Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Getting Personally Acquainted With The Bourdaloue

Since having this blog- There are a few things I have realized:
1. I'm not very good at making the time to write posts. 
2. I have all these "great" ideas of things I want to share with you swimming around in my head... but it seems like I never have the time.. or never make the time.. So I decided to Make the time ( even if this is a short post)
3. I wanted this blog to be a space for deeper explanation on the research I am always doing and the workings of my Historical Apothecary lab as well as my Successes and Failures.. but so far it hasn't happened. Hopefully in the future I'll work on actually sharing more. So for staters I'm going to work on small this one!

WARNING: Information and photos below will get pretty personal- This post is for those that want more in-depth information on how to use their Bourdaloue.. So you have been warned. 

 Getting Personally Acquainted With The Bourdaloue

Above shows various reproduced Bourdaloues from J. Henderson Artifacts. I won't go into detail about the history of them just take type in Bourdaloue and you will get tons of information.     


Having a little fun here as I have my Maidservant bring me my bourdaloue-  Notice the "Private Residence" Sign ( available at Spring Valley Lodge)

A bourdaloue is ( in the most blunt term) a pee pot for women which came about because of a French Jesuit preacher who was pretty long winded at the pulpit and apparently bathroom breaks were not allowed, as a result these were invented. They say women set their pots on the floor and went as needed. I don't know how much I believe the pots sat on the floor and women relieved themselves right there.. I understand times were different then, but from practice, I can tell you that I would personally have an issue if I was expected to set mine on the floor and aim. ( I told you it would get personal) 

After using my bourdaloue for a while, I have learned which methods work best and which don't.... and standing and aiming.. or sitting in a pew and aiming.... wouldn't work without a mess.. unless you are extremely talented. So I'm here to get you started on the path to Bourdaloue happiness. Trust me once you get one and figure it out.. you will say goodbye to port-a-johns for those number 1 runs. 

I probably don't need to say this, but your bourdaloue is reserved for #1's only.  They are actually shaped in a specific way which will help prevent messes and make things super easy.
 Lets Start.

First and foremost it's a good plan to have both a bourdaloue and a chamber pot!

You will need both because you will have to empty out your bourdaloue for the next use.. but collecting urine was important. Historically it was used for a lot of things, like removing stains.  I have heard women still say that there is no stain remover like urine. 

Now that you have your Chamber Pot and Bourdaloue, we need to cover 2 important things that are required for getting the most ease out of your bourdaloue.
     NUMBER 1: NO Bloomers/ or another shorts that some wear under their historical gowns. I know this seems uncomfortable, but when you get use to it.. You don't even notice, besides in the 18th century - women didn't have bloomers or pantalettes. 
NUMBER 2: ARE YOU READY FOR THIS????  NO UNDIES... Yep! no undies. Trust me it makes it a lot easier.. Some will say.. I'll just take them off or pull them down... That sort of defeats the whole purpose of the ease of having a bourdaloue. I tried for a while.. but really when it came down to it.. It was to much of a hassle dealing with them when you have to go. So no undies ( Take one for the team- Go Historical)

Now that we have that out of the way lets get down to business...

So the photos that follow were taken on Halloween and obviously you would lift your skirts! I think you will get the just of it!

 There are 2 methods that work really well. 

 Option 1: I call this the "Handy Hand" - You would lift your skirts with one hand and hold the bourdaloue with your other. This works fine, but it's always nice to wipe when finished, and when you have your hands full you can't do that as well. This is nice because you have control over your bourdaloue and your gowns. Take a look at the painting by Francois Bucher. This woman is obviously wealthy, she has her skirts held up to keep clean and her "rag" next to her. Notice a little squat is necessary. You will need to assume the position below if you are using the "Handy Hand" method.

                                     Image by Francois Boucher

          Option 1 Above: " The Handy Hand"-remember to have your rag or tp handy. You will need to assume the squat position and hold your pot as close as needed with your one hand and your skirts with the other.

 Above is the first option which works well enough,  a little squatting is necessary in order to make things easier. The one thing I don't like about the HANDY HAND is that all your hands are occupied, so it makes it difficult to wipe quickly. You have to have things a bit more prepped for option 1.  If you have your maidservant helping you.. well then you really shouldn't have any issues and don't really need to worry about things because she will likely take your pot from you allowing a free hand to wipe quick.

         Option 2 is a bit different and requires a different position.

 Option 2:  I call this "The Standing Squeeze". This option uses your thigh muscles to hold the pot firmly allowing no spilling, also allowing you to stand straight and have your hands free.

  ( Pictured below)
I like this option because it is so simple. You don't have to worry about your garments getting in the way of things because your pot is securely tucked up where no messes can happen. Plus this leaves your hands free to get your tp and prep the chamberpot ( if necessary). 

Inorder to achieve the Standing Squeeze, you would lift your skirts just enough to get your pot under and have your thighs secure it. Remember it's specifically shaped to fit tightly in that area. You can then let down your skirts and stand as normal. Once finished you will hold the pot with your thighs until you can securely pull it out and empty it with one hand and wipe with the other. 


Option 2 Above: " The Standing Squeeze"

If I was asked which I prefer. I have to honestly say, I use the Standing Squeeze a lot because I find it easier than holding up all my skirting, plus when it's chilly, it keeps you warmer as well. Just remember when you are finished to empty the contents of the bourdaloue into your chamber pot.

That pretty much covers it! You are on your way to mastering the Bourdaloue!

I know that not many of us have reproduced Bourdaloues yet, but it's something to think about. It is ergonomically made to fit up tight so there is no spilling and you can easily go while standing- you don't need to squat. It sure beats taking walks to the port-a-johns all the time to pee. Below is a better look- you can see how they are designed for our lady parts. 

A look inside a Bourdaloue

If you would like to get your hands on one- check in with  J. Henderson Artifacts. They are the ones who make them and they do an amazing job. I also know this can be considered a touchy subject, but lets face it- It's LIFE-. It's how women historically were able to relieve themselves in an easy and functional way even with all their petticoat layers.
 I love mine and you will too!

Once you give it a try- you will wonder why you lived so long without one!!! 


  1. Could not agree more with this item if you are a weekend re-enactor or camper, this item is a must. I purchased one this year and never looked back. Yes you will make a (oops) mistake possibly on the first try. Just like riding a bike. Reason I had my ops moment is because I tried using this with modern undies on. Don’t make that mistake. Seriously, once you get the hang of it, it is very easy and you will wonder why anyone stopped using this. I have shared my experience with other ladies in camp and they too respond with (I need one of those). No more late night trips in the dark to the plastic smelly hut. Both methods work well I don’t have preference. I prefer a box of tissues and just toss into the fire instead of having rag (just my preference). If you prefer to empty out the back of your tent it is proper to yell: Gardez l'eau which means 'watch out for the water'. be period correct of course. LOL

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  6. Love learning new (old) things! I've used a chamber pot for a long time but dealing with petticoats and bending with stays is a challenge. This is just the ticket! Sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comment Linda!

    2. I did purchase one of these little beauties from J Henderson Artifacts and now I wonder why I waited so long! First trial was this May - it truly is the perfect solution!

  7. No bloomers...did no women have thighs that touched? What did ladies with thunder thighs do? Because chub rub is a pain like none other

    1. Chub rub is a direct result of wearing pants/trousers etc. leading to soft skin, once aired your legs will be dryer and thus it won't happen.

  8. Thank you very much. As I'm researching to write a novel in the 18th century, this is very useful to imagine the daily life of women. And one day, when I'll start re-enactments, your advice will be very useful.

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