belle femme … an old french boudoir doll, poupee de salon, a sofa doll

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Mid 2018 I found this new treasure –  a well loved, well worn, boudoir doll. Sometimes known as a sofa doll, a salon or a bed doll, this old beauty shows glorious age wear.  She is the first boudoir doll I have acquired.  I really knew little about these sofa dolls at the time so my basic research lead me to many interesting facts.


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Of course she’s not for the perfect collector, the perfect antique lover.  But she’s perfect for me.  This belle femme came just as you see her, somewhat neglected & unkempt, tattered & torn, with some parts needing quite a bit of TLC.




She measures approx 78 cms (30″).


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My research has helped greatly in understanding these dolls & appreciating their history, their characteristics, appearance & beauty.




It is perhaps not unusual to find a bumped & imperfect nose in old dolls especially those made of material other than plastic or unhardened fabric.

Sofa dolls

‘originated in France in the period between 1915 to 1940.  Appearance was very important back then, in both the clothing as well as being seen.  Fashion was followed closely by the women of that time.  The clothes of these wealthier ladies were made by seamstresses and there was usually a mini version of this dress for the sofa doll.  These dolls were photographed with their owners and were often taken along on visits and even on vacation.  At home they mostly sat in a chair or or a bed, looking lovely.  With their misty eyes and frivolous attire, they were often the eye-catcher in any room.  Their clothing was made of high-quality fabric and was extremely fashionable: after all, it was a copy of their owner’s clothing.’  via “loving Brocante’ Magazine No.5 2018.


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‘Boudoir dolls are dolls that are made to sit on beds and sofas as decorations rather than being used for play. They are also called bed dolls, flapper dolls, and French dolls.’  For more on these gorgeous boudoir dolls check out this link and this link


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Unlike most dolls from the mid-20th century, which were made for children, boudoir dolls were made to grace the beds of grown ladies.




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Her body is quite lightweight made of thin cloth or soft muslin (calico in Australia) with the typical elongated legs & arms. I don’t think it is made of silk.

Her body is stuffed with straw, maybe a mixture of straw & sawdust even.  I need to check further.

I’m not sure about her head which is hard, perhaps made of a papier-mache, pressed fabric or a thin moulded cardboard.

Her face is covered with what looks like a face mask though not sure whether its some sort of stockinette, suedette or cotton.


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Her lower arms cam be re-attached.


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The mask has painted facial features.


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Her breast plate is made of a harder paper mache or stiffened fabric.


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She has the plaster, bisque or partial composition lower limbs (arms & legs) painted flesh pink.   They look more like a composition material to me.


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She has moulded high heel shoes painted gold, a common feature in these boudoir dolls


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I am not quite sure, yet, whether her blonde hair is silk or mohair or made from shiny platinum coloured thread.  Still looking into that.

You can see it’s styled in the popular “earphone” or bun each side of the head style, a common fashion trend of the time in boudoir dolls.

Indeed, her hair, her buns, need some TLC, some intense tidying up, especially the part in the middle & the bun on her right side.




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She wears an antique torn & tattered pink silky, satiny, taffeta full circle type ruffled sofadolly1skirt with ecru lace trim & bodice.  No slip or pantaloons.

The clothing is machine & hand stitched.

I’m not sure if the longer piece is a waist band or to be draped around her neck as in this image right (from the web).

Though she would need some kind of belt or tie where the bodice meets the skirt or some tidy hand stitching.




Love her hat so worn & faded.


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You can see the dress is not in the best condition with fading, snagging, disintegration & small tears consistent with age.  In fact none of the fabric is in great condition.  You can see it’s very worn, thin & fragile & has been lovingly repaired more than once.

I would be afraid to wash it, even by hand, in case it disintegrates.


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Rear view.  No markings/id on her.

She could be quite an old doll me thinks.  Possibly home made or at least the clothing.

Maybe this most fragile pink outfit is the lady’s original one lovingly sewn, repaired & mended over the years.

Perhaps it’s not the lady’s original clothing which may well have worn out long ago, this outfit being a later one.

I kinda like the lady as she came, as she is.  Maybe I should make a new outfit & preserve this pink one.


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Her distinctly used & shabby condition overall reflects years of love and use.

Who owned her I wonder?  Where has she been? Where has she travelled? On whose bed or chair did she sit?

Should I bring her back to her former glory as the sofa doll she was, a toy of ‘the wealthier women’ who ‘used them to show off & decorate their beautiful homes’?

Or should I keep her as she is other than re-doing/tidying up her hair, fixing up her outfit (if possible) & re-attaching her arms?

The images below show sofa dolls featured in the ‘Loving Brocante’ Magazine of No.5 2018. They look to have bodies much the same as my lady in pink. I so love these ladies.






(this lithesome beauty made her first public appearance on the old site) 

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