The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 6

Emile Claus, Mrs. Claus, 1886

In our last post, we covered the mid-1880s which saw the transition to the Second or Late Bustle Era. In today’s post, we cover the rest of the decade and maybe bled over a little into the early 1890s since fashion often doesn’t precisely follow the calendar.  😉 Just to give a little perspective, below are a series of fashion plates from Peterson’s Magazine spanning the years from 1885 through 1889.

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1884

Peterson’s Magazine, November 1885

Peterson’s Magazine, August 1886

Peterson’s Magazine, June 1887

Peterson’s Magazine, June 1888

In the above plates, although specific bodice and skirt styles may vary, along with fabric and color choices, the emphasis is always on the train. And just to give a little more detail, here’s some views from 1887 issues of Der Bazar (aka Harper’s Bazar):

Fashion plates are great but as we all know, these tend to portray the ideal and not necessarily what people wore. So to add some perspective, here’s some period photographs that depict the Late Bustle Era silhouette:

Archduke Josef Karl of Austria and spouse, Archduchess Clotilde, neé Princess of Saxe Coburg and Gotha.

Miss Ethel Bond, 1886; Musee McCord (II-81334)

And finally, let’s take a look at some extant garments starting with this 1888 afternoon dress from Worth:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.664a, b)

The silhouette is distinctly later 1880s and nicely illustrates one of the major styles that utilizes contrasting under and overskirts. The overskirt is made from a dark brown silk jacquard with a cream-colored silk taffeta underskirt. Below is a close up of the outerskirt fashion fabric:

The bodice also utilizes the same fabric as the under and overskirts with the opening so to reveal the lighter colored fabric as a faux vest. Trimming the collar, inner bodice and underskirt is what appears to be brown-colored corded lace.  Below is a close-up:

Below is a three-quarter rear view of the dress:

With this afternoon dress, Worth masterfully employs the design elements and it definitely embodies the late 1880s look.  Next, Worth also employs the same design aesthetic in this circa 1888 combination day/evening dress (pictured here with the evening bodice):

Worth Combination Day/Evening Dress, c. 1888; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1093a–e)

This dress has the same silhouette as the afternoon dress and employs a similar scheme of contrasting under and overskirts as well as a differently contrasting bodice. The front underskirt is a good/ivory silk taffeta or satin with gold floral appliques. On both sides, one can also make out jeweled inset panels that are set in the underskirt’s folds. Below is a close-up of the front underskirt:

Turning to the bodice, the evening bodice is constructed of a solid dark gold/yellow-colored silk taffeta that’s decorated with jeweling on the front and along the neck and shoulders. Below is a closer look at the bodice:

The side profile pictured below gives a good view of both skirts and the jeweled inset panels, a suitable feature that only further enhances the design effect.

In contrast to the front underskirt, the overskirt is relatively plain, a solid dark gold/yellow-colored silk taffeta that matches with the bodice fashion fabric. The train is a double layer and has no adornment. This is an interesting dress in that it places its most dramatic effects to the dress front and bodice. The plainness of the overskirt can especially be seen below:

The above two examples illustrate both the daytime and evening late 1880s silhouette quite nicely. Of course, we could easily pull out a dozen more examples but the point’s been made. 🙂 In terms of style, one could say that the 1880s and the Late Bustle Era ended on a high note and as with all fashion, it would begin to experience another period of change where the rear was de-emphasized and greater focus was on a more upright figure that was in many respects similar to the Mid-Bustle Era. But in the years to come, the focus was to shift to the shoulders with gigot sleeves and the waist and hips with the wasp-waist or hourglass figure- but that was a few years off. We hope you’ve enjoyed this multi-part survey of the Bustle Era and in the future, we hope to expand on more.



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)

Day Dress 1885_13

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…)

 



The Bustle Dress- A Brief Overview, Part 1

The terms “Bustle Era” and “Bustle Dress” are often tossed around indiscriminately with the vague idea that it describes a dress from 1870 through 1890 or thereabouts. Well, this is true to a degree but it falls short in that there is a lot more depth and subtlety to it and more precision is needed if one is to be able to intelligently discuss women’s fashion during the late 19th Century. It’s as if one were to refer to the period from 1960 through 2000 as the “Blue Jeans Era”- yes, blue jeans existed and were worn but in no way does it describe the fashions of the era.

To begin, the “Bustle Era” could be said to cover the years 1870 through 1890 with a bit of overlap in either direction (fashion rarely puts itself in neat date categories ;-)) and it could be broken down into three phases:

1) Early Bustle, 1870 – 1878

2) Mid Bustle or “Natural Form”, 1878 – 1882

3) Late Bustle, 1882 – 1890

Now, just to reiterate, the dates that I give are not meant to be precise start and stop dates, but rather rough “fuzzy” parameters and I don’t profess to have the last word in this. With that, let’s proceed.

