Boudoir Dolls

Hi everyone and welcome to the Boudoir doll section.

I love these dolls and I am in the process of creating my very first 'Boudoir Doll'
I am quite excited and wanted to share some information with you x

All picture sources can be found HERE

Down the ages, dolls have normally been associated with children. They were made as playthings, particularly for little girls. 
This idea extended to "big" girls (grown-up ladies) just before World War I, when Paul Poiret, 
the Parisian couturier suggested all fashionable women 
should carry dolls.
At the very least, Poiret said, 
ladies of social standing should have fashionably dressed dolls gracing their boudoirs or as ornaments in their drawing rooms - surprisingly the idea caught on.

After being introduced at the Paris fashion show in 1910, 
where Poiret’s models paraded cradling in their arms these long legged dolls with adult looking features and dressed in matching fashion clothes, the Boudoir Doll became all the rage, 
and by the 1920s were popular in England, 
Germany and the United States. 

They were posed on sofas and chairs, 
draped on beds and carried as mascots at balls, 
dances and social events. 
The wealthy even took them when they went motoring 
or for a flip in that new mode of transport - the aeroplane.

They were seen in window displays of big department stores all dressed in outfits matching those on the life size models. 
They became known by a variety of names - art doll, sofa doll, bed or boudoir dolls, and in America, vamps and flappers.

Once these dolls became a commercial fashion whim, 
they fell into the category of a novelty to be discarded when fashions changed or women tired of them. 
As a result many of these dolls were cheaply made, 
usually with bodies of butter muslin or cheap cotton, 
straw stuffed or filled with kapok or sawdust. 
The lower parts of the arms and legs were more often than not made of plaster composition and painted flesh pink. 
The feet were modelled and high heeled shoes painted on in gold or black. Often the finger nails were gold-painted too.
Some of the dolls had pressed fabric heads with silk or muslin covered face masks, painted eyes and silky eyelashes, 
while others had heads of thin moulded cardboard covered with painted stockingette, suedette or cotton. 
The "hair" was either a wig of mohair or made of black silk thread. The blondes very often wore their hair in "earphones" 
made out of shiny platinum coloured thread. 
Each reflected the fashion trend prevalent at the time.

Boudoir dolls were made by a number of firms whose wares were unmarked. However, in the late 1920s Dean's 
(who specialized in Rag books for small children) included 'Smart Set' dolls in their range, among them a Duchess with a lorgnette and dressed in a leopard skin coat. 
The Chad Valley Company in the early 1930s introduced 
"Carnival Dolls" dressed in Pierot costume; 
these they described in adverts as "
a Sofa Doll for the sophisticated Miss of 1935, 
coldly disdainful or bewitchingly inviting."

Although these dolls originated in France, 
doll-makers in Germany and elsewhere in Europe manufactured the Boudoir type as did those in North America. 
Occasionally, one finds a model wearing an original outfit with a maker's tab sewn to the sole of the foot.

It is generally accepted that the earlier Boudoirs with long eyelashes of real hair set into a slit over the eyes, 
and those with silk stockingette faces and plaster combination limbs, are French. 

The Italian Lenci made "Personality Doll" of the 1920s 
was described by "Play Things" magazine as 
"being real works of art created by Italian artists and having true-to-life expressions of the face." 
They were made of material that was impossible to break and they wore striking original costumes.

The Lenci company was famous for these dolls in the years between the two World Wars. 
They were dressed in a variety of styles and wore clothes of bright colours. Lenci also made Indians and cowboys for the American market.

One sure way of identifying a Lenci doll is by the zigzag seam 
at the back of the neck. 
The fashion for the long-legged flapper dolls, 
as they are commonly called, had completely died by the beginning of the World War 2. 

A few were reintroduced in the 1960s in plastic, but interest in such novelties was over. 
In the late 1930s, the same heads were used in full skirted dolls for telephone covers or pajama cases.

Flappers and Their Dolls

In the 20s and 30's flapper girls were often seen in movies and photos of the day holding their boudoir dolls, 
or posing with their dolls promnently on display. 

Many of those old photos survive, some of the pictures are risque, but still tame by todays standards, of girls in their silk lounge wear posing with their dolls. 
A look at the collectibles section on eBay usually turns up a few examples, and Collectors of Boudior dolls like to collect some to display with their doll collection.

The Flappers of the 1920's loved their boudoir dolls and took them everywhere with them. 
Flapper girls dressed up their own boudoir dolls in flapper style, from scraps of material, feathers and lace. 
They could buy a ready made boudior doll to dress up, 
doll manufacturers were quick to pick up on the trend. 

The Lenci company of Turin, founded in 1919 produced high quality felt dolls and their much sought after Lenci Fadette of 1922 was one of the first smoker dolls to appear on the market.

Boudoir Dolls, Bed Dolls, Flapper Dolls or Sofa Dolls as they are referred too, were used to decorate "beds & sofas", 
which is where they got their name.  

