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Nipple Tassels & Merkins – The Murky Lingerie History of Modern Glamour

Nipple tassels are currently a staple of the burlesque world, and glamorous incarnations of them can be found across the world in beautiful sequins, silks, leathers everywhere from high end boutiques to high street shops.

Agent Provocateur Exhibitionist Book – showcasing the brands famous Nipple Pasties

Meanwhile in the very bronzed streets of Essex women openly talk of ‘vajazzles’, making their bits glitter for extra glam after a wax.

Vajazzle – diamantes are a popular choice for application at a Beauty Salon

So where did these body decorations come from – are they related? And what’s the future for them?


Although less publicised, the Merkin (also known as a pubic wig) came first, but it’s origins were not of glamour. In the 1450’s poor hygiene meant women were at higher risk of pubic lice. It was not the fashion to be bare there so the wig was used to cover the baldness. Prostitutes took advantage of this practice to hide syphilis and other STI’s, meaning their source of income was not at threat by worried customers.

A sketch depicting prostitution as ‘a great social evil’

The first time they were used in a public way was on the stage – men used them to disguise themselves as women when nude (at one time only men were allowed on stage). Then it was discovered that such coverings could provide ‘decency’ to prevent prosecution from the Police – and so followed pretty nipple coverings, popularised in the 1920’s. Carrie Finnell, a little known US exotic dancer added tassels to her nipple coverings to enhance her ‘most unusual act’ in which she could independently move and twirl each breast at different speeds after having trained her pectoral muscles as a P.E. teacher. She inspired the well loved Gypsy Rose Lee to strip, and needless to say nipple tassels soared in popularity.


Carrie Finnell – ‘The Most Unusual Act in Show Business’

Modern Use

These days nipple coverings are used for the everyday; to stop nipples showing through clothes (also known as breast petals), as an alternative to sunbathing topless, and in Hollywood films to cover a stars real assets. The most popular form of use though is in burlesque which has helped them to our personal lingerie drawers too.

Nipple Petals

Merkins have also had some sort of revival, although with a largely kitsch reputation they are often used in the burlesque and lingerie world to match the beautiful nipple tassels we are now adorning ourselves with. There is also the body jewellery/vajazzle update. No wig – just pretty décor.

Should I wear them?

Yes! Though the modern day vajazzle can come with a somewhat brash reputation, nipple tassels & matching merkins can make an exciting change to your lingerie drawer and are sure to please. Here are some fun and exciting ideas for you to try!

Hot Cakes – Why not try wearing this set by Bad Biscuit under your apron when doing some baking? Sure to put a smile on your partners face!

 Cupcake Pasties & Merkin set by Bad Biscuit

Bird of Paradise – For an exotic touch wear this peacock set by Gaby Kennedy with some high heels – it won’t fail to command attention.

Peacock Merkin set by Gabby Kennedy

Peacock Merkin set by Gabby Kennedy

Agent Provocateur also do a beautiful range of nipple pasties and tassels.

Inspired? You can also make your own! Try Youtube for inspiration.

Have you tried these? Do you think they have a proper place in our lingerie drawers or should be left to the stage? Please share your thoughts below.

About The Author


Agent Hourglass is a size 10-12, 30G everywoman going undercover for undies on behalf of the nation. Obsessed since gaining a feminine figure at 15, this love affair with lingerie is set to continue!

Number of Entries : 26

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