The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 2

We continue on with our brief survey of the bustle dress and today we’re going to discuss the Mid-Bustle Era or years from 1877 through roughly 1882. Compared to the large, overstuffed and somewhat chaotic-looking bustles of the early 1870s, the Mid-Bustle, or “Natural Form,” Era was a direct contrast, acting in reaction to the excesses of the previous period. The most striking characteristic is that now the profile is much slimmer, with just a vestigial hint of a bustle, and a general lengthening of the bodice creating a more slimming, upright appearance. The end result is a sculpted silhouette that in many ways is reminiscent of a Classical Grecian statue (of course, aided by the corset).



Below are just a few examples of the Mid-Bustle Era dress and in each of them, you can discern a much reduced bustle:

French, 1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.51.23.1a–c)

French, 1879; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.51.23.1a–c)

Wedding dress, c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)

Wedding dress, American c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)

Here are two more pictures of the above dress from the front and side:

The example below depicts a more extreme version of this trend with almost no bustle whatsoever and an extremely elongated cuirass bodice.

Day Dress, c. 1875 - 1880.

Day Dress, c. 1875 – 1880.

Another excellent example showing the sleek, upright style characterized by the cuirass bodice combined with a near-elimination of the bustle. For further inspiration, some fashion plates from 1877:

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, July 1877



Some final observations- although the rear silhouette has become significantly reduced, many dresses, even day dresses still featured trains. Naturally, one has to question whether or not this represented a fashion ideal and if the train was eliminated for more practical walking.

In contrast with what came before and what will come after, the Middle Bustle Era represents a short-lived moment in the broader fashion trends of the period from 1870 through 1890. While it is tempting to thing that this marked the decline of the bustle, that was not to be for another ten years or so in the early 1890s. However, while the bustle may have had its moment, it will always remain immortal in the eyes of Lily Absinthe.

Next: The Late Bustle Era from the early 1880s through 1890.

7 thoughts on “The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 2

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