Emilie Marie Bouchaud better known as her stage name, Polaire (meaning Pole Star), born on May 14th 1874 in Algiers, Algeria, was a French entertainer. Born into a family with eleven children of whom only four survived, she was very determined in making a name and providing for herself. As a result of her determination, she began her first job as a café singer at the young age of 17.
Bouchaud was known initially known as an actor and singer from the 1890s to the 1930s. She took on roles in various plays and even silent films which were making headway at the time. However, despite her career in film and theatre it was her appearance that she was mostly remembered for.
Part of Bouchaud’s captivating allure was her appearance. Born into the age of heavy corseting and extravagant outfits, she quickly picked up the practice and made sure to be the most memorable. With consistency and determination, Bouchand would go on to alter her seemingly normal waistline to a mere 16 inches or 406.4 millimetres.
Tight lacing or corset training involves the wearing of a tightly laced corset or garment of similar fashion in order to change figure or posture. Tight lacing was mostly used to achieve a slim waist in women as the appearance was deemed more attractive to suitors. The corset, by many accounts was originally worn by the Minoan Civilization of Crete (one of the Greek islands) although they did not resurface until the 16th century, when it became a staple of dress up until the dawn of the French Revolution.
The process by which the corsets were utilized had become a precise and professional affair. To begin, the intended wearer would receive a perfectly fitted corset which would be gradually decreased in size with the use of lace, ribbons or clothing hooks. There were many adverse effects of the use of corsets such as shortness of breath, dizziness and displacement of many internal organs and systems. One of the systems greatly affected is the respiratory system as the expanding ability of the lungs would be greatly diminished due to the space restrictions. The intestines would also be forced closer together and compact in the lower abdomen.
In addition to her physically altered frame; she wore makeup and clothing that pushed very hard at the status quo of the era. With heavily lined eyes and lots of makeup, Bouchand went for more of a statement makeup kind of style whereas other, more reserved women wore light blush and fair or ivory foundation to appear more youthful and innocent.
Despite being famous for her singsong voice, commendable acting skills and record sized waist, Emilie Marie Bouchaud was not financially stable in the later years of her life. Due to various French tax laws and the loss of her young and fresh appeal, she struggled to secure well-paying gigs. Bouchaud died on 19th October 1939 at the age of 65 in Chamigny-sur-Marne in France and was buried in the Cimetiere du Centre in Champigny-sur-Marne.