The History of Boudoir

In a world that distorts women’s bodies at every turn, giving rise to devastating and self-esteem destroying self-image issues, boudoir photography stands out for its unapologetic celebration of real women’s bodies.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.”  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


By all means, boudoir is a present-day hot-topic. Stepping into its well-earned position as one of the most respected and coveted genres of photography – it would be easy to think it was always this way. However, boudoir has a past, and it’s a multi-faceted, oft-controversial one that meaningfully runs alongside women’s drive to be free. So, buckle up; we’re getting historical!

Pre-photography boudoir

As with most sophisticated, charming things that combine seduction and empowerment while bucking all trends, boudoir has its roots in France. The word “boudoir” is French in origin and is derived from the French verb bouder (to sulk.) The boudoir became a room where women could withdraw while sulking. Or, in other words, to retreat for a few minutes of peace. During this time, photography was a rarity, and nudity was essentially illegal – not good news for boudoir.

The 1920s

Enter cameras. And alongside them – a revolution. The era is the roaring 20s. The scene in France (where else,) the man is Albert Arthur Allen, and nude photography is still illegal. Still, Allen is an intrepid artiste, intent on changing the course of photography and women’s body image as we know it. And, laws are only a suggestion to him.

Pulling back the boudoir curtain, Allen stepped within and dared to photograph scandalously curvy women posing even more scandalously in front of ornate backdrops. Little does he know, his daring move has laid the groundwork for what is to become a 21st-century photography phenomenon.

The 1940s

Fast-forward to the 1940s, and boudoir is really coming into its stride. Maintaining a revolutionary ‘feel,’ Delightfully curvy pin-up girls are a regular in front of the boudoir lens. They pose in bizarrely beautiful and enjoyably countercultural get-ups, with corsets and men’s ties being a popular combo.

The 1970s

The next significant change in the evolution of boudoir took place in the 1970s, about the time when photography began to carve a niche for itself in the professional “art world.” The era of bra-burning and liberation, a lot of what had been hush-hush, was coming to the forefront. Society could no longer deny that women actually *gasp* had bodies. And, what’s more – they wanted to reclaim control of them. So, what once had been only drawings of women in publications became actually photographs of real women. as opposed to And, as the vision of the female form became more prolific, boudoir photography became significantly more acceptable.

So what about today?

Once an ‘underground’ activity, boudoir photography has become a popular add-on for wedding photographers! In pursuit of marking the special occasion, Brides take part in wedding-themed boudoir sessions, featuring tastefully poised veils, suggestive garters, and generally all things nuptials!

What’s more, boudoir hasn’t slowed down when it comes to appreciating the female form and debunking photoshopped or altered ideals. In fact, it’s a modern-day beacon of self-appreciation and empowerment for women worldwide. Nowadays, however, the profile of the average boudoir subject has changed. Incredibly versatile and diverse, women from all walks of life, shapes, sizes, and for various reasons decide to take on boudoir.

Finally … 

Boudoir has come a long way from its under wraps past. All the twists and turns along the way have led to the boudoir photography that we know and love for its acceptance, charm, and luxury. So, why not become part of history and partake in a boudoir session of your own? Many women before you have paved the way, enjoying the thrilling and intoxicating sense that arises from daring to bare and love yourself – enjoy!

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About Couture Boudoir

Critsey Rowe, Couture Boudoir’s photographer, is an experienced, internationally published, and respected boudoir photographer who has dedicated her career to helping women feel comfortable and beautiful. With the help of female-only assistants and stylists, Critsey celebrates the uniqueness and intimate beauty of every client and takes truly flattering, tasteful, and gorgeous boudoir photographs.