The bustle of the Victorian era was a frame worn beneath a skirt to add fullness to the back of a lady’s dress. Although the bustle could be made of pads, it was most commonly made of curved steel bands or boning, encased in strips of muslin. The bustle cage was secured to a lady’s waist with ties. A profusion of ruffles, poufs, lace and bows covered the bustle. By the 1880’s, the bustle jutted out from the hips creating a frilly shelf of fabric to cover a lady’s backside. This is a link to the basic construction of a bustle: http://bit.ly/hczkNT
In the Victorian time period, the bustle dress had sex appeal. By making the buttocks appear exaggerated and jutted out, the breasts seemed pushed forward and larger. Add to that a narrow waist produced by a tight corset and you have a shapely figure.
The bustle, like many forms of fashion, was used to separate the upper and lower income class. The bustle was not cheap. The style required
yards of fabric and ornamentation to create and, most of the time, the lower class could not afford such luxury. Also, upper income women, who had maids, could present themselves fashionably. Yet, for the women of average means, trying to do housework and cook meals with a wire cage tied to her butt, would have been impractical at best.
For a look at some stunning bustled costumes, I recommend the The Buccaneers. It is worth watching just for the costumes.
As a woman, I have no desire to wear a bustle. I haven’t figured out how they ever sat down in the contraption. But, as a writer, I love to have my historical heroines decked out in beautiful clothes and my heroine, Darcy, in Almost An Outlaw, wears bustles. Poor dear!