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Sep 26, 2012

The Embellished Behind -- YEA or NAY, or "Does this bustle make my a** look fat?"



Friends, I'm no fashion historian but the bustle has got to be one of the strangest styles to come out of the Ninteenth Century.  To me, this silhouette is simply bizarre, whether it's worn by Queen Victoria, Nellie Oleson, or an Eighties bride with possible incontinence problems.







But -- no pun intended -- there is an exception to my bustle bashing.  I love the bustle-back dresses of the mid-to-late Forties.  LOVE!  If you own the pattern below I may have to burglarize your house.



Let's see how this vintage bustle-back was accomplished.  Sometimes it was no more than an artfully arranged bow.



Often it was combined with a panier-type side drape (or modified peplum) for more of a "drawing back the drapes" look.











Or it was fashioned as folds or pleats created in the drape of the skirt itself.





The Butterick pattern below looks more like a little oval pillow (or fanny pack).





Either way, I think these look fantastic, at least in the drawings.

Of course, in the Eighties, they had to take this elegant vintage trend, glitz it up a là Alexis Carrington, and spoil it.  So what else is new?





Now I'm guessing a lot of modern women are gonna say, "ruffles on my butt is the last thing I need" but perhaps this is a bit like the shelf bust: embellish it proudly and it looks like you really are just hoisting around a big bow or a nest of tulle.  Yes?  No?  Maybe -- at gunpoint?

In closing readers, as per our regular format, I must ask your expert opinions -- and they will differ, no doubt:

Bustles and/or embellished behinds -- YEA or NAY?

P.S.  You can read more about the history of the bustle here.

40 comments:

  1. Not a fan. At all. Actually, of everything I think I prefer the historical bustles - the shape is so exaggerated that it is interesting and obviously engineered. The more modern versions... well... Ugh. It looks like there was too much fabric and it got wadded up and stuck to the back of the dress. That Vogue wedding dress... I don't even know if I can bring myself to type what that looks like. The 40s bows are probably the best iteration of this trend, as they are the most delicate and purposefully placed, but, still, I am not a fan of butt bows. I have to give this trend a big fat NAY.

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  2. Frou-frou one sits upon seems like a nuisance the first time one sits down, and hopelessly wrinkled or flattened thereafter. THAT BRIDE!

    Now the deep back gathers of Dior's New Look skirts carried the silhouette in profile beautifully. Balenciaga really incorporated the panniers and peplums to perfection.

    So I'm for exaggerated shapes, but those that still offer functional movement to the wearer.

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  3. Pleats, bows, folds, draping, ruffles, I'm all over it. Anything involving polyester taffeta on the pattern envelope, accompanied by puffy sleeves on the bodice, resembling a pillow, or involving a cage I would have to sit on, is a definite "no" for me.

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    Replies
    1. How does one sit in that cage....?

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    2. If you look at the fine print on the ad, it says that it's designed to fold up when you sit - probably it's hinged, much the way that some hoop skirts were. I seem to recall a brief description of collapsible hoop skirts in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Then again, they probably didn't sit very much back then, and when they did the furniture wasn't exactly comfy. Maybe women appreciated the bustle because it gave them more of a cushion to sit on? I imagine that would be the case for bustles which are simply the train of a skirt, gathered up to make it shorter. The cage, thing, though just doesn't seem comfortable.

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    3. Young ladies from the the time they were able to walk and understand proper etiquette at the same time were taught how to walk and sit in such things. I have seen pictures of girls as young as 5 wearing a child's version of them - a little padding and pouf but no frame.
      Most of them folded to a certain extent. As for sitting, most of the pictures I have seen, they were sitting slightly sideways and more on one hip than the full butt.

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  4. Uh...my butt is a bustle. Big nay!
    Cynthia

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  5. The first two patterns - the Vogue and the McCalls - I would wear them in a heartbeat! So divine. And you're right, what was it about the 80s that ruined so many beautiful fashions from the 40s and 50s???

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  6. I've always wanted to wear side cages that were worn in 18th century fashions. I think it was that era. It would disguise wide hips which I don't have, but a bustle definitely would hide my butt.

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  7. My bustle is a'la natural. Had a big bustle before it was en vogue via Sir Mix-A-Lot. Now days it sits a little lower.

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  8. I've read that for the hoop skirts (1860's) there was a lever you used so you could sit. Maybe the bustle had similar. See James Laver on costumes....I detest bottom decorations, especially as they would be scrunched/scrunchy. A large bow artfully placed, maybe....Another option is - in the book Sewing Made Easy, by Mary Lynch and Dorothy Sara, in the chapter on being your own stylist. This is from the 1950's. Several ways to have interest at the back, and no bows. Personally I like a back godet, and a fishtail hem....
    Cathie, in Quebec.

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  9. It depends... on how old your wearer is. I love the ruffle butt look... on ages 3 and under!

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  10. Adorable on babies in diapers. On women? Not outside a Renfest or Victorian Christmas.

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  11. YEA! I LOVE bows and ruffles and peplums. I love them at the back as well. I really don't give a fudge bar as to whether it makes my posterior look overtly protrusive or not. The 1940s patterns are drool worthy and I love the Simplicity 1813. I would happily wear them. However the '80s ones are vomitisingly hideous. It seems that designers in the 80s all had a brain aneurism and scraped their eyes out with ball-point pens. The Victorian ones are a way too much and the cage would be very difficult to sit in and one wonders how one excretes waste.

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    Replies
    1. Directly into the cage, most likely.

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    2. Peter you just slayed me! I'm on the floor! LOL!! How those women endured the fashion trends of that time is beyond me. Between the "killer corset", bustle contraption and street sweeping hemlines..... I can't help but marvel at how they "suffered for fashion"!!

