Obsolete Fashion: Bustling About

Image: Vintage Connection

If this post’s title conjured images of screaming Manhattan sidewalks or catching rush-hour trains, you’re not alone. Despite a short-lived revival in the 1940s, the bustle now only exists in period films or old fashion sketches. So, here’s a little bustle history for your reading pleasure!

After crinolines fell out of fashion in the 1870s, the material that once fell over their width was piled up at the back of skirts like a fabric tower. All that mass couldn’t stay up alone, though, and so the bustle was ushered into being. Made of horsehair, straw-stuffed pillows, steel half hoops, whale bone, or molded mesh wires, bustles sat beneath the skirt, low on the hips, with the intent of filling out the posterior of a lady’s attire.

In the late 1870s and 1880s, the bustle was briefly cast aside, only to return with a full-blown vengeance in the mid-to-late 1880s. The late bustle took on a more exaggerated form, sitting higher on the hips, and built to such proportions that it resembled a shelf (though, as far as we know, no one tried to walk around with a book stowed in their bustle for leisure reading).

This period, though, marked the bustle’s last hurrah, and the Victorian style deflated in popularity until disappearing completely at the beginning of the 20th century. What do you think?

Should we bust out the bustle again?


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  1. RachelC 10/11/2010 at 3:02 pm #

    That would make my bottom look HUGE, lol!

  2. Sophie 10/11/2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Haha! Why would I want to make my backside look that enormous??

  3. Heather 10/11/2010 at 9:11 pm #

    As elegant as the silhouette is, there is no way you would catch me alive in it. It looks way too painful.

  4. Marcela A. 10/12/2010 at 11:22 am #

    BEAUTIFUL! Agh, I am absolutely obsessed with historical silhouettes, I wouldn’t mind wearing this at all! We make a lot of sacrifices nowadays that are way more extreme than a little bustle (i.e. super skinny pants, ultra high/uncomfortable heels, etc) and we do it happily, all in the name of fashion!

  5. steph 10/12/2010 at 5:13 pm #

    I try my BEST day to day to make my bottom look SMALLER! no way!!!!!! lol

  6. Liane 11/05/2010 at 11:52 am #

    Ever heard of the Booty Pop? It’s just a modern version of the bustle.

  7. Josefina 11/16/2010 at 1:54 am #

    If it were socially acceptable to walk around everyday dressed in Victorian garb, I totally would. I’d like to see an updated version of the bustle brought back. Just some flouncy ruffles on the back of a knee-length skirt or something.

  8. MS Belladonna 01/19/2011 at 1:35 pm #

    The lady in the middle’s dress is so elegant… I’d love to own something like that someday.

  9. Briana 02/07/2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Bustles still exist in bridal fashion. Many bridal gowns have beautiful full bustles to hold up long trains. One positive aspect of having your skirt look so full in the back, is it makes your waste look tiinyy!:)

  10. Danielle 08/16/2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I don’t need whalebone to make myself look like that, I already do. 🙁

  11. Danielle 01/27/2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I am absolutely obsessed with Victorian fashion, and the bustle skirt is perhaps my favorite aspect of that era’s clothing. It created an elegant, refined, and oh-so-feminine silhouette. The jackets worn over bustles, allowing the stunning detail to reveal itself even when bundled up, were superb and fitted in such a flattering way. I was Irene Adler to my beau’s Sherlock Holmes this past Halloween and I ordered a simple swag bustle skirt to wear from Venefica Corsetry on Etsy.com. Made to order, sans boning, and with a full, hi-lo skirt typical of the swag bustle, it was a perfect addition. I just may have to find ways to incorporate it into my wardrobe in a modern way. I’d seriously consider wearing the silken burgundy bustle skirt with tights and my Party at Pemberly Top!

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