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. 🙂

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