Shopping for Boudoir and Pin-Up Photography

March 06, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

When I first decided to delve into the art of boudoir, I enlisted the help of a few close girlfriends. Both of them are stunning and, at the time, married. My first friend arrived at my doorstep with a modest (but pretty) nightgown and robe, her husband’s button-down shirt, and the blandest pair of panties I have ever seen. In fact, I accused her of borrowing a nun’s wardrobe. Where was her sexy underwear? Where was the beautiful bra, the Garbo garters, the cosplay corset?

“I don’t have any of that. I’m married,” she said as way of explanation. I was stunned. This woman is gorgeous and sexy and thin—a perfect model. If I looked like her, I would have an endless supply of sexy lingerie. 

Because we are close friends, I dug into my own tiny sexy stash and outfitted her with a few basic pieces. Her current lingerie, I informed her, was not going to do the trick. When I search the web for boudoir pictures, I have yet to find a professional picture of a model wearing granny panties. That is not the fantasy.

My next friend to model for me is a sexy redhead with a bottom Kim Kardashian would envy. She came more prepared, though we did hit a few stores to buy something more exotic than a matching bra and panty set. Our shopping foray opened my eyes. Lingerie is expensive! A pass through the basic “secret” stores can cost more than the average grocery bill.

On a mission, we began scouring the popular discount stores and their clearance racks. The good thing about those, besides the excellent and affordable price, is that lingerie of all sizes can be found, not just “eensy”, “tiny”, and “small.” Yes, I might have to mend a small tear or pre-wash a makeup stain, but if it is 80% less, I don’t mind. After all, I need to make a profit!

Online auction houses came next. Important “one-size” accessories are a MUST in boudoir photography. Most women don’t have opera gloves, boas, fans, facinators (fancy hats) or gobs of rhinestone jewelry and pearls at their disposal. Online auctions often premiere manufacturers from China, and before dispersions can be cast, let me point out that when I can buy a lacy mask for $1 or a corset for $8 (including shipping!) I must make the prudent choice. Is my budget $20 or $200? Since I am not charging a cool grand for a boudoir session, then I am going to have to settle for the former of the two budgets.

A word of warning: in China, one size does NOT fit all, or even many. Since the average size of an American woman is 12 and the average size of a woman in China is evidently a 4, shopping these sites can be tricky. They are getting much better about posting size charts, but if you are a man and possibly unaware of what the U.S. sizes are, then employ the services of a woman to help you! Typically, they run 2-3 sizes smaller, so an XL is actually a medium.

Finally, my mother introduced me to thrift stores. Yes, it requires patience and infinite sifting through some pretty sketchy stuff. But great gems can be discovered in the most unlikely places. I once stopped at an independently-operated store and it was “75% off all clothes Friday.” I collected 4 pairs of retro heels, 4 pin-up retro dresses, a corset, 2 wine glasses, a satin robe, a satin duvet cover, and a pretty nightie for less than $20. The bonus? The two young clerks asked what I was going to do with these things and when I told them, I had two more potential clients. I practically skipped out of there, and texted my friends pictures of my find as if I were a hunter that had just bagged the trophy buck. (That analogy is quite relevant in my part of the country.)

The Wardrobe

“What do I bring?” is always the first question I am asked after a booking. Because I now have a collection of accessories, lingerie, and costumes, I give them the “basics.” Naturally, I encourage them to bring anything they would like, the more the better so we have options, but I send a list of the bare minimum they need for a successful boudoir session.

Client Minimum:

  • Black and white panties (lacy or sexy versions)
  • Matching bra and panty set
  • Two sets of heels and 1 set of boots (cowboy or heeled)
  • Man’s shirt or sport shirt (for husbands/boyfriends)

Photographer’s Boudoir Wardrobe:

  • Corsets in a variety of sizes (Since they lace up, once size can fit 2-3 sizes.)
  • Assorted lingerie (These can be simple, but I advise finding unique pieces as your client will probably bring more “vanilla” pieces.)
  • Extra thongs and lacy panties in both black and white, and special unique panties with holiday themes, bows, ruffles etc.
  • Gloves (e.g. opera, gothic, fancy)
  • Fancy fan (These can be found for a $1 at hobby stores and online.)
  • Feathered boas
  • Fancy heels (I always end up supplementing these to match a wardrobe.)
  • Hats (e.g. top hat, floppy sun hat, western hat, fascinators with netting or feathers)
  • Jewelry, especially rhinestones and pearls (many strands of different lengths and black and white in color)
  • Parasols (fancy and Asian in style)
  • Thigh highs (e.g. seamed, fishnet, and decorative in a variety of colors in regular and plus-sizes)
  • Garter belts (adjustable and in black and white)
  • Robes (decorative or satin for photos, and 1 as a “modesty” robe for clients between set-ups)
  • Faux fur or retro vintage fur coat/wrap/stole (These add a classy touch and can hide problem areas for clients. Look for stunning discounts at thrift stores and garage sales!)
  • Variety of cloths ranging from colored satins, velvets, and faux furs.

Sound expansive and expensive? I purchased this entire list for the cost of one session investment. These can be purchased over a span of time and be written off your taxes!


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