How Did Boudoir Photography Come About?


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“Lingerie is the maximum expression of a woman’s femininity.”

~ Dolce & Gabbana



Boudoir... it’s an intriguing and pretty word to say. I’m sure that when you hear the word boudoir, the first thing that comes to mind is women in lingerie. This is the typical image that is recognized. However, when we attached this word to photography, the style of boudoir photography is so much more than being a pretty woman taking sexy pictures in lingerie.


Modern-day boudoir photography has been embraced as a form of female empowerment, sensual and sexual freedom, and celebration of the human body; but where did boudoir photography come from? To answer this, we must go back one century and also to the root of the word. Boudoir is a French word that refers to a woman’s dressing room, bedroom, or private sitting room. If we, then, attach this word to photography, we gather the understanding of a photography style that captures its subject in an intimate setting, and even vulnerable or literally and metaphorically stripped state.



Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Unsplash.com



Let’s take a step away from this modern interpretation and continue to go back in time. Before the first appearance of this word in the eighteenth century, we can see a fascination for the human body as art from ancient times. Artists and art enthusiasts alike throughout history are not unfamiliar with the captivation of creating and preserving nude art for a variety of reasons from religious to personal. Consider the classical statues of the ancient Greeks and Romans, artwork from the Renaissance period, and humanism. The human body is idolized.


So, the concept of portraying the human body for art and exhibiting nude artwork is nothing new. You don’t even flinch when you see them in renowned art museums such as The Met or De Louvre.



Birth of Venus



Now, fast forward to eighteenth-century France with the entrance of the boudoir, a private sitting room that typically came as a gift from a woman’s spouse for her to entertain friends, and of course, men were not permitted except by invitation. This place that was primarily for women somehow evolved to dawn a mystery of sexual intrigue. Personally, I suspect this may have resulted from the prevalence of a patriarchal society. A place where men can only go if invited? Certainly, they presumed more was going on.


Let’s take this idea to the 1920s where we find boudoir photography is emerging as a photo niche. The style is attributed to Albert Arthur Allen, a French artist whose subject focus was women, particularly plus size women. Unfortunately, he and his work were pressed by scandal as the boudoir style was not socially acceptable yet. Later on, it would grow popular with the desire to capture a woman’s natural beauty as opposed to the social expectation of the perfect woman’s body.



Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Unsplash.com



This popularity allows for the development of this style as we see more and more women reveling in what is essentially womanhood and femininity. The photography style expands with pin-up in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Betty Gable, a notable icon for this style, was the first person to insure a body part by insuring her legs for 1 million dollars. As time continued, numerous women help change the face of boudoir, challenging the world’s idea of what a beautiful woman looks like. No small task.


As we approach the modern era, boudoir is linked to sexual liberation, especially in regard to sexual freedom, the openness of sexuality, healthy relationships, and so on. Expressions of female sexuality had been taboo. The concept of sexual freedom had been restricted for women, and boudoir aided in normalizing female sexuality. After all, it takes two to tango and every person has a sensual side.



Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Unsplash.com



Boudoir photography became more relatable for real women overtime. That is not to say there are fake women but that the ideal form of a woman created by society did not exist in real life. No one can live up to an idolized image. Real women could connect with and show who they were through boudoir photography.


The modern woman sees herself differently. She embraces her authenticity which does not exclude her sensual side. Femininity is highlighted as a strength instead of weakness or inhibition. There are plenty of examples of women who were and are bold enough to utilize their feminine energy as a strength, such as Marilyn Monroe, Josephine Baker, Madonna, and Beyonce. They are sources of inspiration as are other women making strides in not only breaking gender norms all over the world and making the conversation of female sexuality more comfortable but exemplifying the incredible energy that is feminine.



Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Unsplash.com



Boudoir photography has helped a myriad of women view themselves in a different perspective, empowering, healing and celebrating their feminine nature. If you want to start a journey of self-appreciation, having a boudoir session will skyrocket you on your way.


Wherever you are located, I highly suggest you investigate where your boudoir photographers are, and if you’re close to Tampa, Florida, I would love to help you get you started on your personal journey or simply have a day of girl fun. A boudoir experience is like none other and if you’re interested, see how you can begin or simply take a peak with Your Dream Shoot Planner. It’s a planner, I personally created to give you the skinny on exactly what to expect on your boudoir session with me.



Get started on your boudoir journey with Your Dream Shoot Planner



Since boudoir photography became more socially acceptable in the 1970s, it has found a place in the art world, capturing real women. When you leave your boudoir session, you should be on cloud nine, knowing that how you feel and look during your session is not you sometimes, but all the time! The woman present during the boudoir session has always been there. You just have to let her out more often.



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