Bustle Silhouettes - 1870-1890

This illustration gives a rough guide to the changing profile or silhouette of the bustle dress. Of course, as the skirt changes, so does the bodice.

A somewhat simplified chart depicting the three styles.

A somewhat simplified chart depicting the three styles.

In the beginning, the bustle evolved from the earlier crinoline of the 1860s and as the decade progressed, one could see the skirt gradually being gathered in the rear as opposed to the earlier look of it being evenly distributed.

Below is an example of a day dress from circa 1867:

Day Dress, c. 1867; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.40.164.1a–c)

This dress is constructed of a medium-blue silk taffeta, all in one solid color. There’s no trim except for some white piping running along the edge of the bodice hem and some lace sticking above the collar. Silhouette-wise, we see the elliptical skirt shape that had been slowly developing from the mid-late 1860 with most of the skirt’s fullness pushed towards the rear. Below is a good side profile:

As can be seen from the above pictures, the train is simple, just consisting of the dress being shaped to hang more towards the rear and flattening out on the front. But as with fashion in general, further developments would be happening as can be seen with this circa 1870 day dress where we see the bustle look begin to take a more definied shape:

Dress, c. 1870; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.409.1a–c)

The fashion fabric is a green silk taffeta with a black floral pattern. The bodice is short, cut with a v-neck that’s filled in with an insert of the same fabric. The overskirt and underskirts are also of the same fashion fabric with a relative short outer skirt taking on more of an apron-like appearance in the front and  lengthening out in the back.  Finally, the underskirt is full, being completely visible both in the front and back and providing the train.

The silhouette has clean lines one can definitely make out elliptical style that marked late 1860s styles and carried over into the early 1870s.

Below are some close-ups of the dress fabric and buttons:

Here is another example from 1870 that gives a similar profile view:

Day Dress, c. 1870; Kent State University Museum, KSUM (1983.1.127 ab)

Here we see an overskirt that both acts as a train in the rear and a short apron in the front. The underskirt is still prominent on the sides and front and extends full length to the ground. Finally, here’s another example from circa 1872-1875:

Day Dress, c. 1872 – 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1986.304a, b)

Side Profile

In the above pictures we see the continuation of earlier trends in that the outer skirt is relatively short and mostly gathered directly to the rear in a well-defined pouf. At the same time, The inner skirt pretty much acts as the dress front and rear with some added decorative panels. Compared with earlier styles, it appears that the emphasis is on the skirts and train while the bodice is somewhat minimal. The fashion fabric is a silk lavender-colored taffeta with decorative stripes. The edges of the various skirts, hems, bodice, and sleeves are trimmed with wide gold-colored silk satin stripes with red piping.  Below is a close-up of the side panels:

Below is a picture of the inner skirt top. The waistband is simple and one can see buttons that were used to hold up sections of the upper skirt so as to create poufs which further enhance the trained effect around the hips and rear.

Detail of upper skirt/waistband.

And here’s a close-up of the fashion fabric itself:

Detail of the fashion fabric.

The above examples only hint at the variety of dress styles that were available during the early 1870s. Trim and decoration could vary, some had trains of varying lengths, and contrasting colors and patterns were also often used. When it came to evening wear (i.e. ball gowns and evening dresses), trains were longer and more fancy fabrics were used. However, no matter what specific style was selected, they all shared the key element that they had the bustle silhouette, a silhouette that was achieved by a combination of artful draping and a defined understructure that served as a skeleton in much the same way a modern skyscraper’s structure is defined by steel girders, no matter what sort of decorative exterior there is. Below are a few examples of what went on underneath:

US Patent No. 131840, c. 1872

Early on, the Crinolette was developed and as such it was a half-way point between the earlier cage crinoline and the bustle. This example is from circa 1870.

The first stage was the Crinolette, which was a half-way point between the earlier cage crinoline and the bustle. Victoria & Albert Museum (T.775C-1913)

Crinolette, c. 1870; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.775C-1913)

Next, we see an example from 1871 that is more defined as a bustle:

Bustle, c. 1871; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1985.27.4)

Bustles came in a variety of styles and made from various materials. This example is utilizes full padding:

Bustle, 1873; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2002.251)

Bustle pads were also used which tended to give a more softer look to the skirts. Bustle pads came in a variety of fabrics. Here is one example of a circa 1875 bustle pad made from linen and horsehair:

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

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

And here’s another one from 1873:

Bustle Pad, 1873

Bustle Pad, 1873

The above has been somewhat brief and as with all historical costume, there were exceptions but this should give a general idea. Finally, just a cultural note: during the Bustle Era, there were those that considered the word “bustle” to be vulgar and thus, alternative names were used to include the “tournure” or “dress improver”. 🙂

(To be continued…)



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. 🙂