Further indulging my fascination with Waist trainers of the past, we have the extreme achievements of Polaire.
Born Emelie Marie Bouchard on 14th May 1874 in Algiers, Algeria. Her early life was tumultuous, shifting between Algeria and France. Aged 17, Emelie began singing with her brother Edmund; already an established cafe singer. Adopting the stage name Polaire (meaning pole star), she quickly rose to music halls and even to New York. One of her biggest successes was in 1902, appearing in the stage version of Colette’s Claudine a Paris (the two eventually became friends). Polaire became one of France’s biggest stars, branching out in the newly spawned cinema. 1909 saw her debut in Moines et Guiriers, though how many films she actually appeared is unclear since there is another actress named Pauline Polaire.
Polaire indulged in the perks of success with the usual luxuries of furs and jewels. However thus was her desire for extravagance, Polaire even gave her pet pig a diamond encrusted collar! When Polaire went to America she even allowed herself to be declared ‘the ugliest woman in the world’.
No one could have ever accused Polaire of being a wall flower. Evoking the exotic by using especially dark eye makeup, a cropped hair do (note that Polaire was sporting the short bob in the 1890’s, thirty years before the bob would be embraced by mainstream fashion). Since this is an entry under the banner of tight lacing, now we must focus on Polaire’s corseted waist. Before Ethel Granger beat her, Polaire held the record for the tiniest figure with 14 inches. True; tight lacing was more common during the Belle Époque. But to cinch down to 14 inches takes supreme commitment.
Sadly Polaire’s good fortune did not last. After struggling for years to get work, Polaire died on 14th October 1939.
Though the ending of her life was a disappointment, Polaire rode the wave of success better than many and even after all these many years. She still takes your breath away.