I read an article not too long ago – I think it was in the New Yorker – that mentioned that what was popular lately was purple and the forbidden. This statement seems to be something like one of those fill-in-the-blanks that columnists seem to use when a deadline is approaching and have run out of intelligent commentary: like “feminine is back,” “Ageless Fashion,” “Flirty Spring Dresses,” “[insert something here] is the new forbidden pleasure,” or, like what we have here, “what’s hot is [enter color/concept here] and the forbidden.” But this particular statement seemed applicable to my latest project.
I am in love with the bustle lately likely because like a bird in a flock I am gravitating towards the complexity and trickiness in clothing. Like everybody else. Whereas I was mad about Elizabethans a while ago when it echoed the rigid structure, immobile form, and routine, rigid layering (recall the era of a-line skirts, twin sets, tight-fitting button down shirts for day, and nightlifers sporting homogenous boot-cut, jeans and clingy tops) of the time, the Victorian bustle seems way hotter in the current clime of cascades, pleats, and faked layers.
What is so appealing about bustle gowns is their puzzle-like nature. Manufacturing and creating a pattern for a good, high-fashion bustle skirt is more than just creating components. It’s creating components, and assembling them in a very unexpected order. High Fashion Victorian bustle skirts were free from the constraints of symmetry and logic, so they are something of a free-for-all to design, so long as the basic aesthetics of the time are held in mind. Most of us are familiar with the basic bustle gown: close fitting bodice over big-bummed skirt. But high-fashion bustle gowns were way more than that with their mind-boggling i employment of aprons, lace, scallops, pleats, fringe, bows, bizzare bodice lengthening, cuffs, buttons, you name it. The basic silhouette was generic, but the freedom the designers had over the specifics and decoration was astonishing. And the bustle form and the corseted torso provided a both varied and welcoming physical topography for a lot of play. High fashion bustle-period plates are mind-teasers to study, and complex and deep when broken down. They really are that much fun.
So, as implied my next project will be both forbidden and purple… and pleated and plaid. I have found a delicious piece of purple plaid silk which I shall couple with coordinating solid plum. So it qualifies as purple. I have absolutely no reason or excuse or purpose to make it, so it qualifies as forbidden. And it will be rich in cascades, pleats, and fake layers, without contradicting the jauntiness of the tri-colored-purple plaid. Acctually, I have already started the project. I’m making the pattern from scratch and cutting away a mock up in muslin. I will post pictures when I have something exciting to show (muslin mock-ups are not really eye-candie), and when I find a solution to my missing camera cable.