One aspect of bustle gowns that make them so fun is the usage of a lot of different techniques and options in decoration. To not use enough of them you could arguably be accused of “modernizing” your gown – that is making it more palatable to 21st century tastes by streamlining it and removing the complexity. So here is a question in translation: does one make the gown pleasing by 21st century standards, or add the complexity and then risk criticism. When making drawings, one often wonders if a viewer will look at the gown and whisper that loathed phrase about the kitchen sink. This is a natural thought to a 2011 designer of a bustle gown.
Current designers are doing away with the complexity and trickiness that was fashionable a few years before for all that’s flow-y and drape-y. I am not unhappy about this move, and am affected by the morphic resonance. When approaching this next bustle, I feel compelled to be more thoughtful about the decorative and structural additions, making sure that they add something to the whole and the drape. But in this I am running the risk of deviating from authenticity and applying 2011 aethestic standards. Here are some random thoughts running through my brain as I plan:
- Pleats: Contrary to intuition, they look divine in motion. Very few things can capture undulation like pleats at a full-bodied hem. No point in pleating anything other than silk, light-weight cotton or linen, and don’t put it anywhere it won’t move if you want it to look good. To be entirely authentic, you could put them anywhere. But then you are taking the risk it will look stuffy to modern taste.
- Ruching: Use with caution. Though ruching is great, it is currently a tad associated with grabby brides. Though this is probably a transient association, it does influence. I certainly want to avoid using it on a large scale to avoid modernity. One imagines the bridezilla stretching her hands across her waist saying “it makes me look so much thinner.” Hm.
- Trims: Don’t use them unless they are an authentic material, or at least are a good-quality substitute. If you can’t afford silk fringe – or can’t find it – do some ruching, pleats, or clever usage of fabric. Simplicity is better than cheap trim.
- Hems: early period and mid period bustles should have hems that move, or else they miss the mark in the romantic category. Late period bustles should move no where except the back – and only if you have a train. Otherwise, one doesn’t really have a late period bustle.
- Linings: No point in lining the WHOLE thing. This was a mistake I made in the last few dresses, when I was in love with the idea of lining the whole thing in silk. I’m over it now. Most dresses of he period were not completely lined. Save yourself the trouble and the distraction and just do some facing.
- If you are doing a high fashion bustle, mix up the fabrics. Our modern inclinations urge us to keep it simple with one type of fabric. The tastes of the time period were the opposite. Think of the architecture: exteriors could covered in gingerbread, shingles, clapboard, brick, iron, and half-timbering on one house. Upholstery would be patched together as well. It’s easy to get a little confused by the usage of multiple fabrics and textures, but it really has to be done. If you can’t find the fun in it, then you might want to try a dress from another period. To play a conservative route, one could use a silk and velvet in the same color, or the same colored silk with two different textures (My previous posts of the antique Victorian mid-bustle era gown I own showed lots of use of both matte and shiny silk satin. The pictures show how well this can look.), but the creation of depth and varying reflections of light and variations in tactility are absolute essentials for a fashionable Victorian bustle. Otherwise, you should just make a 1950s gown and save yourself all the trouble.
That’s all my thoughts for today.