The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 5

Fashion trends often involve dramatic shifts in style and the 1880s was no exception. In today’s post, we examine the return of the bustle in a more extreme form than what was found in the early 1870s and with it, a shift from upright and cylindrical to trained, placing emphasis on the derriere (or caboose, as some wags termed it). But however one views it, this was a great example on how fashion is always evolving. Enjoy!


We now turn to the Late Bustle Period from 1882 through 1890 when the bustle returned with a vengeance, now more angular and sharply defined with harder edges than its 1870s predecessor. Probably one of the most iconic examples of Late Bustle Era style is this circa 1884-1886 dinner dress:

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 - 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Evening Dress, American or European, c. 1884 – 1886, silk; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.63.23.3a, b)

Below is a closer look at the “shelf ” bustle/train:

The above evening dress epitomizes the sculpted “shelf bustle” that is characteristic of the 1880s. However, elements of the 1870s still remain: the bodice is remains at waist level and draped skirts are utilized to create a dramatic effect with the skirts being arranged to show off the pleating and trim to its fullest advantage. The “shelf bustle” profile was found in both day dresses and more formal evening and reception dresses and as could be expected, the formal dresses tended to be more dramatic and extreme in profile and the length of the train. The is certainly the diametric opposite of the sleek, vertical lines characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era.

Transition in fashion is rarely dramatic, rather it’s a more gradual process as can be seen with these fashion plates:

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1881

Peterson’s Magazine, September 1882

For 1881 and 1882, the silhouette appears to mostly follow the Mid-Bustle style. However, here and there we see more fullness just behind the hips at waist level. But for 1883, we begin to see the emergence of a more trained or bustle style:

Peterson’s Magazine, March 1883

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1884

And by August 1884, we see the full emergence of a new bustle style. 🙂 Still skeptical? Consider these two illustrations from Demorest’s Family Magazine:

Demorest’s Family Magazine, March 1884

The above two illustrations were not simply based on a couture ideal but were firmly rooted in everyday style in that patterns to make the ablove dresses were offered for sale by Demorest’s. If a potential market of dressmakers and home-sewers didn’t exist, it’s doubtful that Demorest’s would have gone to the trouble of working up patterns of these for sale. On the couture level, the transition seems to have followed the fashion press as with this circa 1883 dinner dress by Worth:

Worth, Dinner Dress, c. 1883; Kyoto Costume Museum (Kyoto Costume Institute (AC9712 98-29-2AB)

This dress is constructed of a wine-red silk satin and velvet with a stripes and floral pattern, most likely utilizing the devoré technique. Silhouette-wise, it leans more towards the earlier Mid-Bustle style but then again it may be just the angle of the photo. Nevertheless, one can make out a very full gathering of fabric to the rear of the waistline and possibly padded or bustled.

Fashion transition often see the retention of older style elements which can linger on even though the overall style has changed as with this hybrid style circa 1885 day dress which incorporates a long cuirass bodice while at the same time having a bustled train of sorts:

Day Dress, French, c. 1885; Silk plain weave (taffeta) and silk plain weave with warp-float patterning and supplementary weft, and silk knotted tassel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

Day Dress, c. 1885; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.2007.211.34a-b)

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Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Rear View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 - Front View

Day Dress, French, c. 1885 – Front View

However, we believe that the 1885 date may be a bit late and perhaps it dates more towards 1882-1883 and it could simply be more of someone holding onto an older style.  Below are two examples of Late Bustle Era day fashion in full flower:

Walking Dress, c. 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978.295.8a, b)

Silhouette-wise, this dress has come into its own, leaving earlier styles behind. As with many Late Bustle Era dresses, the bodice is short so as to allow the skirt (or skirts, it’s hard to tell) to be trained/bustled at waist level. Also, as with many of these dresses, it’s constructed of one type of fashion fabric, in this case a light-colored gold-brown paisley and trimmed with a solid dark gold-brown on the cuffs and collar. Also, the bodice is open with an inset faux waist, which was also a common style of the mid to late 1880s.

The pictures above and below perfectly illustrate the Late Bustle Era silhouette with a well defined train that’s concentrated at the top.

And finally, here’s another day dress from the mid to late 1880s that has the characteristic silhouette:

Day Dress, c. 1885-1890; From Augusta Auctions (Number 36.15757.100.2)

This dress is constructed from a dark teal-blue silk satin or taffeta for both the bodice and skirts. The bodice, shoulders, and part of the overskirt are also trimmed with a gold and the same dark teal-blue and give the dress a pop of bright color that lightens up the overall dress color. The slashed sleeve heads give the bodice a Renaissance style and provide further pops of color.

The two pictures below illustrate the dress silhouette and details of the upper train. There is a distinct bustle and there is fullness to both under and outerskirts but no train, as was common with day dresses.

So how was the Late Bustle Era silhouette created? With structured foundation garments- in contrast to earlier bustles and crinolettes, bustles were sharp and angular, often constructed of steel, as illustrated by the examples below:

Bustle, 1883 - 1887

Bustle, Cotton, Metal, Copper, c.1883 – 1887; FIDM Museum Library (2005.5.174)

Bustle, Steel Frame, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle, c. 1884; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.131C-1919).

Bustle Pad, French, . 1885Glazed calico trimmed with silk cord and stuffed with what appears to be straw; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

Bustle Pad, French, c. 1885; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.337-1978)

From just the few examples above, it’s evident that that bustles during this period came in a variety of materials and shapes. However, in contrast with earlier bustles, these are shorter and more concentrated around the natural waist.

