Saturday, January 25, 2014

3/52: The Travel Bustle

**Sorry the post is so late!  I finished the bustle nearly a week ago, but between a frantic week at my day job and preparing for an OKRF planning retreat I haven't had a chance to post it yet!  Without further ado, here it is!**

I love bustles.  All kinds of bustles.  I'm a big fan of skirt supports in general, but bustles are my favorite.

There are so many styles, so many sizes and shapes.  There are a lot of resources talking about the overall shapes of bustles by decade (I recommend starting with Corsets and Crinolines pg 93-97) but my love is in the structure and engineering of the items.  I mean, just look at these!

(Pics after the cut) as there are many.

The Met - 1870-75

The Met 1875-78

The Met 1887

The Met 1870-89

The Met 1880s
One purpose (okay, some are lobster tail bustles, so two purposes) but so many different ways of achieving the same look!

This week I decided to make a new bustle for myself.  Since I travel quite a bit, I wanted to do one conducive to my mobile life.  Most bustles will flatten out for travel and storage, but many of them require unlacing of panels to do so.  A year or so ago I came across this example of an easily stored travel bustle.

The Met 1882

The Met 1882

I loved the simplicity of the design, and the ease that it packed away.  When I went looking for travel bustles specifically, these beauties came up:

Victorian Albert Museum 1884

The Met 1880s
I decided this was the next style I would make!  So I pulled out my hoop wire, and a few trusty implements, and got to work.

I have three awls: a small, a large, and an ice pic.  Perfect size for grommets.
I decided on a five bone  bustle, and mapped out how long I wanted the pieces to be.  I cut those first.

Then I sewed up the boning channels for them to run through.  I could have riveted them in place, and may for a steamy bustle, but didn't want to ruin the visual sweep of the hoops.

Next: the capping.

My trusty pliers.  I have crimping dies for 1/4" bones, but none for 1/2" bones.

Here's where I pulled out every fastener in my shop to see what worked best.  I tried pop rivets, tubular rivets, tack jean buttons, and one or two others I'm probably forgetting.  Nothing had the hold or free movement I was looking for.  The pop rivets showed the most promise, but were too short to hold all five bones together.

I spent a few hours on the problem, inserting a fastener then having to delicately remove it and try a new one.  I briefly tried stair stepping the bones with pop rivets, fastening each bone to the one below it, but it was awkward and time consuming.  The rivets held too tightly, and prevented the bones from having a smooth open and close motion.  Plus, I really wanted the bones to pivot all from a single spot.

Frustrated, I turned back to my example bustles.  One of the originals was wired!  I mentally kicked myself, and packed away the fasteners.  I have loads of various wires from my experiments with wiring hats, collars, and other bits of costuming.  I knew I had a white, plastic coated wire hanging around somewhere.  I have spared you any pictures of my ransacking my studio looking for it, and putting the studio back in order.

I widened the rivet holes to allow the thick (far to thick to use for the project I originally bought it for) wire to loop through.  I know, plastic is very, very not period, but I don't want my bustle to rust, and I didn't have any millinery wire on hand.

I built the waistband and added two strips attached to the wire to help support the weight.  Some quick math helped me set the bones, and I pinned everything to check how it sat.

 It turned out wonderfully!  I deliberately built the bustle larger than the examples, in part because I love big bustles and I cannot lie (please don't hate me for that!) and in part to keep the bustle in proportion with my decidedly larger than average bottom half.

I sewed all of the tacked bits in place, and finished the wire at the bottom of the bustle.  It's so pretty!

The folding action is just as smooth as I could have hoped!  I think my next few projects will include a petticoat and some undergarments.  My fingers are itching for my sketchpad, so keep an eye out for some Victorian designs!


  1. This is awesome! I love how smoothly yours folds up. I made the wire version from the V&A, and I was surprised what a good little bustle it is.

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