The Nose Ring Fad: 1913

Mlle. Polaire [Émilie Marie Bouchaud] and her nose ring.

Mlle. Polaire [Émilie Marie Bouchaud] and her nose ring.


By Gene Morgan

Mary had a little ring.

It sure set off her clothes,

And everywhere that Mary went

She wore it in her nose!

Mrs. Grundy, society’s leading shock absorber, is due to get shocked again. This time it’s not the tango nor the shadowgraph skirt.

It’s the nose ring!

Naturally the mode originated in Gayparee, France. The principal exponent of the nose ring, its most successful booster, is Mlle. Polaire.

Polaire is the party with the $50,000 temperament and the two-bit waistline, who was billed in New York last year as the ugliest actress in the world. She was so ugly, declared her advance agent, that she was positively fascinating. So everybody flocked to see her, and when she counted her percentage of the gate money she expressed herself in perfect French as follows;

“Gee, it’s great to be hidjus!”

During her Yankee engagement Polaire introduced the fad of wearing yellow face powder. As a matter of fact, yellow face powder was an original American novelty, having been worn by Sioux chieftains when Carlisle college was nothing but a college yell. But, anyhow, Polaire revived it so successfully that New York women would have nothing in complexion tints but the yaller flavor.

With this and their penciled eye-brows a lot of Gotham belles looked like blonde Chink ladies.

If Polaire could introduce the ochre map dust with such striking ease, I bet her victory with the nose ring will be swift and decisive. Jewelers will be besieged by fashion’s slaves, eager to be outfitted with the ornament heretofore indigenous to Kaffir belles and prize hogs.

The nose is not pierced to accommodate the new nasal hoop. So quell your piercing screams, Nanette. The ring clinches the division between the two nostrils and hangs on the upper lip. All the finest gold models are quite tiny. Our American spirit of excess may increase the diameter of the rings until the Miss Dinerout will have to act haughtily and hold up her head so that no spinach will cling to the ornament.

He bought a nice engagement ring.

But Love was forced to linger.

He has not dared since to propose,

For should he place it on her nose

Or hang it on her finger?

Nose rings might prove a boon to shoppers if the trinkets were made large enough and strong enough. A tired bargain hunter might attach her handbag to the ring and have all of her arms for the parcels. Besides, having the mesh bag out there in front would mean having her purse under her nose all the time.

Husbands of prominent suffragettes are looking forward to the nose-ring style with impatient eagerness. It will be easy then to lead around their wives at the end of a string in spite of shrieks and protests.

Ye-e-e-e-es, it will!

Has the nose ring appeared already in this city? I want to know.

And will anyone who knows, ring?

The Day Book [Chicago, IL] 1913

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is rarely shocked by fashion trends, but even she reeled momentarily at the illustration. The fascinatingly repulsive Mlle. Polaire claimed to be striking a blow for women with this fashion. She framed the fad in terms of a protest against the “suffragism fetish,” which, subversively, gives power back to women.

“Men, the enemy, if not always positively stupid, are at least slow of perception. They might not accept the figurative wearer on the strength of her truly feminine aspect and methods, but if the ring is there, in material substance, it amounts to a confession which they cannot misunderstand, or minimize the sincerity of its wearer. It is as though the woman were to say:

“’Behold! I admit my subservient state. You are the master! Lead me whither thou wilt!’

“Do not mistake, my sisters, there lies our real power, as of yore. Once men are satisfied that we desire them to lead us, all their defenses are down; we may do with and to, them as we will–and as we have done for centuries until, with incredible folly, some of us sought to force ourselves into vainglorious, ostensible ‘equality.’”

“In order to continue to lead men around by their noses all we have to do is to meekly wear rings in our own.”

The Times Dispatch [Richmond, VA] 5 October 1913: p. 57

Mlle. Polaire was a provocative figure in fin de siècle Paris. She was noted for her very tight-lacing–her waist was said to be 16 inches–for her heavy black eye-makeup, and for travelling with a young African servant she called her “slave.” One observer said she trembled like a stuck wasp when she danced.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.


4 thoughts on “The Nose Ring Fad: 1913

  1. Pingback: Badges for Bachelors: 1912 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: Polaire – Ambassadors of Singularity by Decimononic

  3. Pingback: The Mismatch Fad: 1912 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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