(To be continued…)

 



A Little More From No. 11…

My choices were: Tea and scandal, or attending the Helldorado parade…you can guess. 🙂



In The Works…

Busy building the frilliest of frillies and underpinnings, because plain old cotton just won’t do.



A Lobster Tail Bustle…

In keeping with our current 1880s them, we recently came across this fantastic example of an 1880s “lobster tail” bustle or tournure from the from the collection of Anton Priymak of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Although fabric coverings on bustles tended towards solid colors, occasionally one sees more colorful fabrics used such as the floral print above. In the absence of a more close-up examination in person, we’d venture to guess that the fabric is most likely a cotton print and the pattern motif is very reminiscent of Japonisme. This is certainly an interesting example and just the fabric alone is amazing- that’s definitely going to be an inspiration for the future. 🙂



1890s Day Wear, Part 4

In the past three posts on 1890s styles for day wear, we have shown quite a slew of pictures and commentary that seem to discuss the “X-Silhouettes,” “wasp-waists,” “Gigot/leg-of-mutton sleeves” ad nauseum. While this may seem somewhat pedantic, it is really aimed at defining what made the 1890s so different from the prior two decades in terms of styles. At the same time, style doesn’t exist in a vacuum but rather is a reflection of the greater society. In the case of the 1890s, it was a time of transformation for women and dramatic shifts were occurring in women’s roles and fashions and styles were quick to mirror these shifts.

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In this installment, we will be discussing this a little more while at the same time attempting to provide some of the technical basis for the styles themselves- in short, a look underneath the hood, so to say. 🙂 With that, let’s proceed…


Styles of the 1890s style, whether day or evening, were based on three elements:

  • Corsetry (to define shape)
  • Gigot Sleeves
  • Gored Skirts

Corsetry was the most important in that it defined most of the basic silhouette. During the 1890s, corsets tended to be longer with a more pronounced inward waist bend (i.e., wasp waist) although this is more of a general rule- much like today, there were exceptions in that there were a variety of corset styles to fit individuals with varying body types. The subject of corsetry can easily justify many posts in its own right so we’re not going to get too much into detail but suffice to say, the corset was the core of 1890s styles (and 1870s and 80s for that matter) upon which everything else was built.

Just to illustrate, below are a few examples of early 1890s corsets:

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Corset, Maison Léoty, French. 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.45.27a, b). The hook located on just below the second button was designed to lock the front skirt in place and to prevent it from riding up. A loop would be installed in the inside front skirt which would lock into the hook.

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Corset, Worcester Corset Company, American, c. 1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3119a–c)

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Side Profile

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Corset, 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.57.51.1)

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Front Close-Up

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Rear View

As it can be seen from the above examples, the trend was towards lengthening the corset to cover the hips. Previously, corsets had tended to run shorter in order to accommodate the wearing of a bustle (i.e., “dress-improver”) but with its decline, there was no longer this need (plus the longer length helped to accentuate the wasp-waist look). In the example below, one can see the difference:

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Corset, c. 1885 – 1887; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3497a–c)

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Side Profile

Besides corsetry, the gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeve further defined the basic early to mid-1890s style. Essentially, the gigot sleeve was a sleeve with an extreme excess of ease in the sleeve cap.

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Le Moniteur de la Mode, September 1895

In the above fashion plate, one can see a somewhat extreme version of the gigot sleeve style. Fantastical? Here’s an image from circa 1895:

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Miss Annie Burbury, c. 1895, Sidney, Australia

And this day dress… 🙂

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Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1896; FIDM Museum (S2006.870.22AB)

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Close-Up Of Sleeve

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As can be seen from the above, gigot sleeves came in a variety of styles and could be very large, often using over a yard of fabric in their own right. So how were those large shapes maintained? Here were some of the methods:

Sleeve supports included wire frames, boned undersleeves, or interlinings of various stiff fabrics such as Fibre Chamois:

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Finally, we turn to skirts, or more specifically A-line skirts. Compared to their predecessors of the 1870s and 80s, skirts of the 1890s were built on fairly simple lines, consisting of multiple gored panels arranged so that there was more fullness towards the rear.

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ladies_seven-gored_skirt_circa_1896

Image result for skirt construction 1890s

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From the above illustrations, one can see that skirts were just one unit, usually one color with minimal trim; the over and under-skirt combinations common to the 1870s and 80s had fallen out of use had for the most part been superseded although it still lingered on in some instances. Style-wise, times had moved on…

Now, earlier we mentioned that by the early 1890s, the bustle had disappeared and this is certainly true as far as the “cage” or “lobster” varieties. However, there was one exception and that was the bustle pad. Even though skirts were by no means trained to the same extent as before, there was still the need for a pad to help fill the gap at the base of the lower back (anatomically, the base of the lower back dips in slightly) and provide some support for the rear of the skirt. Also, many of these pads also covered the hips, providing further support for the skirt.

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Bustle Pad, Horsehair (?), c. 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.45.48.6)

We freely admit that the above survey is somewhat repetitious of previous posts, but we wanted to clearly delineate what makes up the essence of 1890s “style.” Often times, people tend to consider the last three decades of the 19th Century as one continuous period for fashion and tend to get the various style elements confused. Each decade was fairly distinct and especially so with the 1890s. In any event, we hope you’ve enjoyed this excursion through Mid-1890s day wear and in future posts we’ll be taking the story further to the end of the decade.