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Making the Bustle
Tricky But Worth It
By Sandra Scholes
The Victorian bustle is just one of many bustle types and can be adapted to wedding dresses, or gowns, or even specialised dresses. It the style most commonly used when making wedding dress bustles. The current method I outline can be difficult for the beginner, but is still workable.
You will need several things to start with before you even decide to work on that dress:
* A dress with a lengthened skirt back
* A ribbon that matches the dress
* Covered buttons or hooks that also match
* Essential sewing equipment and supplies
* Dress form
How to make the bustle
It’s normally best to decide on an easier style for your first bustle, so working on the over bustle style is much better in terms of difficulty.
Decide whether or not you want to use hooks or buttons, as they will be attached to your bustle of choice. Using covered buttons can compliment your dress, but might not suit it fashion-wise. Go to the back and centre of your dress. You have the choice of placing one or two buttons or hooks on each side of the centre and back. Space them apart evenly and mark the place with pins.
If you have a friend around, it might be a good idea to try the dress on yourself, and have her help you out with the rest. If not and you have a dress form or body to put it on, you can do that but bear in mind that the dress body has to be the same height as you from the start. Lift from the middle of the skirt, and make sure the hem is at the height you want it, then pin the middle of the skirt to the marks you have left where the buttons were in the first step.
Take off the middle of the skirt from the bodice, leaving the pins there to mark where it will be reattached. Make sure the pins are level, and then find the centre back of the skirt. Where the level pins are at either side, put as many pins on as you would buttons, referred to as bustle points, and then remove the rest of the pins.
Make sure the bustle points are pinned to the button markings, and then take a look at whether it looks right or not as the draping may look out of place or slanted. If it doesn’t look right, then you can unpin the skirt and readjust until you are happy with its look.
Start sewing the covered buttons or hooks onto the button markings you made earlier. Sew loops of matching ribbon to each bustle point. This is where your hand stitching comes into play as you can make it look less noticeable when you stitch the loops to the skirt. Take each loop and attach it to its button or hook on its side opposite. Take off the dress from the dress body and put it on your own to see if the drape looks right before deciding on it.
History of the bustle
The bustle known either as the Victorian bustle or the Grecian bend came into fashion between 1870 and 1891. These bustles were also in fashion at several different times, the hairstyles changing along with them. The bustle was made by using fabric that was pulled into shape using tapes and buttons that were sewn into the skirt. The tapes were buttoned or tied underneath and bunched up the fabric keeping it to the back of the garment. As drapery support, a crinoline was used with a steel frame attached at the waist's back. Sometimes another bustle was created from many layers of horsehair worn over the crinoline.
During the time of 1874 the bustle developed into a much slimmer look as the tapes were drawn back to give a slender look for the whole bustle. The crinoline petticoat was used instead of the standard bustle. This supported the narrow train but, due to the dress being so narrow, there was a limitation of six inches from the ladies feet to move around, making it less comfortable.
The bodice was closely fitting and there were two styles that were widely used; the cuirasse and the Princess body that is even used nowadays. It had to be worn by a very slim person, so it was no surprise that this particular style was phased out in favor of the tea gown, which was a more flexible style.
In 1883 a new style replaced the previous bustle: a filled cushion was sewn into the skirt, making it curve out behind the dress in a half moon shape.
In the 1890s the bustle had lost its impact on the masses and was replaced by the s-bend corset of the Edwardian era.
Whatever the style, many can change the colour and look of their own bustle, and create something fresh and exciting from a Victorian and Edwardian look that had lasted so long as a fashion statement.
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