These dolls were not meant to be played with, but to be displayed or as decoration, which todaywe have replaced with a mountain of pillows.   

Made from about 1915 to the 1930's, these dolls usually have cloth bodies with elongated legs, heads can be of various materials; composition, mask faced, often with painted facial features, 
some have partial composition limbs which will help with dating.  Clothing can be very elaborate and of high quality material, 
(it's the clothing that matters the most on these dolls - if the clothing is missing they lose about half of their value) 
and many have high heel feet. 

Some doll makers of boudoir dolls; 

Adler, Ernst Alart, Alma Doll Co., American Stuffed Novelty, American Wholesale Corp., Anita, Arrow Doll Wig Co., Austin Gray, Baltimore Bargain House, Beaux Art Shade Co., William P. Beers & Co., Bloom, Blossom, Blum Lustig, Bon Marche department stores, Butler Brothers, Calvare, Chad Valley Co., Hilda Cowham, Eisen, W. R.  Ekart, England Art Toy, Etta, European Novelty, Flapper Novelty, Fleishman, Gerling, Gerzon Co., Charles F. Gibson, Goldberger (Eegee), Heho Art Dolls, Hollywood Imps, Kat-a-Korner Kompany, Victor Keney (Keeneye), Konroe Merchants, Lady Godwyn, Lenci, Levallois, H. Josef Leven, Mizpah Toy & Novelty, Claire Morris of LA, Munich Art Dolls, Mutual Novelty, Paramount Doll Co., Erma Petzgold, Pierrot and Pierette, Erma Pinner, Paul Poiret, Pollyanna Doll Co., Pompeian Art Works, Sanlys, Sterling Doll Co., T. A. F., Unique Novelty Doll Co., Nora Wellings, Ethel Westwood, and probably others.

Materials For Boudoir Dolls:

These dolls have been made with a wide variety of materials.
Heads are most commonly made of composition.
Many of the French Boudoir Dolls were made with silk.
Some dolls have papier mache faces, and some have faces made of cloth. Bodies of Boudoir Dolls are most commonly made of cloth, sometimes with composition lower limbs or molded shoes.


Composition Doll were made of sawdust mixed with a staying agent like starch or sugar water and placed in a mold until hardened.
The two halves were then sealed together with glue.
Spackling was used on the sides of the heads to "smooth" out the cracks. The parts were then dipped in paint, sometimes in a base coat first and sometimes several times.  After they dried, the features were hand painted.
This media is probably one of the most unstable media there is. Wood contracts and expands with the climate and the paint can only lasts so long. Consequently, depending on the environment of the doll, the condition of this doll can deteriorate rather quickly.

As time went on, the transition was made to hard plastic so sometimes you will see a doll with a composition head and hard plastic arms and feet. The bodies can be made of muslin, gauze, felt, flannel, velvet, corduroy or cotton fabric and stuffed with straw, excelsior, sawdust, kapok, cotton batting,
or lint and string from the floor.
Originally, clothing and head ware were stapled or nailed directly onto the doll.

Hair/Wig Condition?

What is the hair made out of?
Does it have a wig cap, simply glued on or is it rooted.
Most of these dolls originally had wigs made from either, mohair, human hair or silk strands.

Later, on the plastic and vinyl head dolls,
you may find rooted synthetic hair.
Usually, the hair was stitched on to a piece of fabric or tape and then glued and nailed onto the head.
Many times there was hair only around the face in the front with a hat to cover the bald back.

Composition is generally a mixture of glue mixed with sawdust. Heavier and denser than paper mache, composition is easily molded and is thus an excellent material to make doll heads. 

Composition was used to make doll bodies for many years, 
from approximately the late 1870s, long before it was widely used to make doll heads. 
Since the material a doll head is made from determines the type of doll, only dolls with heads made of composition are referred to as composition dolls.

Composition dolls were made from approximately 1909 
through the early 1950s. 
The height of the market for composition dolls was the 1920s through the 1940s. 
Today, only the rare reproduction or art doll is made of composition today.

In short, hard plastic caused the demise of composition dolls. 
In the late 1940s companies finally created the first truly unbreakable doll out of hard plastic. 

Composition dolls, especially those with a heavily sealed or lacquered finish, are especially prone to fine cracks, called crazing. The crazing is cause by changes in moisture and temperature. Because so many of these dolls have crazed over the years, light crazing on a composition doll is acceptable to collectors. 

Make-up 1920s

Eyes: 1920’s
The eye make up of the 1920’s was dark and dramatic, 
the eyelids were covered with a dark eyeshadow such as grey or green, this was applied liberally and heavily.

Kohl was then a mixture of soot, lead and goose fat and was applied all around the eye and smudged outwards.
Mascara was also applied, but in the 20’s it came in a block form, 
it had to be heated up and applied with a stick or wand. 
In fact the mascara in tubes that we know and love today was not invented until the 1950’s.

