Nose Shapers, 1920s

Detail of ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec 1921.

My local newspaper regularly runs large ads from a plastic surgery clinic, showing before and after photos. The ads that annoy me the most are ones suggesting that a tiny, turned-up nose on women is preferable to an “ethnic” nose — regardless of how it would relate to her other features.

This focus on the “perfect” nose isn’t new. I found ads for two competing “nose shapers” in the same issue of this Motion Picture Magazine from December, 1921.

Which is the “Before” and which is the “After?” Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, Dec. 1921.

Other ads for the Trilety Nose Shaper clarify the problem: Pug noses were not in fashion with M. Trilety.

Ad from Motion Pictures Magazine, 1923. (To be fair, actor Michael Caine*** has also advised that no one wants to see inside your nostrils in a close-up on the giant screen.)

Trilety nose shaper ad, Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

The Anita Nose Adjuster was not specifically concerned with pug noses:

Anita Nose Adjuster ad, December 1921. Motion Pictures Magazine.

“Refined features attract; misshapen features repel. Such is nature’s law. If your nose is ill-shaped, you can make it perfect with ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER. In a few weeks in the privacy of your own home and without interfering with your daily occupation, ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER shapes while you sleep — quickly, painlessly, permanently and inexpensively. There are many inferior imitations, but the ANITA NOSE ADJUSTER is the ORIGINAL and ONLY comfortable adjuster highly recommended by physicians for fractured or mis-shaped noses. Write to-day for free booklet, “Happy Days Ahead.” No obligations.


Another Trilety ad from Motion Picture Magazine, 1923.

More from the “How the Shape of My Nose Delayed My Success” Trilety Nose Shaper ad, 1923.

Model 25 “has six adjustable pressure regulators, is made of light polished metal, is firm and fits every nose comfortably. The inside is upholstered with a fine chamois skin and no metal parts come in contact with the skin. Thousands of unsolicited Testimonials ….”

It’s incredible how long this company lasted, considering its offer of “your money refunded if you are not satisfied.”

One of the concepts that got me through my teen years was the realization that there is a difference between being pretty and being beautiful. The bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin shows a woman who is beautiful by the standards of almost any nation and era.  Many girls are pretty, at least for a brief time when they have youth and health working for them. But mere prettiness is much more common than beauty, which may require a certain amount of maturity and experience of life. Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn were inspiring to me in the 1960s, because they were beautiful, rather than pretty. They didn’t have blonde hair or tiny, turned-up noses, or perfectly regular features. They were not “cute.” Neither was Greta Garbo. Maybe confidence, and feeling comfortable being who you are, is more important than trying to conform to “the norm.” Josephine Baker from St. Louis, MO, made herself the most glamourous woman in Paris — couturiers sent her free dresses and begged her to wear them.  Would Frida Kahlo have been more beautiful with a tiny nose and plucked eyebrows?

*** Sir Michael Caine has written more than one book about acting on film, as well as making an entertaining Video in which he explains why a simple thing like smoking a cigarette while delivering lines in a movie is much harder than you’d think.


Filed under 1920s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

12 responses to “Nose Shapers, 1920s

  1. marijo1951

    I agree with you about Audrey Hepburn. I love the film ‘Roman Holiday’ mainly because of the wonderful pairing of male and female beauty in Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. I was once lucky enough to see it it on the big screen which made it even more pleasurable to watch.

    As for the nose shapers, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry!

    • If you have not seen Charade recently, treat yourself to one of the best comedy romance suspense movies ever, with Cary Grant and clothes by Givenchy and beautiful Paris in the sixties…. We could all use some escapism right now.

      • marijo1951

        You’re right – another one that I love, silly though it is! Cary Grant was such a combination of face, body and voice. I had a big disappointment a few years ago when I was meant to go over to Bristol (I live in London) for a ‘Looking for Archie: Cary Grant walking tour’. Sadly I had to miss it because I became ill!

  2. how wonderful it would be if one day everyone could feel beautiful…because so much of beauty is in character. and because standards of beauty change over time, and from place to place; and as you observe, one may be conventionally pretty, yet not beautiful! no single type of face or body has a lock on ‘beautiful’…everyone is lovely in his/her own way. those plastic surgery ads are horrible, predatory things, the nose shapers of our day. such a pity that we are subjected to images for products or services that make us question our own innate beauty.

  3. But ……did they work? It would be interesting to know. And I have to say I had a friend in high school who had broken her nose, and she was very good looking but her nose was truly awful. When she got out of HS and had a job, she had it fixed. I would have done the same. There are times ……
    bonnie in provence

    • Repairing damage to look like yourself again is quite different from trying to look like somebody you saw in a movie or a magazine. Too often people think that changing their body will solve all their problems, and have surgery after surgery. Sometimes showing a genuine interest in other people will make a person more attractive than a nose job. As you pointed out, there’s not one rule for every case.

  4. ceci

    Oh, ick! Now, if I could get my nose to run less – but I gather that is actually healthful as long as I keep the product to myself.


  5. Joyce

    Oh my!!! Not one for me

  6. This is an overdue note to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog and your devotion to the details of fashion. Took me a while to understand how the “roaring 20s” didn’t have everyone suddenly shortening their skirts! As a paper doll collector who loves finding old paper dolls that illustrate those subtleties of fashion evolution, I think you might enjoy browsing this site for the work of Tom Tierney and others:

    • I am a stranger to the world of paper dolls — Thank you for the kind words. Paper doll books by modern illustrators don’t get much respect from historians because they are secondary sources, and consequently tend to change details, faces and body shapes to conform to our modern ideas of beauty. Purists like me only trust “Primary sources” — illustrations done at the time the fashions were originally worn. On the other hand, it’s good when artists like Tierney find work! And make many people happy. I was just thinking about a book I want to write about: Seeing Through Clothes, by Anne Hollander. I’ve bought it many times and always end up giving it to someone who hasn’t yet read it. She is an art historian who shows how much contemporary fashions have always influenced artists — even when they are drawing from life, the shape of an 1840s corset or a bulging late medieval gown or the unnaturally high bust of an 18th century corset or big-bellied 17th century stomachers will seep into their idea of beauty and shape their female nudes. (All those examples are different paintings of the three graces….) It’s almost impossible to draw fashions from other eras without modernizing them. Fascinating book!

  7. halsey

    There’s a PG Wodehouse book (Summer Moonshine from 1937) which has a plot point about a woman using a nose shaper to “fix” her nose turning up at the tip and hiding the fact from her fiancé.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.