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    3. *Sigh* So many misconceptions. Go read some historical costuming blogs and you'll find that these sorts of fashions are actually quite comfortable and easy to move in, sure you don't have quite the range of motion that modern casual wear gives you, but as a historical costumer I am telling you that most of this "fashion that was torture to wear" talk is nonsense. sure there were a few extremes, insane tightlacers like Polaire for example, but a properly fitted corset is actually very comfortable to wear.
      Bustles and panniers are comfortable too, they are simply a lightweight, flexible cage that lifts the skirt up in the right places, they are easy to wear and easy to sit in.

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    4. Oh Peter, you're just too sharp. Your answer certainly gave me a chuckle.

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  12. I think I would rival you in my love for the 40's bustle - LOVE. Want all those patterns plz.

    Also very partial to the hip swag/drape.

    The dress I am making right now has a very cool peplum & bustle thing going on.

    IMHO it's ultra feminine and draws attention to one of the best thing about a female's figure. :-D

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  13. My wedding dress (1993) had a bustle that kept the train aloft during the after party. I don't recall it being hideous - thought it was a la mode! No pictures of my behind, though. I do like the large bow (McCalls) pattern.

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  14. LOVE a bustle, myself. Eighties style not so much, but both the old school and forties bustles are divine. Don't know why, don't really care. There's something about the shape of the enhanced behind that just works.

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  15. I think it's a look that requires a tiny waist and not too much junk in the trunk

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  16. I love bustles when I'm doing historical costuming. Sometimes I put on a full victorian outfit to lounge around the house. Sitting truly isn't an issue, you learn how to do it pretty quickly. I've sewn in period undergarments when I'm working on a costume, as I don't have a dress form.
    As for going to the bathroom? You're in open crotch drawers.
    I think later day bustled styles tend to lack the intentional look of Victorian ones, which just makes them look odd. I'm sure some people can pull them off, I'm just not one of them.

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  17. I remember as a young girl in the late 80's early 90's when the "prairie" look was all the rage. My grandmother made me a beautiful dress that had a tiny floral pattern on a sea foam green background. And it had a bustle! I loved that dress. I wore it to church and to school and totally loved it. I still think the bustle dresses are beautiful.

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  18. I like a little bustle/peplum on suits and gowns, but the first pic is outrageous! I'd never wear something like that...looks like she is carrying a table under her gown! LOL

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    Replies
    1. No, it's where she hides her lover !

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  19. Bustles? *eek!*

    The forties version might work on someone who is tall and very thin with no backside.

    Not a good look for someone who is a short, curvy, houglass-pear shape! *LOL*


    Taja

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  20. I agree--the 1940s were the best time for the bustle.

    They were also the best time for my favourite back embellishment, the fishtail--which varies from very bad to very good.

    http://www.ornamentgal.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=ogal-flypage.tpl&product_id=2461&category_id=14&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=5

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  21. oh! I think it's exactly like the shelf bust - when not overdone, it can be elegant and sexy in a sly, knowing way. But in the 80's it ran amok, as most fashion did...

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  22. Speaking of fashions that mercifully aren't au courant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pannier_(clothing)

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  23. In 1989 I made three bridesmaids' dresses from Vogue 1801. Purple watered taffeta, only the bodice was purple lace with a sweetheart underlining, high neck and long leg-o-mutton sleeves in lace. At the waist and under the bustle was a big lace bow with a dior rose in the centre.
    In 1989, if it was worth doing, it was worth overdoing. :)

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  24. Bustles have great potential to be awesome but can easily become too cluttered up. The bustle style emerged just as the sewing machine was becoming more widely available (1870s-80s). With the ability to sew things ten times as fast ladies went a little crazy with construction details.I have seen beautiful examples of bustles and I have seen hideous examples, it depends on the drape and how things are arranged.
    The Ornamented Being has posted a lot of pictures of extant dresses on her tumblr if you would like to see more examples of Victorian bustle gowns.
    I feel like victorian bustles are not fairly represented in this post since you only put two unimpressive and spotty black & white ads and a lousy costume pattern envelope, even though there are tons of great bustle images out there to choose from.
    (See? Honest feedback.)

    1870s fashion plates have so many gorgeous pictures of ladies in beautiful, simple bustle dresses(old rags is a good site to find those) but the actual gowns themselves are so often cluttered and overdone. The supporting garments, on the other hand, always look really cool. They are actually not that awkward or uncomfortable to sit in.

    To the other puffy butted dresses you show here, no. Just no. They don't have enough fullness AT ALL! They don't have the right to call themselves bustles, bustles need to be BIG, preferably with a train.
    I had no idea that such dresses existed, no wonder there are so many "nay" comments, no one saw how pretty bustles can be.

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  25. But how do you sit down?

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  26. I was victim of the 80's bustle, but mine was BELOW the butt. It made a rather odd deflating feeling whenever I sat down.
    Actually found the pattern online!
    http://www.mainstreetmallonline.com/patterns/listingview.php?num=32500&ref=15

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  27. McCall's 7446 with the peplum front and long bow tails at back is not what I would classify as a bustle, but I like the design. The rest, not so much.

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  28. Most of what is shown in the photos are not true bustles, but rather ruffles or bows just below the waist. Since these rest in the small of the back, they do not interfere with sitting, nor do they get squashed if one is at all careful not to jamb one's posterior down the back of an overstuffed sofa. I think these embellishments are pretty and should not be restricted to bridal gowns.

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  29. It's not the bustle that's the problem, it's the corset which shaped the figure (and your back) into an unnatural position. At one time, the S shape was all the rage.

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  30. Always funny to me how people with natural bustles and peplums were often despised.

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  31. Does the enormous bow on Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" pink dress count as a bustle?

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