Throwback: Essie Spring 1997 ‘Let’s get instrumental’

Today I have swatches of a very different collection for you. I tracked down five shades of Essie’s Spring 1997 ‘Let’s get instrumental’ collection.

Essie’s musical instruments collection was released right after the release of the (in)famous Essie Starry starry night, which they released for the holiday season. This means that this was Essie’s Spring 1997 collection. The collection that follows is a ‘Musical styles’ collection, which for some reason fits quite well with the musical instruments collection.

What I was able to retrieve is that the Musical instruments collection consisted of six shades. Funnily, most of these shades weren’t immediately discontinued but stayed around quite long:

  • Trumpet (discontinued in September 2007)
  • Violin (discontinued in 2009)
  • Bass fiddle (discontinued in 2009)
  • Trombone (discontinued in Spring 2013)
  • Heavenly harp (discontinued in 2009)
  • Piano (discontinued almost immediately?)

I got my hands on Trumpet, Bass fiddle, Heavenly harp, Violin, and Trombone. The only shade I couldn’t find was Essie Piano (nor could I even find swatches of this shade online). Thanks to Vintage Essie, I was able to find out that this was a darker fuchsia pink. Definitely check out her page because it contains a lot of information about 90’s Essie collections!

Essie Trumpet

Essie Trumpet

This is Essie Trumpet. This shade is quite special to me because as you can see this Essie bottle is completely smooth. It doesn’t have the word ‘Essie’ embossed on the bottle. This means that my bottle is from between 1998 and 2000. I’m eternally grateful because I was able to buy this shade from Vintage Essie’s etsy.

It’s very clear that this shade was inspired by the color of a trumpet. The polish Trumpet is very sheer though, I needed four coats for this coverage, and it’s still not opaque. For a while, I’ve wondered whether my bottle was discolored, but it kind of matches with the color of a Trumpet, so I guess it isn’t. The shimmer in this one is just gorgeous, and I wonder why Essie stopped making shimmers like this.

Clearly, I don’t have anything to compare to this shade! Although my bottle of trumpet is older, the shade was still produced up until 2007. I’m not saying it’s easy to find, but if you search well, you might still be able to find it.

Essie Trombone

Essie Trombone

There probably isn’t a 90s Essie collection without a red. In this case, it’s Essie Trombone. I’ve thought a long time why Essie would make a shade called trombone red, but I guess it’s because the fabric in the casing of a trombone is often red. That’s literally the only reason I could think of.

Although I wasn’t immediately impressed by trombone, I immediately loved it when I applied it to my nails. It has a jelly formula with an absolutely incredible shine. It was already opaque in two coats, but I did three to deepen the color. The only thing that made me dislike this color, is that it had stained my nails completely red by the time I removed it.

Essie Trombone is the shade of this collection that stayed around the longest. It was produced until 2013. Judging from the label on my bottle, I would say that mine was part of the last years of production. I’m not sure exactly why this shade was taken out of production, but the staining might have been one of the reasons.

Essie Trombone compared to Essie Bordeaux, Essie A list, and Essie Forever yummy

I did a comparison of Essie Trombone to other red shades in my collection that were close. Essie Bordeaux is much darker, Essie Forever yummy is quite a bit lighter. A list is very close to Trombone. However, Trombone contains a bit more pink, while A list leans a bit warmer. I definitely like the shade of Trombone a bit better, but I get why Essie decided to discontinue it.

Essie Heavenly harp

Essie Heavenly harp

This is Essie Heavenly harp. Essie Heavenly harp used to be a sheer white. Based on the label on my bottle, I would say that my bottle is produced around 2009. I’m not impressed at all with this shade, it was very streaky still after three coats. I think mine is slightly discolored since it has a yellow tint to it, and earlier swatches of the shades do not have that.

If you’re looking for a shade that’s similar but still available, I would recommend Essie Waltz or Essie Marshmallow. Also, both Essie Waltz and Essie Marshmallow have a much better formula!

Essie Bass fiddle

Essie Bass Fiddle

Bass fiddle is a muted raspberry shade with a very fine silver shimmer running through. I truly regret that Essie discontinued this shade because it looks so amazing! My bottle was produced around 2008, but it’s still in perfect condition.

I needed around two to three coats for full opacity, but I would absolutely say that this shade is worth it!

Essie Bass Fiddle compared to Essie Ferris of them all, Essie Lips are sealed and Essie In stitches

I would say that Essie Lips are sealed is probably the closest shade I own. It doesn’t have the same shimmer as Bass Fiddle, but that’s about it. Ferris of them all is also close but is a bit more purple and the shimmer is much more obvious. Essie In stitches leans a bit too orange to be a dupe but has a very similar vibe.

Essie Violin

Essie Violin is a lighter pink creme. I’ve seen the original ads from this collection, and in those Violin seems to be a mid-toned pink. I’m not sure if my bottle changed color, or whether Essie decided to change the color slightly, because the bottle that I own is from 2009.

The formula of Violin is a bit thicker, so it was opaque in two coats. However, it was a bit thick, so next time I’m definitely going to add some thinner. However, the shade was surprisingly easy to apply for such an oldie!

Essie Violin compared to Love by Essie Free in me, Essie Air spun fun and Essie Just Grow with it.

I purchased my bottle of Essie Violin at Polishpick, and they still have some bottles left. However, on Ebay they ask around 30$ at the moment, which is definitely not worth it in my opinion, since shades like Violin are still easy to find nowadays. The closest shade I have is probably Free in me from Essie’s new Love by Essie collection. Also, Air spun fun from the ferris of them all collection is very similar and should be part of Essie’s permanent collection.


It’s pretty cool to see these five old shades together! Again, it’s an awesome part of Essie’s history and it’s nice to see how collections have changed over time. It’s difficult to imagine that Essie would ever release a spring collection that looked like this one. Today, this typically would look like a holiday or fall collection to me. I think all of these shades, except for maybe Trumpet, are pretty dupe-able, and you should be able to find similar in Essie’s current collection.

I wish I knew a bit more about this collection than I currently do, but it’s been pretty difficult to find any information about it. Essie’s website did not exist before 2002. Vintage Essie shared a magazine ad of this collection in her highlights here Stories • Instagram, and it’s probably the only thing that’s left of this collection on the internet!

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