Developing the bustle skirt Part 1

First version – brown Victoriana

My first attempt with a draped skirt, with all the interest at the “bustle” area (or butt as Mrs Mole would say – do your brides blush?), was executed with brown corduroy. Or “corde du roi” as my (new) tutor Daniel Kinne calls it. We like to speak a bit of French in the classroom. I countered with (serge) de Nîmes. I am sorry about the overexposed photograph taken in the classroom. Brown, like black, can be a bit fussy to photograph. So it looks like we have no stand behind the skirt.

If you are thinking why drape in brown corde du roi, the answer is that Morley college was selling off various remnants for £1 a metre – half the price of calico – so why not? Actually it is nice fabric and I thought I might make a “wearable toile” with this fabric. But so far my draping experiments never seem to go from fabric to outfit in one fell swoop (or one foul sweep as someone at work said the other day.) Anyway what is interesting with this experiment is that I had to gather the side seams to create the space for the bustle. I then picked up the fabric at CB and pinned it to the CB neck of the stand. I had some fun pleating the fabric to create some pleasing folds.

Draping on the stand bustle skirt
Draped Bustle skirt (first attempt)

I then whisked this off for more work at home. I created a waist line with thread, then cut off the large centre folded section to create the back of the skirt.  There were several layers of cloth at the CB and i stitched it down carefully. I also used fusible interfacing at the side seams where they were gathered with two layers of machine basting, and then taped.

Draped bustle skirt
Draped bustle skirt (second iteration)

Finally I bunched up a piece of cotton organdie and pushed it up the skirt. It seemed, against my best intentions, taking the shape, colour, weight and bulk into account I had more or less invented a Victorian skirt. Not really what I had in mind.

Draped bustle skirt with padding
Draped bustle skirt with organdie underpinning


Back to the drawing board

I showed you some historical inspiration for the under structured skirt. I was wondering (a little conservatively) if I could create something a more restrained, for everyday wear rather than court or couturier. I liked these 1940s dresses and, while they are all evening/cocktail dresses, they are very wearable. Maybe as a knee-length skirt, rather than a one piece dress.

For my second attempt I decided to make a toile first, and rather than using corduroy I thought I would have a try with something drapey. Also I had been toying with the idea of using the middle, pulled up piece to make the bustle – something like in the third Vogue pattern above,  the striped mustard dress with the square back. I got out my skirt block, cut a skirt back with closed darts (opened at the CB and side seam) side gathers and an about 38″ of fabric added at the CB. I think that in a nice fabric without an obvious front and back (or maybe with an interesting reverse), and with a little more body, this design might be really nice. The bustle bit looks a bit like a big bow (or could be arranged that way). I think this is another skirt that has legs, but it needs quite a lot of development. I will report back in due course.

Draped short skirt with integral bustle
Draped short skirt with integral bustle

12 Responses

  1. Demented Fairy

    Cool! I like these, although you definitely need a defined waist to carry them off. I only get away with my bustle with the aid of a corset! I’m about to do a bit of draping with my cut-up pillowcases to add some oomph to my first SWAP outfit, it won’t be this classy though.
    I urge you to make a little pair of panniers…

  2. Jay

    The skirts look interesting, if not typical daily wear to the office. The addition of underpinnings doesn’t make for contemporary daywear, at least for most of us, with ordinary jobs and lives. I’d like to see these in plaid though, perhaps toned down a notch.

  3. SewRuthie

    Giant bows at the back remind me of 1980s bridesmaids dresses. I am having trouble seeing the weararability of any of these but I suspect that is because I am quite boring in my styles!

  4. mrsmole

    Not only do my brides never blush, but when I describe a fluffy over-bustle as opposed to a flatter French under-bustle as a “rooster butt” they immediately know what they don’t want if the train can be manipulated either way. I’m with Jay on the paring down of volume otherwise you may be taken for someone going to a costume/fancy dress party and not riding public transport to work. As far as corduroy goes…the weight and thickness is just a problem unless it is also pared down to a flatter silhouette. As corduroy also like to wear badly and fade at stress areas like knees and butts in pants and has no snap back quality, you have to accept bagginess before you slide it under the presser foot and invest time and energy into it. I’ve seen quilts backed with it and it works quite well and is very cozy. Love the green color or your other fabric!!!!

  5. SJ Kurtz

    As much as I want to jump up and down repeatedly and wave my hands in the arm over the Corde du roi (it’s the King’s, it’s GOTTA be great) version at the top, Mrs Mole is quite correct. It won’t take much wear, it’s very heavy and will need a lot of upper structure or an enormous belt to keep it together.
    (hangs head). But I am so happy you draped that.
    I see a cross Atlantic bridal party in corduroy. Mrs Mole’s clientele will be very fashion forward. It’s not like they wear those …erm…dresses twice. And if the kids today are all getting married in barns and in hay fields..

  6. Jennifer Miller

    Sadly, I have ample “bustle” of my own, so could never handle any extra flounce. But I love what you are doing with this draping work. You are obviously having a great time of inspiration! I do love the look of that third pattern (w/o that certain feature) the back neckline is really gorgeous. 🙂

  7. Anne

    So inspiring! I love what you’re doing but agree with the previous comments about drape and about suitability for day to day wear if not pared down. I love the dresses you’ve shown – regrettably not for me, though – I can’t afford to emphasise this area!

Leave a Reply