The Angel Wing Bum, 1785

Save for one tiny bit of stomacher fabric, my wedding gown is DONE! *happy dance*

Last week, when sorting out hems and skirt volumes, I decided I needed a new bum.  The en fourreau-ish-ness of the center back on the redingote didn’t want to lay nicely over more hefty bums, so I was looking for something that would allow that portion of the dress to lay smoothly, while providing oomph to the rest of the skirt.

I immediately thought of Demode’s excellent research, “Late 18th Cenury Skirt Supports: Bums, Rumps, & Culs,” so went scurrying off to brush up on what sort of pa-dunk-a-dunk I needed to get the shape I wanted.

I was intrigued by the many bum styles satirized in this fabulous Rushworth print, from 1785, in the Lewis Walpole Library:

The bum in the top row, second from the right, caught my attention. In my brainbox I imagined it creating flare at the sides, while remaining flat-ish at the center back, and helping the skirt to transition smoothly from the waist into a backward sweep.

So here’s my take on it:

It came out quite large, and I have a second, small bum stacked beneath it to angle the whole thing back a bit more.  This stacked bum method reminds me of the Elizabethan wheel farthingales shown in Period Costume for Stage & Screen
and The Tudor Tailor,
but it’s also not so different from 19th century elliptical hoops.

Please excuse my messy messy room – shown here from the inside out is: small bum, angel wing bum, ugly puffer, synthetic taffeta petticoat, and silk taffeta petticoat.

It definitely does the trick. I’m not sure it’s the most efficient way to achieve this shape, but it generally worked, so I’m happy.  I can see how variations on this design could achieve quite different results – maybe the wings wrap around the waist more, so there’s padding more on the hips, or the center back pillowy bit is stuffed more, instead of left quite soft the way I did it. That’s the difficult part about working from a cartoon – the shapes are exaggerated, and it’s impossible to tell what the stuffing was like. It served as a nice inspiration, though, and I’d love to try out some of those other crazy-looking bums hanging on the wall!

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