Trimmed felt, painted wood and feathers, silk chenille and silk ribbons.
This tailor-made bustle dress could have stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine. In 1885 bodices incorporating collars and lapels in the style of men’s jackets became a popular novelty. They were cut to wear open in front revealing an underbodice which resembled a man’s waistcoat. In this example the underbodice is attached to the outer jacket at the side seam. This was usual as it helped the bodice sit into the form of the body while retaining the appearance of a separate jacket and fancy waistcoat. Such outfits made elegant walking costumes, suitable for a visit to a fashionable shopping street or a promenade in the park.
By this date the bustle was at its height, projecting from the back of the dress while the front remained comparatively flat. The overskirts were caught up in a profusion of pleats, draperies and puffings to create interesting effects and emphasise the silhouette. This ensemble has steel hoops and tapes inserted into the back of the underskirt to pull it into the required shape over a bustle pad. Despite these contrivances, the hem would have just reached the top of the shoes making it more practical for walking than a trained skirt.
The hat is extravagantly decorated with a mounted bird specimen and other contrived feather decorations. When the mode for wearing feathers, furs, stuffed birds and small mammals was at its height, the colours from even the most exotic species found in nature were not enough to meet the demands and whims of fashionable society.