I haven’t always loved nice make-up. There was a time when I thought that anyone who purchased cosmetics outside of a drug store was a sucker. I stocked up on Wet n’ Wild and Maybelline and L’Oreal, and life was grand.
Then, I got older. (Look, not that much older.) Suddenly I realized there was a world of difference between brands, and I discovered brushes. Nice makeup brushes! Glory!
And the day I found my nice, new makeup brushes bent at the bottom of my ten-year-old free-with-purchase plastic cosmetic bag, I realized some other things would need to change as well.
So I did what any woman on a mission would do: online research.
1. When compact is key, go for the organized, top-zipped cloth cosmetic case.
It’s going to be more forgiving in your suitcase, laptop bag, or even purse. It’s easy to find compartment-less but aesthetically appealing "cosmetic bags" like the one described above – they often even come in sets of three – but you’d be better off with a clear Ziplock for all the help they’ll be to you.
Look around a little more for a bag with some sanity-saving features. You can acquire one with elastic bands for holding your makeup brushes, which will prevent them from losing their shape in transit. A more structured rectangle bag with a top, all-around zip will sit better on a bathroom sink – and allow more light in once it’s opened – than a flat bag. Hanging toiletry bags take organization to the wonderful extreme:
If you’re loyal to a certain brand of makeup, you may want to see if they manufacture cases as well . Bare Escentuals, for example, sells a cosmetic case with holders tailored to its products:
Cloth cases will need to be cleaned out more often than structured, hard cases, if you don’t want to wind up having eye pencil shavings under your fingernails after grappling for a tube of lipstick. They’re less convenient for everyday use. But a well-organized cloth cosmetic case can’t be beat for shorter or more casual stays away from home.
If, on the other hand, you’ll be needing to travel with all your bells and whistles, well —
2. Yes, Caboodles are still around.
And no, you don’t have to get the plastic kind with glitter embedded. A lot of Caboodles can look surprisingly sophisticated.
A good old-fashioned Caboodle unit is perfect for organizing your makeup at home; and depending on how much makeup you’ll be taking with you to your destination, can also be a great solution for on-the-go: just snap the lid shut and you’re on your way. No packing necessary. And later, there’s no digging around reaching for an eyeliner or blush brush; everything is always well-lit and where you left it. Caboodles come in a full range of sizes: larger ones can even hold bottles of hairspray and mousse in their main compartments.
3. But before there were Caboodles, there were the Kennedys.
Want the hard casing and organizational characteristics of the Caboodle, without the ’80s memories? Go retro with a train case. Impress drag queens and documentary aficionados alike with your Grey Gardens-esque makeup caddy:
You can find train cases in antique and thrift shops. On Etsy.com, the train case becomes an artistic canvas:
If you like the retro look with new appeal, Samsonite also has a beautiful "black label vintage" line which includes beauty cases:
The only downside to train cases, of course, is their inflexibility: they tend to run in larger sizes, so it’s rarely possible to just throw one inside your suitcase. You will need to carry it by the handle if you don’t want all your organizational hard work gone to waste. And realistically, for air travel in the modern world with its volume carry-on restrictions, the train case will make sense for very few escapades outside the home.
But if you’re storing, taking off by car, performing in the theater or eloping on the Honeymoon Express, the train case gets its name for a reason. This is about as charming (and practical, when it comes time to find a tube of mascara) as it gets.