The 16-Inch Waist Of Émilie Marie Bouchaud

The French singer, stage name “Polaire” (Pole Star), took “tightlacing” to the extreme.


In the late 19th century, “tightlacing” among women was in vogue. Polaire was famous for her tiny, corsetted waist, which was reported to have a circumference no greater than 16 inches (Wikipedia).

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This accentuated her large bust, which was said to measure 38 inches.

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French poet Jean Lorrain said of her:

“The tiny slip of a woman that you know, with the waist slender to the point of pain, of screaming out loud, of breaking in two, in a spasmically tight bodice, the prettiest slimness …What a devilish mimic, what a coffee-mill and what a belly-dancer! Yellow skirt tucked high, gloved in open-work stockings, Polaire skips, flutters, wriggles, arches from the hips, the back, the belly, mimes every kind of shock, twists, coils, rears, twirls…trembling like a stuck wasp, miaows, faints to what music and what words! The house, frozen with stupor, forgets to applaud.”

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She was painted by many artists, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Antonio de La Gandara, Leonetto Cappiello, and Rupert Carabin.

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For her 1910 supposed “debut” in New York, she provocatively allowed herself to be billed in the advance publicity as “the ugliest woman in the world” (Wikipedia).

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The Algerian-born performer was 5’ 3”.

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Her corseted waist was once measured at 14 inches.

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