Whale-boned corsets were the only acceptable way for a lady to be presented which were very uncomfortable and like many fashions even today were not designed for a naturally well endowed female. Polly planned on wearing a sheer gown that didn’t fit quite right with a traditional corset so she had her maid take two silk handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon to create the very first brassiere. Unlike the other bra-like inventions at the time this was soft and did more flattening than flattering and naturally separated rather than pushing together. However, it did complement the fashions at the time. A patent was issued to her on November 3, 1914 for a “Backless Brassiere” Polly married Richard Peabody, and declared on May 19, 1920 that she was a married woman conducting a business using separate funds from her husband’s account. She later sold the patent to The Warner Brothers Corset Company, and they made much more than she ever did.
Her marriage to Richard was not a happy one. After World War I ended he was a drunk and was in and out of treatment facilities. At age 28 while her husband was in treatment she was asked to be a chaperone for a dinner and trip to an amusement park by Harry Crosby’s mother. Harry was a recent Harvard graduate and within two hours of meeting fell in love with Polly. She was six years older, married, and the mother of two small children. They soon had an affair that led to her divorce. All three families were members of society and were scandalized by the divorce, so Polly and Harry left Boston moved to New York City and then Paris.
Harry began cheating on Polly even before he got to Paris. Soon their life of glamour and luxury led to an open marriage. Polly changed her name to Caresse, upon Harry’s request. However, they had a suicide pact where they would jump out of a plane on October 31, 1942 when the earth would be the closest to the sun over several decades. They would then be cremated and ashes disposed by another plane. Possibly not the healthiest of relationships.
Together Harry and Caresse created Black Sun Press which began publishing their poetry. It became one of the most important small presses in Paris in the 1920s by publishing some of the first works from authors such has James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, and Ernest Hemingway.
In July 1928 Harry met a soon to be wed Josephine, and began a love affair. Once she was married the affair ended only reunite about a year later. In December Harry and Josephine were found dead together – unsure if it was a murder/suicide or a suicide pact.
Caresse continued to run the Black Sun Press, and even tries acting. In 1934 she had an affair with Canada Lee, a black actor/boxer from 1934 though the mid-1940s not caring they were breaking miscegenation laws.
During this time in Hollywood she met Selbert “Bert” Saffold Young. He was eighteen years her junior and had been a football player and now an unemployed actor. She bought a farm in Virginia to please him. He was usually drunk and infrequently home. In 1950 she divorced Bert.
In the end she is also known for writing pornography, being a political activist, opened Washington D.C.’s only modern art gallery in the 1940s and was friends with Salvador Dali and Henry Miller. She wanted to create a “world community” which the organizations known as Women Against War and Citizens of the World. In the end she started an artist’s community 43 miles north of Rome. With the purchase of the land she acquired the title Princess.
January 1970 at age 78 Caresse died from pneumonia in Rome after having experimental open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic.