Chapter Nine: Boudoir Caps Now & References

By the 1930s the boudoir cap had shrunk in size and exposed more hair than in the 1920s. In November of 1930 the Manchester Guardian predicted that the boudoir cap “is coming in again” and informed their readers about future trends like the use of white velvet (Manchester Guardian, 24 Nov 1930, 6). But the paper did not mention boudoir caps in any of the following years and Mannin also recalls that “that absurdity didn’t follow us into the Thirties” (Mannin, 70).

It was towards the end of the period that even Vogue itself appears to try and stop the ‘mad cap’ madness it so heavily contributed to in earlier years. In 1926 it included the boudoir cap in their ‘Six Worst Christmas Presents’ and even joked that wearing it could cause divorces. The article closed with the statement that “the number of people who think they are giving lace boudoir caps as Christmas presents to their friends, whereas, in reality, they are giving them divorces, is too colossally fatiguing to consider.” (Vogue (New York), Dec 15, 1926, 49). By the 1950s the style had become strongly associated with the 1920s as is visible in the BBC show’s ‘A time to remember’ ‘1920-1929’ episode. There, a young woman wearing a boudoir cap is shown sitting at her vanity to demonstrate to viewers how different life had been 30 years ago.

Caps and nets worn to protect the hair and preserve hairstyles over-night, nonetheless, stayed in use throughout the remaining twentieth century. Nowadays satin-lined caps for example continue to be popular among women with curly hair and are worn as a protective style at night.

Pale blue silk boudoir cap with ribbonwork and lace, c. 1920s, GB. The Underpinnings Museum. Photo by Tigz Rice

Pale Blue Silk Boudoir Cap With Silk Ribbonwork & Lace Trim

Date:  c. 1920s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Silk

Brand: Custom made


A boudoir cap made of pale blue silk crêpe. The silk is gathered into a circular panel at the crown and lightly shirred to achieve its fit. It is profusely embellished with a range of techniques: a machine needle lace is appliquéd in angular panels, with a ruffled leavers lace trim following the angles of the panel. Silk ribbonwork rosettes are applied symmetrically across the front of the cap.

Lace & Celanese Boudoir Cap With Floral Trims, c. 1930s, Great Britain. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice.

Lace & Celanese Boudoir Cap With Floral Trims

Date: c. 1930s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Celanese Rayon

Brand: Unknown


A boudoir cap made of fine machine lace and pale pink ‘celanese’, a type of branded rayon produced by the company British Celanese (the name comes from a contraction of ‘celluloid’ and ‘ease’; rayon is a cellulose based fibre). Celanese was marketed as an affordable and easy to care for alternative to silk. The boudoir cap is embellished with satin ribbon trims and silk ribbonwork rosettes.

Rayon Satin & Silk Ribbonwork Boudoir Cap, c. 1920s, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Rayon Satin & Silk Ribbonwork Boudoir Cap

Date: c.1920s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Rayon satin, Schiffli embroidered tulle, lace trim, silk ribbon

Brand: Custom made

This boudoir cap has a base of pale pink rayon satin, with machine embroidered cotton tulle at the crown and encircling the head. The base of the cap has a panel of plain cotton tulle, trimmed with a narrow leavers lace and peach satin bows. The cap is embellished with intricate ribbonwork at the front of the garment: peach ruffles are interspersed with multicoloured rosettes.

Lace & Silk Ribbonwork Boudoir Cap With Eau-De-Nil Bow, c. 1920s, UK. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Lace Ruffle & Floral Rosette Boudoir Cap

Date:c. 1920s

Origin: Great Britain

Fabric: Lace & silk ribbon

Brand: Custom made


This boudoir cap is made from a base of machine embroidered lace and trimmed with a narrow leavers lace. It is embellished with lavish ribbonwork. Pale blue silk ribbon encircles the cap in a delicate ruffle. One side of the head is decorated with multicoloured silk rosettes, and the other has an oversized silk bow.

In the 1920s when simple and streamlined lingerie designs dominated, boudoir caps maintained an Edwardian-style visual language of light-coloured lace frills and ruffles. They signalised that the wearer was not a girl but a woman and accordingly bestowed respectability upon her. Through their feminine attributes the boudoir cap possessed a carefully measured dose of sex appeal and was able to transform any simple bedroom into a boudoir.

With thanks to the Garden City Collection for generously allowing our use of their images within this exhibition.

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– Barker, Lady, The Bedroom and Boudoir, part of the Art at Home series, Macmillan and Co., London, 1878

– Bayard, Madame Marie, The Art of Beauty or Lady’s Companion to the Boudoir. Embracing the Art of Dress – Hair and Hair-Dressing – the Skin and Complexion – Preservation of the Teeth, Hints on the Hand, Face, and Eyes – Preparation and Use of Cosmetics – Perfumes, Pomades and Powders p Reliable Recipes and Remedies for Personal Defects; and practical help in all the requirements of a Lady’s Toilet, Weldon & Co., 15 Wine Office Court Fleet Street, E.C., London, 1876

– de Wolfe, Elsie, The House in Good Taste: Design Advice from America’s First Interior Decorator, 1913

– Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn, Cranford, Electric Book Co., London, 2001 (originally published in 1853)

– Glyn, Elinor, The Visits of Elizabeth, J. Lane, New York, 1901

– Mannin, Ethel, Young in the twenties: a chapter of autobiography, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1971

– Pritchard, Mrs Eric, The Cult of Chiffon (1902)

– The Manchester Guardian, 12 Mar 1924; 13 Sep 1927; 24 Nov, 1930

The Times of India, 30 Oct 1926

– BBC series ‘Time to remember’, Reel 1 ‘1920-1929’

– Vogue, New York, Jan 1, 1912; Nov 1, 1913; Dec 15, 1926

– Zola, Emile, Ein Blattt Liebe, Winkler Verlag München, München, 1975 (originally published in 1878)


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– Ofek, Galia, Representations of Hair in Victorian Literature and Culture, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, 2009

– Probert, Christina, Lingerie in Vogue Since 1910, Thames and Hudson, London, 1981

– Steele, Valerie, ‘The Corset: Fashion and Eroticism’, Fashion Theory, 3:4, p.449-473

– Steele, Valerie, Fashion and Eroticism. Ideals of Feminine Beauty from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985

– Webster, Elaine, ‘Symbolic Consumption: Dressing for Real and Imagined Space’, Textile. The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 4:2, 2006, pp. 164 – 183