthetic with strong, sleek lines and minimal decoration. Art Deco dressing tables were often thickly veneered, and made from walnut or mahogany with round or oval mirrors.

Where to look for antique dressing tables for sale

There are lots of places to discover antique dressing tables, from auctions, antique shops and dealer centres like Hemswell Antique Centres. The largest antiques centre in Europe, Hemswell is home to over 400 dealers, offering you the best chance to find the perfect piece. Browse our antique dressing tables for sale online, spend a day with us viewing in person or, if you are an overseas commercial client unable to travel to us, arrange a virtual shopping tour and let us show you pieces of interest.

For any other enquiries, our experienced sales team is available over the phone on 01427 668389 or by email.

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