1880s Bustle Skirt – It’s Black, It’s Shiny, It’s Quick and Dirty

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 🙂


  • Steph

    March 19, 2011 at 3:56 AM

    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…)

  • Lauren Stowell

    March 19, 2011 at 5:53 AM

    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

  • Jenni

    March 19, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    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.

  • Lauren Stowell

    March 19, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    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 🙂

  • Lydia Elizabeth Burnwell

    March 20, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    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!

  • Lauren Stowell

    March 21, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    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….

  • Jenny

    March 25, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    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….. :-/

  • Lauren Stowell

    March 25, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    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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