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bustle

bustle The simple dictionary description of a bustle is ‘a pad, or wire framework, worn beneath the skirt of a woman's dress, to expand it behind; a dress-improver’. This usage is found in the 1770s and is recorded in a letter to the Lady's Magazine of 1786. It is, essentially, a nineteenth-century term, used increasingly from the late 1820s until the disappearance of the bustle from fashionable dress in 1889. However, various aids to change the natural female anatomy at the back of the waist and around the hips had been devised from the fourteenth century onwards. These usually took the form of a padded roll tied around the waist and were depicted in contemporary engravings or caricatures. The practice of emphasizing one or more areas of the female anatomy is found throughout the history of fashionable dress and the bustle was only one in a considerable array of undergarments which assisted with this process. It is a wholly impractical structure which distorted the natural curves of the body. Today, examining surviving examples and reading the advertisements of the period, it is impossible not to admire the sheer ingenuity which informed the construction of an item destined not to be seen by anyone other than the wearer and her maid. Lightweight wire, collapsible steel, whalebone, horsehair, and inflatable gutta-percha were used at various times to create or strengthen bustles. They are a tribute to the nineteenth-century delight in new materials and techniques. Undoubtedly they were constricting but they are usually very light in weight and are, in their use of colour, pattern, and imaginative techniques, unintentionally, witty.

The rise and fall of the bustle spans nearly the whole of the nineteenth century. In the early years the high-waisted, fluid dresses only needed a small pad attached to the back of the waist, but this became fuller, and by 1815 it was a separate entity. Gradually, as the waistline reverted to a natural line in the 1820s and 1830s, the crescent-shaped pad became larger and could be layered with one or more additions of diminishing size. Rows of stiffened cotton, like starched frills, were also used or the two types were sometimes combined. By the late 1830s, when dress skirts were widening, a padding was inserted between the dress fabric and the lining to emphasize the area over the hips. This became a rounded, separate bustle once more between 1841 and 1846. By 1849 the discreet euphemism ‘dress-improver’ was in use, and by 1853 bustles were being made with rolls of crinoline (a mixture of horsehair and linen).

In the late 1860s, as fashions changed, leading to a flattening of the front of women's skirts but compensating by placing emphasis on back fullness, the crinolette (a streamlined, hooped petticoat with back emphasis only) and then the bustle gave support. Initially a few steel or whalebone strips were inserted into a petticoat to support the weight of the ruched-up back of the skirt, but a rounded structure of steel hoops, whalebone, or horsehair quickly became a permanent attachment to the top of the crinolette.

The terminology also changed with the introduction of the French word ‘tournure’ as yet another polite word for bustle. This was a structural, full-length petticoat with integral bustle, which emerged between 1870 and 1873. In 1871 it was reported that it rose ‘high above the waist and is of vast dimensions.’ A brief respite occurred in the mid to late 1870s until the final phase of the bustle began in 1881. It steadily increased in size until it reached its full magnitude in 1885 as an ugly but substantial shelf-like structure. These came in various styles and materials.

Full-length half crinolettes (like aprons but worn at the back and tied at the front) had frills of cloth, horizontal adjustable steels, horsehair padding; half-length versions had collapsible springs and, in line with the health-conscious reform lobby of the 1880s, ‘Health Braided Wire Bustles’ gained popularity. This American design was marketed as light, strong, pliable, and healthy; it came in several layered and rounded variants and sizes and was intended to support ‘the best shapes in the fashionable world’.

By 1890 the bustle had passed from fashion forever and although the term is still used it indicates back interest on a garment, such as bows, loops of fabric, a band of frilled, and layered fabric at the back of the waist — but not a structure under the garment.

Valerie Cumming

Bibliography

Carter, A. (1992). Underwear: the fashion history. Batsford, London.
Newton, S. M. (1974). Health, art and reason: dress reformers of the nineteenth Century. John Murray, London.
Probert, C. (1981). Lingerie in Vogue since 1910. Thames and Hudson, London.


See also clothes; erogenous zones; fashion; female form.

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Bustle

Bustle

Women wore bustles underneath the backs of their skirts for several centuries beginning in the sixteenth. Bustles consisted of various objects, including cushions, pads, and frames made of wire and wood, that were tied around the waist or directly attached to a woman's skirts. The purpose of the bustle was to add fullness or shape to the skirt, and it was often used in combination with farthingales, which were stiff hoops, or petticoats, that were worn as full underskirts.

The design and filling of bustles, and the manner in which they were worn, changed from century to century, and even from decade to decade. Bustle types related directly to the kinds of dresses currently in style. They were much needed with the full skirts of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and were used along with farthingales. But when slimmer dress profiles of the mid-seventeenth century were in fashion, bustles were not needed. This cycle occurred again in the nineteenth century. In the 1870s bustles were out of fashion because women were wearing dresses made of smaller amounts of cloth. Fuller dress styles were introduced in Paris in 1880 and London three years later. The bustle that accompanied them was made of a cushion filled with straw, which was sewn directly into the dress. This bustle also included a number of steel half-hoops placed in the dress lining, which thrust out the dress behind the waist.

From the late nineteenth century on, bustles were occasionally worn only with ball gowns. For the most part, however, they have been out of style throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Cunnington, C. Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. Boston, MA: Plays, Inc., 1972.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

[See also Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Farthingales ; Volume 3, Seventeenth Century: Petticoats ]

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bustle

bus·tle1 / ˈbəsəl/ • v. [intr.] move in an energetic or noisy manner: people clutching clipboards bustled about. ∎  [tr.] make (someone) move hurriedly in a particular direction: she bustled us into the kitchen. ∎  [intr.] (of a place) be full of activity: the small harbor bustled with boats. • n. excited activity and movement: all the noise and the traffic and the bustle. bus·tle2 • n. hist. a pad or frame worn under a skirt and puffing it out behind.

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"bustle." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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bustle

bustle1 bestir oneself busily, XVI. perh. alt. of †buskle, frequent, of busk prepare, hurry (- ON. búask); see -LE. Not certainly identical with ME. bustele (XIV).

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"bustle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"bustle." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bustle-1

bustle

bustle2 frame or pad thrusting out a woman's skirt behind. XVIII. of unkn. orig.

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bustle

bustlehassle, Kassel, passel, tassel, vassal •axel, axle •cancel, hansel, Hänsel, Mansell •transaxle •castle, metatarsal, parcel, tarsal •chancel • sandcastle • Newcastle •Bessel, nestle, pestle, redressal, trestle, vessel, wrestle •Edsel • Texel •intercensal, pencil, stencil •pretzel • staysail • mainsail • Wiesel •abyssal, bristle, epistle, gristle, missal, scissel, thistle, whistle •pixel • plimsoll •tinsel, windsail •schnitzel, spritsail •Birtwistle •paradisal, sisal, trysail •apostle, colossal, dossal, fossil, glossal, jostle, throstle •consul, proconsul, tonsil •dorsal, morsel •council, counsel, groundsel •Mosul • fo'c's'le, forecastle •bustle, hustle, muscle, mussel, Russell, rustle, tussle •gunsel • corpuscle •disbursal, dispersal, Purcell, rehearsal, reversal, succursal, tercel, transversal, traversal, universal •Herzl

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