Bustlin' in the 1880s

 A relatively short post: 1880s foundations! I don't especially like making the undies, but I do like having the correct foundations for an outfit; it makes all the difference.


The bustle and petticoat are new(ish)...the combinations are at least five or six years old (I think from the Truly Victorian pattern), and the corset is from Redthreaded


The bustle in its original form is quite elderly; I made it in 2011 to go under one of my first Victorian dresses, a striped cotton 1870s dress! I used the pattern for the 1870s bustle in Norah Waugh's Corsets & Crinolines; it's more of a "lobster-tail" style, so very usable for the 1880s as well. I dug it out last year when I decided to do an 1880s outfit in 2024, and figured I could do "just a little bit" of refitting.


Well...it might have been easier to make a completely new one, actually, but I didn't want to waste the materials. In particular, it's boned with the buckram-encased hoop steel that isn't made any more, so I really didn't want to waste that! I pulled the inner pieces in tighter to make the tail protrude more, added in a scrap piece at the top to fill in the void that pulling in the back left (it doesn't match but whatever), resewed the top parts of the tail closer to the boning, added the black ruffle to the bottom of the tail, refit the side hip pieces, sewed the whole thing back on the waistband, and then added metal eyes so I could lace it for a closure rather than a hook & eye.

Easy peasy, right?


It's not quite up to my 2024 standards; if I were making it new I'd have tried to do a much better job of fitting those side hip pieces, in particular! But, ultimately...it's underwear, right? Wrinkly hip pieces aren't really going to matter!


The petticoat is a new make, and my first accomplished thing for 2024. (Started AND finished in 2024, yay me.) It's made from drapery silk, using TV261. Well, using the front pieces, anyway; I had to lengthen the back to go over this bustle! It doesn't look that big with the petticoat, but the center back length is almost 7" longer than the center front, so needed a little extra room.


The drapery silk was an excellent deal although isn't a color I'd especially want for a dress (ugly gold and bronze with a non-mirrored stripe. Bought specifically to become a late Victorian petticoat of some kind!). Being a drapery silk and relatively loosely-woven, I flat-felled all the seams on the petticoat, otherwise I'd be eternally shedding little bits of gold thread. Annoying, but I wanted a fancy swishy petticoat to go under my dinner dress, and drapery silk is a whole lot cheaper than a nice taffeta these days!


I didn't center or try to match the stripes; since they're not mirrored it would have been way more trouble than it was worth...and, again, undies. Not that noticeable anyway! Cut the stripe on the flounce running the opposite way because it seemed fun.

Final note is about the bustle and why I wanted to lace it for a fastening rather than a hook & eye. So it could do this!


There are hooks to be found on a few extant corsets (like this one); I've seen them described as holding petticoats in place and away from bulking up the waist but they can certainly do the same for a bustle! I don't care as much about bulk at the waist, but I did want to make sure the bustle stayed where I wanted it. 

There's a difference in waist length between the two bustle eras; 1870s is shorter-waisted with the bustle starting up at that higher waist, while 1880s is longer-waisted, with the bustle more at the high hip and/or resting on the bum, depending on your proportions. Compare this 1870s dress with this 1880s dress! Relatively subtle, but it's the little things, right? 

With my particular shape, any skirt supports on a waistband want to creep up to the smallest part of my waist (naturally!), which on me is too high for fashionable 1880s. So - hooked in place it is! That prevents the small-of-the-waist sag that I get with skirt supports, as well, so it's a win-win. I just stitched one one of those big Dritz hooks on, which I'm quite sure aren't as sturdy as the ones actually used in period, but I'll see how it holds up.

(Also, a "relatively short" post for me is still apparently over 700 words...this is why I'll never be successful on Instagram, LOL!)


  1. Your studies and understanding of 18th century, Regency, early Victorian and vintage 20th century fashion design, tailoring and seam sewing are fabulous!
    I have tended to be much less successful at keeping the size of my blog posts down than you have! Your dedication to detail is impressive!
    My lingerie fashion blog: https://full-brief-panties.blogspot.com/


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