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…)

 



One thought on “The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 5

  1. Pingback: The Bustle Dress – A Brief Overview, Part 6 | Lily Absinthe

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