False eyelashes were also popular in the 20’s, 
they were applied and then styled with mascara.
To achieve a 1920’s look, first start by applying foundation over your eyelids, this gives a nice even base for your eyeshadow. 
Apply a grey shadow all over your eyelid and blend slightly upwards into the crease.

Draw a line in pencil eyeliner along your top and bottom lashes, make it nice and thick, don’t worry about keeping a neat line.
 Smudge it outwards all around your eye, for a wider eyed, 
more dramatic effect, make sure you smudge the line out further at the bottom and top outer corners of your eye.
Apply mascara liberally to your top and bottom lashes, if you are using false lashes; apply them to your top lashes only.

Face Powder: 1920’s
Prior to the 1920’s face powder had been very pale and pasty, 
but with the changes in social attitudes it was now more socially acceptable to be outdoors. 

Colours were now much more natural than the previous muted ivories and pale whites that were available.

Blusher/rouge: 1920’s.
Blusher was known as rouge in the 20’s and came in many forms, powders, creams, liquids and even papers were used to add colour to the cheeks.
Powder form eventually became the most popular, 
it was applied to the face with a brush but not blended so a visible circle was left giving a doll like appearance.

By the middle of the 1920’s orange was the most popular colour of rouge,  apply only to the apples of the cheeks in a circle. 
If you don’t like the idea of having orange cheeks, 
stick with darker colours such as rose.

Lips: 1920’s.
Lips were an incredibly important part of the make up of the 1920’s and the key to the look.
Many women would line their lips in liquid rouge to give a more dramatic effect and so that they could re draw the shape.

Red lipstick was really the only colour that was available, it came in a few different shades and was applied to the upper lip and taken slightly above the natural lip line, 
the same was done with the bottom lip.

In the early 20’s the lips were not coloured right into the corners of the mouth, instead the colour stopped quite dramatically.

In the later 20’s lips were coloured right into the corners of the mouth and the colour on the top lip was taken above the lip line either side of the cupids bow and the middle was left uncoloured, giving the look that the lip was kind of split in half.
Line lips in a colour that is close to the lipstick colour, 
not your lip colour. Apply lipstick colour, 
but don’t apply colour near the corners of  mouth.

Or  line the lips, taking the colour past the natural lip line, 
over emphasise the tips of the cupids bow, but leave the middle. Add colour all over the lips and keep to the lines you have drawn.

I hope you found this information as interesting as I did :0)

love & light


Maria said...

What a beautiful post, i learned so much!! Thanks

jasmoonbutterfly said...

Hi Maria :0)
I am so pleased it was interesting to read. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment - its much appreciated, hugs Trace x

lvroftiques said...

Hi Tracey! I don't know why it took me so long to find your blog.... crazy boudoir doll nut that I am *winks* I know I'm late to the party, but I really enjoyed this article and learned so much! Thank you for sharing in your knowledge. I will be doing a post in the next few weeks on my small collection... (My first post in months) I'd love if you stopped by! I'm obsessed with these cuties!Lol! Vanna (Vanna H on pinterest)

Bohemian said...

I Adore Boudoir Dolls... and the Frau Wulf Vintage Images are Amazing!

Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

jasmoonbutterfly said...

Glad you found me ladies :) I am in the process of making my first boudoir doll via a vintage pattern. She is 29" made with cloth & clay. Yes Frau Wulf's blog is a must for anyone loving this style of doll. Love & light to you both xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi, Trace -

Sending a little love and encouragement - Thank you so much for compiling all these spectacular pictures and great information. This is the very best post I have come across on Boudoir dolls and I share the link with doll enthusiasts worldwide. The fairy music is lovely and sometimes I just let it play all day in the background.

Blessings always,

Maria Elena

jasmoonbutterfly said...

Blessings Maria :o)
You're more than welcome. I'm really happy that you feel that way about the post and enjoy the music. Lovely of you to stop and make a comment. Take care.
Love and light, Trace

Judy said...

I owned 2 original Boudouir dolls, the faces are crazed badly and I don't know how to repair them, but I still love them. Your post was so full of information on how and what they used. I enjoyed it. I do hope you show us the doll you made, and maybe the steps on how we can make or repair the faces, Thank You, Judy

Flappergal60 said...

Hi Tracey,
I love this wonderful piece you wrote about our beloved, mysterious and beautiful Boudoir Dolls.
Do you have or know someone that sells a pattern/instructions how to make a silk thread boudoir doll wig? If so, I am interested in purchasing one.
Thank you.
Kind regards,

Unknown said...

Hello. Just found your blog while doing a search on boudoir dolls. My mom has one but it's in need of repair. No clothing either, unfortunately. I'm thinking of repairing and restoring the doll, or at least make some clothing for it. My mom said her cousin won it for her at a fair, when she was between 5 and 10 years old. That places the age around mid 1940s. Just wondering what I should do and if you have suggestions? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have some that was my mothers that I would like to sell she collected all kinds of dolls over 50 yrs or more