In the previous post I discussed the fashion for using varied materials, texture, techniques and styles in Victorian construction, from clothes to architecture. As all styles, this preference didn’t come out of no where.
As of late the Great Exhibition of 1851 has gathered much more attention than in previous decades. It was an amazing feat, a world wonder, and one can guess that it was so ignored for so long because of our recent bias against all things Victorian (again, until as of late). The Great Exhibition encapsulated the changing nature of the planet. Like it or not, the mighty British Empire spanned the globe and brought with it unprecedented cross-cultural contact. The technological and economic impact was huge.
In the 1990s, globalization was hailed as the savior of the world. Manufactured goods could be ordered and bought from afar and for cheap, forming fortunes for the investor, and providing the middle classes access to goods they would have otherwise been unable to acquire due to rarity or afford due to cost. The Victorian era was relatively similar, and this formed Victorian style as we know it: varied use of materials and rampant revivalism (such as the Egyptian revival and the polonaise). The bustle was a form for the display of new and varied available resources. Any fashion plate will show how the form provided such an effective surface for variation, while still keeping with what our genetic makeup would allow us to find attractive.
In any case, it’s ironic that the bustle is experiencing a revival in the mainstream when, in reality, our time period shares much more in common with the Belle Epoque (we share top heavy wealth distribution among other features). But I guess popular culture imagines the bustle to personify the entire Victorian era in general. If the Victorian era is imprinted on popular consciousness as being fantastic, filled vampires, romance, deviant sex and an alternate view on gender norms juxtaposed with the contrasting structure of Victorian society, then its resurgence in popularity may be better explained. In our time period of little subtlety – where it could be claimed that our social interactions rank low in imagination – the bustle era with its calling cards, segmented floor plans, flamboyant architecture, creative revivalism, clothes that require help to remove, and all those nooks and crannies could look as though it could hold a secret that could help us out in our quest for a quality life.
In summary, the bustle era with its structure and distance looks like the furthest point from a reality show. Never mind the rest.