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What is a Boudoir?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A boudoir is a private room set aside for the use of a lady. In addition to engaging in various activities in private in a boudoir, a woman may also choose to entertain guests in her boudoir, with some boudoirs becoming social hubs. Many people associate the boudoir specifically with intimate entertaining, which explains the term “boudoir photography” to refer to a style of very stylized sensual photography, but a boudoir need not be a necessarily sultry or alluring space.

This term comes from the word bouder, which means “sulk” in French. A woman who might be feeling sulky or a bit out of sorts at a social event could retire to her boudoir or “sulking room” until she felt fit to entertain, marking the room out as a private space which other people could only enter by invitation.

Classically, the boudoir is part of a suite of rooms set aside for the use of a lady. A boudoir might simply be a sitting room, with space for entertaining guests and performing on musical instruments or working on various crafts projects, in which case the boudoir is often used for entertaining guests. Boudoirs can also take the form of dressing rooms, in which case they are laid out with the various accouterments a woman might require for dressing, ranging from a makeup table to a mirror, or a boudoir could specifically be a bedroom.

It is common to see people referring to “boudoir style” when talking about a particular style of interior decoration. Boudoir style rooms tend to be very feminine and fussy, and they often create a cluttered look and feel. While it is true that boudoirs were decorated in this style in the 17th century, this style is by no means required, and a boudoir can have any sort of interior design, from the clean lines of modern design to a classically-inspired style.

Many modern homes no longer have a space which could be considered a boudoir. Some women lament the passing of the boudoir from home design, arguing that a designated private space can be incredibly valuable to have. In some homes, people have designated a second bedroom or office as a sort of boudoir, using it as a private space to retreat to. In some cultures, the term “boudoir” has become a bit corrupted, coming to refer to a social parlor or sitting room where a woman entertains guests on a regular basis.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon333157 — On May 03, 2013

I think this is quite amusing as well as informative. How lovely having a room for which one can do various things and a room that holds everything in it, from tables, mirrors, bed, clothing and secrets. Sounds romantic. Every woman needs her boudoir space.

By aviva — On Jun 17, 2011

I've been to a boudoir photo shoot before and I must say they are extremely sensual. The photographer was very professional and the women were each dressed, or barely dressed, to perfection all the way down to their pedicures.

The entire boudoir studio was designed especially for the most feminine of women with it's feather boa's, bustiers and fabrics of silk and velvet. The furniture was Victorian with an animal printed chase lounge and ornate carvings on the make-up vanity.

This particular studio reminded me of The Lady Chablis's dressing room from the movie "The Garden of Good and Evil." It was all very glamorous and I think in it's own way the whole process sort of boosted the women's self-esteem.

By sunnySkys — On Jun 17, 2011

@indemnifyme - I wish boudoir photography would go out of fashion along with boudoirs. I've seen some boudoir portraits a few of my friends have had taken and they just looked way too cheesy! Perhaps a more dignified set of photos taken in an office would have been better.

By indemnifyme — On Jun 17, 2011

It isn't surprising boudoirs have fallen out of fashion! Sulking isn't usually considered very fashionable these days either. A lot of modern women are more interested in their careers than crafts or musical instruments. It seems like the home office has probably taken over the boudoirs place for most women.

Although I would imagine boudoir pictures are still a little more alluring than pictures taken in a home office.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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