Posts Tagged ‘Bustle’

I will be constructing a circa 1869 visiting gown with a velvet jacket for outerwear.

For the gown, I have some green and gold plaid silk. It’s pretty exciting, and I have lots of it. I plan on making an impressive skirt without an apron, scalloped at the hem line with some pleating showing below the scallops on the base skirt underneath. The bodice for the dress I am thinking will be high necked, simple, well cut and possibly belted. I may use the plaid for accent pieces on the bodice, but otherwise the bodice will be made on green silk.

Fur trimmed coat. My intention is to keep it shorter in the front than this russet beauty.

The coat will be velvet and will have a bustle/pouf portion with some side panels. I purchased a set of wild Canadian mink cuffs with a thick matching collar to attach to the jacket. I may trim the jacket with silk ribbon or fringe.

The pièce de résistance will be the full plaid silk skirt, though I am thinking that the wild mink will be a show-stopper as well. Since two of the last three bustle gowns I made employed plaid, it would be safe to say I like plaid and bustles juxtaposed. Tissot would empathize with the bustle and plaid fascination, and all of the competing pattern and lines therein. Plaid is such hardworking stuff that provides humor and surprise, though very easy to work with because of the whole grid design. Perhaps Tissot would agree.

My goal for the next gown is to do a magnificent job with the tailoring. I was less enthusiastic about the tailoring of previous bustles. I am going to correct that this time around. I have some drawings and will be starting a mock up as soon as I dig out my bolt of muslin not in storage. Most of my patterns are indignantly stored away in a rubbermaid container in an unheated storage unit far away (poor patterns!), so I’ll drafting from scratch. Fun, fun, fun!


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Since, we’re on the subject and all that, here is a little poem (J.H. Gray, “The Girls that are Wanted,” 1880 circa) that I got on Facebook via Roba da Vittoriani (beautiful photo included, no clue how it relates):

The girls that are wanted are good girls

Good from the heart to the lips

Pure as the lily is white and pure

From its heart to its sweet leaf tips.

The girls that are wanted are girls with hearts

They are wanted for mothers and wives

Wanted to cradle in loving arms

The strongest and frailest lives.

The clever, the witty, the brilliant girl

There are few who can understand

But, oh! For the wise, loving home girls

There’s a constant, steady demand.

What strikes me the most about this poem is the last line: that the home-loving woman is in “steady demand.” One can recall my discussion in a previous post regarding the docility of Victorian era women. In the Victorian era, a woman’s career was at home as this was the way the economy was structured.

Now in this modern article it is stated that women are having a harder time getting back to work then men. Here, today, is an example of a situation in which there are probably many “witty” women who are not in demand, and who are finding themselves frustrated and anxious at home. They are potentially in circumstances where their male partners and friends are returning to work. Women of the US didn’t decide one day they wanted to return to being Victorian-style domestic goddesses, but cultural and economic pressures dictated that they may want to curb their “wit,” even if only for a limited duration.

Current unemployment statistics do not necessarily reveal how many women have decided to have a baby but not return to work. These numbers are harder to find (though I’m sure a clever statistician with the right statistics could deduce the extent of the phenomanon). The statistics in the above article may be a reflection of such a trend. I recall a slate article read not so long ago that was highly encouraging for new moms such as myself: here was a “mommy track” Harvard Law graduate – a witty and brilliant girl – who found herself with less of a career than she expected. Her brilliance and accomplishments were sidelined and her expensive degree became more of a status symbol than a source of income. Naturally, if she had a less illustrious education, her mommy track status would be on a significantly lower level, so it’s not entirely worthless. But expensive educations do cause debt. I am pretty sure she is in good and numerous company.

Should this current trend continue (and it may not), one can expect college degrees granted to women may decline, and enrollment in colleges could also suffer as a result. There would be less incentive for a middle class woman to gain a college degree, as men would be apprehensive about taking on their debt. The “wise, home-loving girl” would look far more attractive if it became the norm for women to not return to work.

I recall a Harvard historian who recently stated something to the effect that Regency England hardly expected Victorian prudery and structure to be right around the corner. All of those relatively liberated women in their high-waisted gowns expected that the Georgian public acceptance of lovers, illegitimate children, emancipated, intelligent women, and sheer ball gowns would not grind to a screeching halt when faced with an era headed by an 18-year-old inexperienced Queen.

