V211: I Like Big Bustles and I Cannot Lie

It is rather like an insect carapace, isn’t it.

Last Friday night, I took a class with the industrious Mary Crawley, leader of the local Steampunk club, High Desert Steam, to learn how to make this clever, collapsible, wire bustle.

Modeled after an example from the V&A, this bustle is constructed of 6 struts, a cross piece, twill tape, and elbow grease.

Here is the effect it has on a bustle skirt.

We made ours out of wire coat hangers, straightened then bent into consecutive arcs, and threaded onto the wire cross piece.  With Mary’s help, it took about 2 hours to complete the whole thing, start to finish, and now I have a lightweight, rather large bustle to put under future 1880s costumes.  Yay!


  • Anonymous

    July 30, 2012 at 1:16 AM

    That is great… would you happen to have the instructions to create this? I do a LOT of bustle era costuming and would love a new bustle. Mine is the laughing moon (pillow like) version.

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 30, 2012 at 1:46 AM

      I don't have any written instructions for it. It was a class given locally, but I will ask Mary if she has a hand out or anything like that

    • Melissa

      July 30, 2012 at 2:47 AM

      Like Celticgoddess81 I would love to see some instructions on how to make this bustle. Pretty please with a parasol on top? 😉

  • Matthew and Elyse

    July 30, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    Awesome – just one question: does the cross piece then knock against the back of the thighs every time you take a step?

  • Anonymous

    July 30, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    I love it! I have been looking at online pattern for these for a few months now. I Started my first bustle gown back in Dec with a skirt from my own pattern. I have just used a pillow bustle so far but I love this!

  • Karen

    July 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    great – especially the collapsible bit – saves space when travelling! Gonna have a go at making one myself – see if it bangs against the back of the thighs. Plus finally something nice to do with wire coathangers – if I haven't already binned all mine.

  • Emily Kate

    July 30, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    This is awesome!! I may just have to give this a shot–it looks like a good replacement for the pillow bustle I'm currently using. (Or *would* be using if I ever finished my bustle dress…) It looks handy, and not too hard to sit down in 🙂

  • Pica Maloria

    July 31, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    Uh, Hi! I'm Mary, the chick with the bustle class.
    @Matthew and Elyse: It doesn't knock against the back of your thighs if measured properly – it should hit at the lower part of your bum, before the final sweep to the buthigh region. Here's a good pic of where it should hit: http://micheleroohani.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Auxiliary-bustles-skirt-1875-michele-roohani.jpg
    @Frecklehead: yyyesss… you could. I don't know if I would though. Making the pivot piece out of wire (I use dead soft hardware store wire – the stuff you can buy super cheap) makes it super easy for the struts to pivot around for collapsing and re-opening. If your worried about the wire being kinda owie – it's surprisingly easy to forget you're wearing it. Admittedly, I've never worn *super* heavy draperies over it, but if you're wearing a petticoat and bloomers of some kind, I'd think you'd be fine.
    I'll do my best to photo/write up a tutorial sometime soon and pass it on.


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