V346: How to Make a Victorian Bustle – Pattern and Instructions

Hi all! Okay, I’m going to attempt to explain how to make the lobster tail bustle I posted about last time.  I want to stress that there is no right or wrong way to do this, and the way you put yours together may be different than how I did mine.  You *will* need some patience and math skills, but anyone can make one of these tournures, so long as you are a little crafty and have some sewing know-how.  Ready?

This pattern isn’t ready-made – you plug in your own measurements and draw it out.  Luckily, though, it is mostly straight lines, and is very forgiving.
Make note of the 1/3 rule – you don’t want the bustle back coming all the way around to your sides, which is why it is 1/3 and not 1/4.

The “traingle” side piece can be any shape really.  The purpose of it is to keep the bustle from shifting around at back
If you intend to add a ruffle or pleat guard, do it while the whole thing is flat, without bones.
Stitching the side back seams, with the tapes on top – that black tape is only there because I ran out of white, no special reason, lol
That’s the basics – customize to your heart’s content.
Here’s how it looks with the inner tapes tied together.
The finished piece – it sits 2″ below the waistline.
I’ve tried to be descriptive, but I’ve probably forgotten something, so if you have questions, go ahead and leave a comment, and I will try my best to answer them. ๐Ÿ™‚
More resources for Victorian bustles –
Truly Victorian pattern (skip the drafting and just sew it up.)
Underwear: Fashion in Detail (V&A Books)
Corsets & Crinolines by Norah Waugh (diagrams, primary sources)


    • Lauren Stowell

      January 2, 2013 at 2:37 AM

      Miss Elizabeth L. recommended to me a stiff, strong fabric like taffeta. I didn't have any, so I used cotton, nice and starched. So long as it is lightweight yet sturdy, it should work. You want to avoid something like canvas, as it is too heavy.

      • LaRene

        July 26, 2022 at 7:18 AM

        Hi I looked up the pattern. But it says unavailable is there a way to create the pattern pieces to make the bustle? My new job we have to dress victorian I read your tutorial for the bustle skirt that goes over this is there a pattern for the pieces I love your whole skirt

    • Anonymous

      January 6, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      I wear boned bustles like this- you have to sit straight down ("perch" is preferred"). note the loops hang, they aren't set with other boning to stay that far apart; when you sit the loops go up as you go down.

  • AuntieNan

    January 2, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I am so impressed! Wow, looks like you put your New Years weekend to very ingenious use, unlike some of us pajama clad slug bottoms, who sat around trolling the costume blogs and watching historic fashion porn a.k.a. PBS, LOL!
    It is so kind of you to share the pattern, too! let me know how the adjustable tape ties work for you, when wearing the gown, a real argument for that rather than my "pup tent" suggestion.
    Many, many happy days are ahead,
    Nancy N

  • Robin's Egg Bleu

    January 3, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    Thanks so much for this fabulous tutorial! Our house museum is changing it's period clothing program from mid-Civil War to the more appropriate 1870+ era and I am in charge of sewing a complete new wardrobe for all the docents.

    I couldn't even think of getting started until we had the proper foundations so I have been hedging, trying to think of how to do this without buying a pattern. Being a non-profit we have to budget every cent, and one less pattern bought provides a necessity elsewhere.

    It turned out great, I 'ruffled' all but the top boning channel, so that we won't need quite so many (if any) heavily ruffled petticoats atop them. I am re-purposing the skirts from all our ratty 10 year old Civil War style dresses to make these bustle forms and scavenging the boning from all the old hoops, and we're reusing the boneless hoop skirts as extra petticoats. I love being green. Thanks for all your great work!

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 4, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      That is a very good idea. The more ruffles the better! Up-cycling old stuff into new is splendid, and very period correct as well. ๐Ÿ™‚ I'm right there with you – why buy all new materials when you can cannibalize older tings for re-purposing? Genius ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Robin's Egg Bleu

      March 26, 2013 at 4:21 AM

      Hi Lauren,
      So sorry to bug you, but I'm having a little problem with our first docent recipient of a bustlegown. She insists that the bustle form is causing her 'pain at work'. Lower back pain from the bustle, which weighs next to nothing. Now, I figured the skirt might be too heavy so I took 1/3 of the weight out of the skirt (as much as I could get away with and still have it look correct). NOW the gal says the bustle form is causing her abdomen and lower back pain, it rides down so this is what is causing it. I noted that according to your tutorial, it's 'supposed to sit 2 inches below the waist' and this gal swears it's falling off her (tiny waist, wide hips so huh?not likely!). Anyhoos, since I've yet to wear a bustlegown and cannot possibly relate to what she's going through, do you have any advice? Are these contraptions something one must 'get used to'? With the nature of gravity, I feel the form must surely be forced to ride somewhat lower in the back than the front. And this gal says that's a problem. Yikes.

  • Gabriela Salvador

    July 28, 2013 at 2:50 AM

    I'm in charge of the fashion exhibit in my town's museum. There's an 1878-1882 bustle gown (with anglaise back) that's displayed on a wicker mannequin and has a bustle made of crumpled up newspaper. I originally had gotten the TV 101 and the bones for it, back when I thought it was early 1870s. Is there a way I could adapt TV 101 for this? Also, can I make this lobster bustle out of muslin (as that's what I purchased through the museum budget)??

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 28, 2013 at 6:27 AM

      Hi Gabriele – yes, you could absolutely make this out of muslin. As for adapting TV 101, this I do not know. This bustle is similar to the Truly Victorian tournure pattern, but I have not made TV 101. The concept is similar, so most likely. It may take some experimentation.

  • Unknown

    August 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    You say in the side piece 7 inch below waist band divide by 3 and mark on pattern. Does this mean your measurement aka hip measurement divided by 3? Forgive me I'm a tad confuzzled, too much pattern drafting in a weekend. XD

  • Anonymous

    September 5, 2013 at 11:47 PM

    How do you "decide on the width of your hoops?" I'm a very plus sized lady, so I don't want to go with 20" and 30" and then look like I'm barely wearing a bump because 1/3 of my waist measure is 20". This is the big problem I come up with often for historical sewing; I'm nowhere near the "average" sized woman.

    • Trold

      August 30, 2023 at 8:43 AM

      I’m making this for a friend and was wondering the same thing. I futzed around with the measurements a bit, and found that the total of the bottom hoop, should be about the same as the waist measure. and the top hoop should be 3/4 of the waist. I made the very top of the pattern piece about two inches shorter than the top hoop, but i still need to play around with it a bit more.

  • Unknown

    February 20, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Thank you so much for this tutorial, it's amazing! One question I have is the instruction to put the bones in after you've sewn the side piece and ties to the back piece. How would you do that? Aren't the openings to the boning channels sewn shut at that point?

  • M'lady

    July 28, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    How does the length of the bustle tail effect the shape it creates? I'm going to try making this from my stash..not sure I have enough fabric for one as long as yours.

    • Trold

      August 30, 2023 at 8:46 AM

      I’ve seen them as short as about mid thigh. i think the most important part is the top – to give that shape. The bottom is mostly there to keep the shape going down. this was also the era of the bustle pad after all ๐Ÿ™‚

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