1880s Bustle Skirt - It's Black, It's Shiny, It's Quick and Dirty

Mar 19, 2011 9 comments
Playing dress up with a pseudo Victorian shirt and a velvet waist cincher
A very short time ago I found myself in a predicament, one that involved needing a black skirt to wear with my Steampunk stuff, and having just sold it off for another costumer elsewhere to enjoy.

I know it's sad that I only have one black skirt in my possession, but it's true.  I had about a week to make a new skirt, and true to form, instead of doing something quick and simple, I decided to use one of my favorite patterns, Truly Victorian TV261, to create something really over-the-top for Steampunk.

I couldn't find any affordable dupioni, so I did a bad, bad thing and went with black satin.  I know, satin is THE DEVIL, but it's so shiny and pretty and enticing!  So this being Steampunk I went with the satin, and why the heck not.  The plan for this skirt was to bust it out solidly but quickly.

And so I did.  I made the skirt in three evenings, complete with 88 inches of pleated trim which really didn't take that long, and finishes this particular skirt in such a nice fashion.  It's nothing special - all the seams are just zig-zag stitched on the inside, and did I mention it's satin?

White shirts and swiss waists are fun and all, but how about a matching black bodice?
The poufs are flatlined with net, which help it to stand out considerably, and also makes a crunchy noise when you move around.  The pleats on the hem need a nice velvet ribbon to finish the top edge (it's just selvage now). All in all, however, it fits, I think it looks quite sporting, and it will look good with Steampunk stuff.

'Course, I can't stop there.  Why not make a bodice?  Black shiny immediately made me think of Sargent's famous Madame X painting, so that is the tentative plan for a curvaceous 1880s bodice over a tightly laced corset.  Fun :-)

No, I will never look like her, but she inspires me :-)


  1. I can't wait to see you do the Madame X. Really cool skirt, I'd like to know how you did such quick pleating! (have you seen a ruffler foot? It does tiny pleats easily by machine...)

  2. Hi Steph, thank you! :-) I pleated in knife pleats just by feel, about 1", and just went through it, pinning and pressing as I went. It took maybe an hour or a little more? I don't have a ruffler foot, although I promised myself when I got my new machine last December that I would get all the cool and useful special feet, but that hasn't happened yet, lol

  3. Gorgeous skirt, but I'd also like to know more about the blouse. Got info?

  4. Lovely skirt! I've always liked Sargent's paintings, and am excited to see one of his 'come to life' so to speak. I think you kind of look a little like Madame X.... :-) Especially in the picture of you (sitting on the stool) above her.

  5. Melissa - I bought the blouse in a Macy's back in 2008. I didn't make it, but I wish I had, it's lovely :-).

    Jennie - I WISH I looked more like Madame X, although I imagine that face was both a blessing and a curse. Strong features, that lady! Something to aspire to in grace and poise, though :-)

  6. Lovely!! Just lovely!! (As is everything else you do!) And you made the satin work without bunching? That is usually my own downfall, and why I hate working with satin!

  7. Lydia, that's why I have trouble with satin too, the tension stuff. I admit there are some long seams that have a little bit of puckering, and it does irk me, but I'm just going to have to live with it. For the bodice I found that very careful hand-mounting of the satin pieces on the foundation layer works nicely to prevent puckering, even though it takes forever. I might try some interfacing or backing the satin with cotton flannel, not sure yet....

  8. You look tres chic and lovely. :) But you appear to be wearing few few or no petticoats? Scandalous! Or is it the fashion of the time? Not too up on late Victorian..... :-/

  9. Haha, I am wearing one petticoat beneath this skirt, and a bustle pad. The petticoat has layers of lacey ruffley bits on the back, to act as a dust ruffle. The front of the skirt is straight, but you're right, it does look a little deflated, so the plan is to put some horsehair brain at the hem, to help it stand out a bit :-)


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