The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 2

By 1872 we begin to see the fully trained/bustle look that was to be trademark of the the First Bustle Era. Most notably, styles of the early 1870s places an emphasis on accentuating the bustle effect while at the same time minimizing any fullness on the front, often using vertical lines as an aid such as can be seen in the fashion plates below:

Day Dress, c. 1873

This 1874 reception dress by Emile Pingat also puts this design aesthetic into action:

Emile Pingat, Reception Dress, c. 1874; Philadelphia Museum of Art (1938-18-12a,b)

The striped outerskirt on the front with its vertical lines emphasizes flatness in front while at the same time, the stripped outerskirt in the rear serves to emphasize the bustle silhouette.  However, stripes wasn’t the only way of emphasizing the bustle and front flatness. This 1875 afternoon dress by Worth uses color to achieve a similar effect:

Worth, Afternoon Dress, c. 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1100a, b)

This dress utilizes a green silk taffeta front skirt trimmed with a layer of swagged taffeta material in the same color with gold fringe. Paired up with the green taffeta is a dark blue and gold patterned silk bengaline-like (it’s hard to precisely say) fabric that’s used for the bodice and the train, serving to harmoniously contrast the green taffeta. Finally, the hem has three rows of knife pleating in the same green taffeta. The side profile pictured below shows the contrast:

Side Profile

The side profile shows how the train is emphasized with the blue and gold and provides  natural focal point that draws the eye upwards towards the bodice and then the neck/head. At the same time, the front is minimized to a degree by the gold fringe and the rows of knife pleating on the hem; the eye just isn’t drawn here in the same way as with the train. Below is a view of dress rear where one can see the blue/gold material used to the best advantage:

Rear View

Close-up of skirt detail.

The above dress examples give interesting insights into early Bustle Era styles in that the style details were all oriented towards emphasizing the trained/bustled silhouette- whether it be stripes, contrasting colors, draping, or a combination of one or more of these elements.

Auguste Renoir, La Parisienne, 1874

In the next installment, we’ll be moving into the Mid-Bustle Era as the bustle gives way to a different look…

(To be continued…)

Leave a Reply