Creating The Look…

Styles are defined by their silhouette and nowhere is this more evident in the styles of the 1870s and 1880s which were built upon skirts being draped towards the rear and supported by a supporting structure known as the bustle (also known as the tournure). As described previous in this previous posts and others, the size and positioning of the train might have varied but the overall effect was still the same. So how was this achieved? Simply, draping fabric and fastening to the rear only works with the lightest of fabrics, in almost all cases support is required and that’s where the bustle came into play. Bustles varied in styles and shapes and were made from various materials, ranging from ones constructed of elaborate steel cage structures to ones that were little more than a pillow.

Bustle_Phases

A somewhat simplified chart depicting the three major Bustle Era styles.

Below is a selection of some of the bustle styles that were out there during the 1870s and 1880s:

Bustles The Galliera Museum – the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

The above examples show two of the more common bustle styles, the “lobster” and the pillow. The “lobster” style gets its name from its resemblance to a lobster shell and was held rigid by steel boning or reeds.

Here’s a semi-rigid example from the 1870s (probably more mid-1870s):

Bustle c. 1870s

Bustle, c. 1870s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008.89)

Bustle c. 1870s

The above style employed a fabric shell, typically made of a tightly woven cotton fabric with steel boning or reeds. This style was also common during the 1880s:

Bustle 1883

Bustle, 1883; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.23.3)

Bustle 1883

Side Profile

The above example is interesting in that while it’s similar to the 1870s example, it differs at the top where a large pad has also been installed- no doubt to help create the more sharply defined silhouette characteristic of the Late Bustle Era dresses such as this one:

Evening Dress c. 1884 -1886

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

Here’s another typical example from 1885 that employs an open cage-like structure made from flexible steel bones secured by tape strips:

Bustle 1885

Bustle, 1885; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3095)

Bustle 1885

Side Profile

Bustle 1885

Interior

Steel or reed boning where not the only materials in use as demonstrated by this 1873 example utilizing horsehair padding:

Bustle 1873

Bustle, 1873; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2002.251)

Bustle 1873

The idea of the bustle creating the dress silhouette can especially be seen from this example:

Bustle 1870 - 1888

Bustle, c. 1870 – 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1972.209.48)

Bustle 1870 - 1888

The example below is especially fascinating in that its shape dates it: late 1870s, most likely circa 1878 – 1880 (although the museum has is labeled 1870 – 1888). Note that the silhouette is slender from the waist to mid-way down and then flares out in the demi-train style that was characteristic of the later 1870s such as with these examples:

Day Dress 1878

Side Profile

Day Dress 1880

Side Profile

The above bustle examples are on the complex side and could almost be considered works of art on their own. However, there were more simple designs out there such as various types of pads:

Bustle c. 1895 - 1905

Bustle, c. 1895 – 1905; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.44.48.8)

Bustle Pad 1875

Bustle Pad, made from linen and stuffed with horse hair. Victoria & Albert Museum (T.57-1980)

Bustle Pad c. 1885

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

And there were some other interesting designs:

Bustle 1884

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

Bustle 1880s

Bustle, 1880s

Bustle 1871

British, c. 1871. Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.27.4)

The above examples are only a small sampling of what was available and no matter what style a bustle came in, its primary job was to support the dress and help define its shape. When we reproduce 1870s and 1880s fashions, we are constantly mindful of the supporting structures that are necessary for wearing these fashions in the most optimal way and they are almost as important as the dresses themselves.



Trending For October 1897…The Return Of The Bustle?

Normally, one does not associate the bustle with 1890s style but we recently came across this item from the October 10, 1897 edition of the Los Angeles Herald that claims that the bustle will be making a return:

We have heard rumors of this event for a very long time, but that it would really come, no one had the grace to acknowledge until the present time. l am free to admit, however, that I think the bustle in its present form is bound to be popular, for it is far from being the monstrosity of a few years ago. Neat and graceful, it is just large enough to round up the hips and give a stylish set to the skirt and. prevent its sagging.

The modern idea is to use the bustle in the only sensible way- that is, to suit the individual, and not have one shape and style for everybody. Thus they are being made in great variety, both long and short, and some much fuller than others, and if we will only select one for ourselves which is suited to our particular figure, I think it will really be acceptable. The style most in vogue is moderately long and has hip extensions, which suit the woman who is tall and not too full of outline. But, as I say, there are shapes to suit everybody and no rule can be said to govern this important matter. Each must choose her own style. But a pad of some sort is essential In order to be fashionable.

WHAT? The bustle returning…just what exactly is the author talking about? Well, to begin, it’s definitely not the previous styles, either the 1880s style bustle or its 1870s predecessor, which the author terms “a monstrosity.” What exactly did the author have in mind? Well, probably something more along these lines like this bustle pad:

Bustle c. 1895 - 1905

Bustle, c. 1895 – 1905; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.44.48.8)

Bustle c. 1895 - 1905

Going a bit later, we have this example from 1907:

Bustle Pad 1907

Bustle Pad, 1907; FIDM Museum (2004.5.9)

 

Bustle Pad 1907

Bustle Pad 1907

The Label- This specimen appears to have never been used.

Bustle pads came in an assortment of sizes and types as detailed in this page out of the 1902 edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog:

Sears Catalog No. 111 1902 Edition

It’s interesting how ideas change- from the cage-like bustles/tornures of the 1870s and 80s to the fairly minimal padded versions of the 1890s and early 1900s. But either way, the goal was achieving a ideal fashion silhouette that could only be accomplished through the use of body modification. While the specific methods have changed, body modification is still sought after today. 🙂