Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Sexy Bustle


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! 

 Patricia Preston is the author of Almost An Outlaw. Visit her at www.patricia-preston.com

11 comments:

Taryn Kincaid said...

I can't imagine how Victorian women did anything -- including sit in bustles. Then again, future generations will probably wonder why we painted on jeans that revealed tramp stamps and butt cracks if we bent over or why we thought it was so sexy to totter along on five-inch Laboutin heels!

Wendy Soliman said...

I've always loved the idea of bustles and would love to try wearing one. Not for long though! Oh, and I'll pass on the corset, if it's all the same to you.

La-Tessa said...

Wow, ouch!! I am soo glad I live in a time where blue jeans and comfy tees exist. :-)

Victoria B. said...

I don't know how women survived in all of that clothing - especially in the heat! I think I'd pass out! Great blog.

Katherine Bone said...

Oh, to wear a corset and a bustle. I got the privelage of attending a workshop at conference last year, which showcased costumes worn in certain eras. There was an author who wore a Victorian costume and she stripped down to reveal her bustle and corset. Though you could tell she wasn't used to wearing it by the way she had to take shallow breaths, she looked oh! so pretty.

The awful thing about corsets, and the reason they were mainly worn by upper class, was that women who wore them were not tasked to do menial work. They had to sit rigidly, watch every mannerism, and all probably because they were about to faint. ;) It's been proven corsets did more than that. They actually realigned a woman's insides, made her barren, deformed in some instances, breaking ribs and even killing the wearer. That's why women stopped wearing them in the early 20th Cent. Doctors were getting a clue. And high time too.

Great post, Patricia!! ;)

Susanna Fraser said...

Bustles have nice lines, but I have no desire to actually wear any fashions much past those of the early Regency. Those, and some of the late 18th century looks that preceded them, I'd actually like to try!

Erastes said...

i've worn corset and bustle for stage productions, and although so restrictive you have to say they do wonders for your posture and poise and waistline!

Pat said...

Can't imagine wearing a corset or bustle...but loved the information on them. How did they sit in those things for hours?

MaureenAMiller said...

When your clothes give you bruises...it's a bad thing. Of course, now we have under-wire bras!

Susan Macatee said...

I agree, they do look great as costumes, though. In the post-Civil War romance I just submitted to my editor, my heroine refuses to wear one. But other women in the story conform to the fashion.

As a Civil War reenactor, I wore a modified corset and hoopskirt with bendable wiring-- unlike the stiff bones they actually wore-- and it was hard enough to sit in those. I can't imagine having a cage attached to my butt. LOL.

Patricia Preston said...

I wonder what those ladies would think about our jeans and sweats???? Thanks for all your comments. Looks like we are all happy with our clothes nowadays.