This article was first published in The Strategist on Dec. 29, 2023
The early months of 2023 were messy, to say the least — drippy serums, shattered palettes, and exploding blush. And after buying replacements on repeat, I realized that product packaging wasn’t the problem. My Achilles’ heel was the structureless pouch I called my makeup bag, which, when transported, became like a beauty boxing ring.
I became obsessed with finding the perfect solution, to the point that I spent every morning and night typing “ergonomic makeup bag” into various search bars. I should also clarify that I’m a floor-get-ready girl, so I appreciate when my skin care and makeup can sit upright. It prevents me from digging around to find one tube of mascara, which rarely works, and thus leads me to dump all my products onto the ground when I’m in a rush. Beis's case meant everything would lay flat, so that wouldn’t work. Calpak’s cosmetic bag felt too exposed with its clear sides. Away’s compact organizer has a few too many zippers. Leatherology’s train case was closer, and had a good shape, but it seemed too deep.
But as with many things this year, the answer came to be on TikTok when I wasn’t expecting it: It was a video of a remarkably organized pack made by Australian brand Étoile Collective. The vanity case appears to have one primary compartment, but I was impressed by a sturdy (yet removable) divider. The insert — which has seven sections that vary in size — keeps taller bottles from tipping onto more delicate items like a powder compact or a lip-gloss tube. A solid handle also means that I can bring it onto the floor while I prime, contour, and set my face.
I wrote about the case when I purchased it in June, and since then, it’s not only protected my items but streamlined my daily routine. I’ve decreased my get-ready time by at least ten minutes (and my always-punctual boyfriend can attest to this). The case also allows me to take my entire beauty regime from my bathroom at home to gym locker rooms, road trips up north, and even across international borders. And because every product has a designated spot that’s easy to see, I’m accumulating more empties, which is satisfying for me (but maybe not for my bank account).
There’s also the fact that the bag’s smooth vegan leather and gold hardware look quite attractive when left out on my counter. For the times I have spattered foundation or dropped a dirty sponge, the interior (and exterior) is simple to clean with a wet washcloth or makeup remover wipe. I never feel the need to hide it in a drawer before we have guests over, and many people are surprised to learn it houses all my cosmetics, perfume, medication, and more. It’s holding about 42 products right now, with room to spare for a couple more.
On a recent trip to visit my best friend in North Carolina, she immediately noticed my vanity case and demanded to know where she could purchase the magical bag. And because I’m no gatekeeper, when my brother needed suggestions for what to give my sister for Christmas, I, of course, shared the link to Étoile’s larger Duo Vanity Case. (My sister can hardly close her old Clinique makeup bag, and this model has an extra compartment for brushes and palettes.) He picked the limited-edition (and now sold out) Barbie Pink, which I know she’ll appreciate, along with the chance for a more organized 2024.
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