The Merle Norman
bag features in the current MoDiP Reuse
exhibition as part of the Another
case, which looks at other uses for packaging
in which some products are offered for sale.
AIBDC : 009526
Image credit: MoDiP
The Merle Norman brand of cosmetics is not familiar in the
UK but it is a well-established brand in the United States with a long
history. Born in Longsport, Indiana in
1887, Merle Norman began her cosmetics business from a kitchen table, using her
training and knowledge in chemistry to produce quality products. She rapidly
developed a chain of franchises, known as studios, throughout the 1930s being
one of the few companies to thrive throughout the Depression era. During World War II cosmetics production was
paused, concentrating instead on producing gun oil and camouflage sticks for
the U.S. military. Post-war, Merle
Norman cosmetics grew to be a multi-million dollar business with thousands of
franchises throughout North America, predominantly owned independently by
women. Its success continues today.
MoDiP’s box bag was created to boost Christmas
sales of Merle Norman cosmetics in December 1975, it’s relatively low-cost
materials and production methods enabled it to be offered as a cost-effective
incentive. It was available free with a coupon and any $20 purchase. Advertisements show that it contained ‘a
Holiday Collection of six beauty enhancers’ and described the bag as having ‘a
charming mock tortoise shell and crystal look’ making it ‘a versatile fashion
accessory for daytime dress or elegant evenings’.
Image credit : https://woolmanestates.com/products/merle-
Box bags became fashionable
in the mid 1940s, their designs and materials varying greatly. Well known U.S.
maker Wilardy produced many beautiful designs from lucite, an acrylic resin by
DuPont. A Wilardy clutch bag
can be found in the MoDiP collection showcasing the material’s crystal like
clarity and demonstrating the maker’s skill.
AIBDC : 008098
Image credit: MoDiP
Although not made from the
same materials as the Wilardy bag, the lid of the Merle Norman cosmetics box
bag with a moulded geometric design, has echoes of crystal, encouraging
consumers to value and give another life to this container.
Image credit: Pam Langdown