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.



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