If you have a flair for the dramatic, then you've probably fantasized about getting your well-lit classic movie moment seated in front of an elegant dressing table. Although bathroom vanities have made traditional dressing tables a thing of the past, you can still find beautiful antique and vintage dressing table mirrors for sale. After all, who wouldn't want to add a touch of old-school class to your bedroom with a decorative piece of the past?
Tour the Past With Dressing Table Mirrors
Dressing tables have been around since antiquity, but the kind that we're familiar with didn't really pop up until the 19th century. Although you can find errant early 17th century French examples, it's far more common to find tables and mirrors from the 1800s and 1900s.
According to the Met Museum's previous exhibit on dressing tables, 19th century furniture design was rife with all sorts of revival-inspiration, and you can see this variety in the dressing tables/mirrors produced. It ended up with historically inspired table and mirror combos made using older designs like Elizabethan, Colonial, Gothic, and Rococo. These mirrors weren't too large and were usually separated from the table itself (unlike most bedroom vanity sets today, with mirrors bolted to the table). Seeing as wood was sturdy and easily available, most antique dressing mirrors have frames made of rich woods like oak, rosewood, mahogany, and more.
However, the real party doesn't get started until the early 20th century, when the post-Victorian era's simple designs gave way to large, ornate, and delightfully crafted things that were well suited for any party at Jay Gatsby's mansion. By the mid-century, the overly decorated pieces became more natural and neutral, shifting away from being separated and into an attached unit.
When Is a Mirror a Dressing Table Mirror?
One of the most confusing things about old mirrors is that they all basically look the same. Aside from design elements, a mirror is a mirror, and with your face looking back at you, there's not a whole lot to go on for dating it. Thankfully, most antique dresser mirrors were mounted using two screws onto a stand that sometimes had drawers inside. These screws let the mirrors rotate 360° so you could use them from any angle.
Check old mirrors that aren't attached to any stands for distinctive screw holes on both sides of the frame (about midway up). Finding them can be an early indicator that the mirror might have once been a part of a dressing table combo.
There are also smaller, usually oval or circular, swivel table mirrors that are still used today. These were super portable, cheap, and lightweight. So, if you weren't fortunate enough to own a luxury mirror, you could grab yourself one of these smaller alternatives. However, people are a lot more interested in buying the bigger, heavier table mirrors than these portable ones.
Are Dressing Mirrors Worth a Lot of Money?
Old dressing mirrors run the gamut when it comes to value. There are a couple of different things that can shift the price tags up and down the scale.
- Materials - The more valuable the materials that were used to make the mirror, the more expensive it's going to be. For example, mahogany and silver are worth way more than brass and oak.
- Age - Older dressing mirrors tend to sell for more money, with pre-19th century examples selling for the most.
- Size - Really large dressing mirrors aren't common, so the larger one is, the more it'll end up selling for.
- Famous makers - Occasionally, you might find a piece that was made by a legendary furniture maker/workshop like Chippendale. Anything with a stamp or a signature from these historic icons will garner significant buyer interest.
When it comes to numbers, you're looking at anywhere between $100-$1,000+ depending on what specific piece you're interested in. Smaller and simpler mirrors usually sell at the lower end of the spectrum, like this unique triptych brass Art Deco dressing mirror that sold for $175 on eBay. Larger mirrors will always end up selling somewhere in the thousands because of how difficult it is for them to survive without getting cracked. Take this Italian 30-inch-tall walnut mirror from the 1920s, for example. It's currently listed for about $2,300 on 1st Dibs.
If you happen across a mirror and full table or dresser combo, then you're looking at big dollar signs since people love buying antique bedroom sets, and they don't scrimp on the final prices. But, as with any type of antique furniture, people are always willing to drop higher and higher bids on high-quality pieces because big box retailers just don't make 'em like they used to. So, as long as it's a true antique and not an imitation, there will be extra zeros on those price tags.
Best Places to Buy and Sell Dressing Table Mirrors
Whether you're interested in buying or selling a dressing table mirror, start with any local thrift shops so that you don't have to factor in shipping costs, which really are the biggest obstacle for buying and selling any kind of mirror. Online places like eBay and Etsy are great for stumbling across hidden treasures, while 1st Dibs and other traditional digital marketplaces usually trade in the highest quality and most expensive stuff.
Don't even think about buying or selling a mirror without budgeting shipping costs and the labor that goes into packing a mirror safely. Sometimes, shipping can add over $100 to your order, which might make you rethink pressing that "confirm order" button.
Play Domestic Dress-Up Using Old Dressing Table Mirrors
Play dress up like you've never played it before by setting the stage with the old dressing mirror perfect for your personality. Whether you're feeling like reliving those teenage pop punk queen days or you're obsessed with the garden tea party vibes, there's a great dressing table mirror made for you:
- Rococo revival - Ever wanted to jump into Sofia Coppola's movie, Marie Antoinette, with its pastels and floral motifs? Get yourself a Rococo revival dressing table mirror inspired by all things mid-1700s.
- Gothic revival - Dark wooded and heavy-looking, Gothic revival dressing table mirrors would fit right at home with your candlestick holders and shelves upon shelves of old books.
- Victorian - Want to feel like you're living in the middle of a Dickens novel? Then get yourself an extensively carved, highly decorated dressing mirror from the Victorian era.
- Arts and Crafts - If you hate clutter, Arts and Crafts dressing table mirrors are great for you. They're simple and devoid of any bells and whistles, but they'll last a lifetime.
- Art Deco - Just like the mythic parties from '20s literature, the huge, elaborate Art Deco dressing mirrors and table combos are perfect for people with an extensive beauty routine who need all the counter space they can get.
- Mid-century modern - If you love neutral tones, rounded shapes, and all things wooden, then mid-century modern mirrors are meant for you. They'll go great beside your collection of plant babies and incense holders.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Sometimes, adding just one unique piece to your environment can bring a whole new energy to your space. Like splashing on a new paint color or changing your duvet cover, adding a delicate antique dressing table mirror to your dresser or vanity is a great way to transform your tired old bedroom into something new.