Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Bustle

Since deciding on the bustle dress ensemble project, I have been looking at the construction of the bustle frame. For those that don’t know, this is the piece that makes the dress.

It is made from a large, varying group of materials from cloth, wire, steel, plastic, wood, and sometimes bone. The frame it’s self is what determines the size of the bustle, and it changes from one year to the next. So really, in order to determine what kind of bustle frame to make, I first have to decide what kind of bustle the dress will have. This is the part where I really wish I had the ability to sketch something out, at least well enough that it makes sense when you look at it. Instead, I will use images I was able to find to try to narrow it down.

This first one is a cotton and wire combination. It’s more for the type of bustle skirt that has a bit of a “train” at the back. ¬†It supports the heavier fabric skirts better, because it has the wire support. The potential downsides I can see are that a- the wire pokes through the cotton, b- the wire bends if you sit on it (unless you can master the art of gathering the supports before sitting) c- It wouldn’t work with a skirt that was narrower at the ankle.

Here you have the Langtry Bustle frame. This seems to solve the problem of sitting on the supports and bending them, and quite well if I may add. It’s almost like a device. It looks like it would also support the heavier fabrics, and work well with a dress that is narrower at the bottom. Truthfully I think that is the direction I will go. The only downside I can see is that it’s meant to be made from steel. I would imagine it would get quite expensive, creating a reproduction. But I wonder how it would work making a similar one from some kind of heavy weight plastic?

This one is similar to the one I posted above it, but it is shown with the underskirt. The more I look and think about this type of bustle, the more I think I will probably go in this direction. I like the idea of having the bustle high in the back, and having a somewhat narrower skirt at the bottom toward the calves and ankles.

Here you can see the front and back of a dress similar to what I mentioned. I love that it has all of the detail in the skirt, and then the gathering is on the apron or overskirt in the back. This would cover anything left exposed by the underskirt, and also mask any flaws. I like the ruffling on the underskirt above, the pleats don’t look as nice to me. The whole ensemble can be seen here.

This is an excellent example of the jacket I mentioned in the first post. It accommodates the bustle, and addresses my concerns of modesty. I really like the 3/4 length sleeve also, and I am pretty certain that is what I will do with mine. However, I’m probably going to use a ruffle instead of fur for trim.

I do really like the overall flow of this dress, the skirt is narrow enough at the ankles, and it would accommodate almost any size of bustle. I would probably make mine just a bit bigger. I also like the simplicity of this one, thought I most definitely will not being doing mine monochromatic. I also like the box pleat on the trim, it looks “frilly” but doesn’t have too much body too it. I would dare say this is nearly a perfect example of what I will be making. The only thing I don’t like is the back of the jacket, I will have it split as I mentioned earlier, so it will accommodate almost any bustle. I kind of feel like it looks less “stiff” than this one.

And of course I will be making a hat to match the whole thing. ūüôā

So, blog readers, what are your thoughts? Do you like the pleating or the gathered ruffle better? What about color? Should I make a fuller underskirt? Should the overskirt be shorter? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.


I’ve been thinking….

That title should have readers running for cover. That’s truly frightening. LOL but seriously, I have been thinking for a while about a special project. And honestly, it feels like it’s going to take me a kajillion hours to finish. It involves ordering a corset from Damsel in This Dress. I seriously LOVE Michelle and her awesome work, she is nothing short of amazing at what she does, and I know that even though I CAN sew, it would take me SOOOOOO much time to make something that even held a candle to her work. She has all the experience and equipment to make these, plus I just don’t have the ambition to stick with something that would frustrate me like I know that would. Ha. I tried it once. ONCE. Never again. It’s so much easier to just buy one from her, and I know it will be a high quality piece. It’s totally WORTH IT.
Anyway, I have a treasure trove of wonderful schematics and diagrams… mostly in French (thank you 2 years of foreign language in high school that I have had no need for EVER until now). Basically it means I can draft my own pattern, accurately for the period because these wonderful diagrams are from the mid 1800’s. What does it mean? LOTS of work for me. Not only translating the pages of french, but piecing together old paper bags to draft my patter pieces on. Then transferring them to muslin (or something like it, probably and old sheet) and fitting them on my dress form. Oh man, I’m already starting to lose the ambition for this project. Ha. Not really, cause I know that the end result is going to be amazing! I’m a big dreamer, if you hadn’t noticed.

So, the plan is this. I need to calculate how much fabric I need. I also need to figure out what kind of fabric I am going to use. Should I use something that is period accurate? It seems silly not to, since the pattern will be. But cost is definitely going to be a factor there. I haven’t been able to grow a money tree YET. So what do I use? I guess I ought to at least tell you what the project is. Ha ha, I got ahead of myself. I am going to make myself an ensemble… from the 1870’s-ish period. It’s daunting for sure. I’m slightly intimidated, and I will definitely be making a mock garment so I can test my pattern drafting skills. So the ensemble will consist of the following (and I’m trying to include images cause I know that not everyone will know what I am talking about):

A Bustle Dress. Not the Long trained dresses, it has to be practical and I need to be able to walk in it. But I have always been in love with the fullness of the dress at the top on the back.

Henri Gervex

This is a good idea of the style, ankle length but with the fullness I was talking about.I also love the long sleeves, but is that a part of the dress or a separate “jacket”?


Here is another example of the fullness I was talking about. This one clearly has a “jacket” (I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called, I even tried googling it to jog my memory) that goes over the top, and has fullness at the back as well to¬†accommodate¬†the full bustle skirt.

Here is a better example of the front portion of the skirt. And again, the “jacket” that goes with it. I’m definitely going to include something similar, mostly for my own personal modesty standard. I don’t want the plunging neckline of the classic ball gown of that time period (I have had 2 kids, and that whole “process” wasn’t kind to my poor body…), but rather I will have the high neck and full coverage. There is something romantic about being fully covered in a gorgeous dress. Anyway, onward!

HMS Calcutta

This is very easily my absolute favorite example of what I want my creation to be. The woman in blue, with all the frills and bows at the back. The trimmings are so much a part of the masterpiece. I love it. The shape of it, the fabric, the length, everything. It’s pretty much perfect.

So, there you have it, my idea. Undoubtably it will have a steampunk twist to it, I’m such a nerd for that stuff (Have you seen my pintrest!?). I am in the brainstorming phase, and hoping that all 3 of my blog readers will be able to help me out here. I need ideas for color, fabric type, “jacket” or shrug, long sleeves or short, there are SOOOOO many options! In the mean time I will be working on getting the skirt pattern drafted and tossing about ideas. I would sketch them, but I fail at drawing and it would surely be a train wreck of colors.