In any case, our culture and resources will set the demand, and none of this changes my desire to make another bustle gown. I love visiting the past, but the present is always way more exciting because we don’t know where it will go.

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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.

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Hi, guys. I’ve been gone for a while after a baby and a big move.

Winter will shortly fall on our heads like a sharp and brittle wind-blown icicle. As I currently live in a city, skiing opportunities will be scarce though the winter will be colder and darker. A project is needed.

When we left off I was about to start an Edwardian corset, and had all of the materials to complete said project. Now, though I live in a bigger city with greater resources, and I intend to allow the fabric to do the inspiring. Though I wouldn’t rule out an Edwardian, I feel as though a luscious silk velvet bustle beckons – one such as the ladies in my Victorian city neighborhood would have worn when these brick row houses, and copper clad mansions were new. ‘Tis the season for velvet, eh?!

Onto those sketches!

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Center panel

Center panel

Not much action here as far as the dress goes. Lots of stuff to do. Time sensitive. Responsibilities.

But I have made the center panel. It’s not crazy exciting, but there’s a reason for that. I think the polonaise is way exciting by its own. One could have gone all out with the center bodice panel, just for the sake of going all out, and to show off. But, no. That was not done here. Restraint was used.

Why did I decide to construct it with a center panel? Doesn’t it make it more complex? Yes, it does. But it also leaves some room for fudging in case I gain or loose weight. I often imagine I may need to wear the dresses I make more than once, though it rarely happens. Yet, I am hopeful.

The center panel is interlined in heavy canvas. There are two 4 inch bones crossing the waist vertically. I also sewed a piece of cotton tape horizontally across the waist to reinforce it. Most of the brute force of holding the bodice on the body should be taken by the waist plackard (see previous post), but structural integrity is important, and, well, why not?

The center panel buttons on the inside with metal snaps. Hook and eyes could not have worked, because they would show. The snaps make the join flat, without leaving the gap between the base of the hook and the eye.

The center panel is lined in lilac silk. I pleated two pieces of a plum sash into the top side of the panel and tied them into a bow. I’ll iron the bow to be more flat and such later.

It’s hard for me to make the dress look good on the dummy. First, though its close, it’s not exactly my measurements. Second, it can not stand up straight.

20090508_0002To the right is the lovely back, all plaid and poufy.

I have some antique lace I will sew into the neckline, and the plan is to make a scarf that ties around the waist for yet another exciting bow.

The back half of the underskirt needs its pleats. I’m waiting to see how much plum I have left before I make them. The plan is to make the sleeves plum with some plaid trim. Almost all of the fashion plates I have seen using plaid fabric have the sleeve fabric contract from the bodice: either the bodice is solid and the sleeves plaid or vise versa. Again, there is also so much going on with the polonaise. It’s good to give the eye a break.

The dress will be photographed at the Lilac Festival here in Rochester, so it will have to be done soon. I’ll be making a hat, too.

20090508_0003Since I don’t have much else to show, I am posting a picture of my garden gnome. He’s really cute. One could stare at him for hours…

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So far.

So far.

The Polonaise is far from finished. But the components are slowly taking form. It will be so satisfying when I can breathlessly sew them all together. That’s the easy part.

The picture is not so good. But, what is shown in the photo is polonaise back train with it’s fronts turned back with little tassels, the finished side panels, and the unfinished back pouf. The back-top ouf still needs plum trim and tassels. Also, I might sew little lilac or plum bows above the tassels. Still haven’s decided. And also, the way it is turned back isn’t quite right in the photo. Why did I bother to post one at all?! I guess because I’m trying to show the progress.

The back pouf, or top layer, will have a sash that falls just above the points. I will probably tie it in a bow.

When you get to this stage in projects, you start to have doubts. Will people notice my little plum tassels? Should I redo that part I’m not happy with or leave it alone? Will it all matter anyway? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Then I remind myself, this is a Victorian bustle dress. Try your best, and see what happens.

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I’ve postponed finishing the skirt, primarily because I can’t make up my mind yet about how to allocate resources. In the meantime, i have started the ever so particular polonaise. Below are shots of the plaid pinned to the interliner, which is then loosely pinned to the dummy.

I changed the design. There will be a heavily pleated panel extending from the mid-back bodice (under the ‘V’), which will probably be poufed. From the side back bodice panels, I am sewing two side panels. You’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like.

Side Bodice

Side Bodice

Back center bodice

Back center bodice


Side from a distance


Back from a distance

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