Friday, December 14, 2012

Ivory 1880's Neat Looking Bustle Dress

From the seller:

This is an absolutely fabulous gown from 1885 – 1888, when skirts with a very high bustle would have been trimmed asymmetrically (different on each side). As this gown is in absolutely excellent condition, it should be in a museum. However, it is of a medium size and could actually be worn!

This all original gown is made in two pieces (bodice and skirt). It is machine and hand sewn. It has no labels or markings. The main fabric of this gown is an ivory colored cotton and/or wool blend. The gown is trimmed with a significant amount of lace, as well as silk ribbons and 22 fabulous carved shell buttons (all present with an extra spare attached to the lining).

The bodice is very fitted with long sleeves and a high neck. The bodice is fully lined with a thick tan cotton, and has a hook and eye closing at the front (all hooks and eyes present). There is then an additional piece that closes over the opening with buttons. It has six pieces of boning across the inside front, all present. The front of the bodice is slightly rounded at the bottom center front, and the back of the bodice has a rounded split tail that falls over the bustle of the skirt. The bodice is trimmed down the front, around the edge of the high collar, and the edge of the sleeves with lace.

The skirt is made with various pleating, drapes, tucks, etc., forming the flat front and large bustle in back, popular during this period. Note how differently each side of the skirt is embellished. The bottom hem has a row of pleating and a muslin footing on the inside edge. The skirt fastens in the center back with a button, and the bustle then covers this and is fastened on the side with another button. The skirt is completely lined with a tan cotton. The skirt has 3 pockets across the back inside lining for drawing the bustle tighter.


I would consider the condition of this dress to be excellent, actually magnificent for display or wear. There is absolutely no fading to the color of this gown. There is no underarm damage or discoloration. There are no holes or tears to any of the materials used in this gown. The ties for adjusting the bustle are missing, but could easily be replaced with others from the period. One would wonder if this gown was ever worn! It is definitely authentic, but shows little if no wear! I do see some minor discoloration to the lining of the bodice.


Bodice: Back (shoulder to shoulder seam): 14”

Back (neckline to waist): 16 1/2”

Bust (bottom armhole to armhole, doubled): 39”

Sleeves (shoulder seam to bottom): 24 1/2”

Waist (outside of garment, when closed): 28”

Skirt: Waist (outside of garment, when closed): 29”
Length (waist to hem bottom): 41”

Circumference at skirt hem: 81”


I have shown this gown over a bustle support, which is not included in this auction.

I have listed in a separate listing an embroidered lace parasol from this same period, which goes perfect with this gown.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

From Me:

I first thought this was a recreation until I saw the detailed pictures. Wouldn't this make a fabulous steampunk dress?


  1. Has this dress been sold, if not how much would this dress go for ? Thank you, Jen. (Very interested at it being my wedding gown)

    1. Wow. So many mistakes. First, don't publish your email like that. There are tons of web spiders out there that will now increase the junk, spam, and phishing mail sent to your account. Always spell out dot rather than . and spell out at rather than use @. It will greatly decrease your inbox spam.

      Second, I post only extant gowns. That I find on auction sites. If you click the link where it says "seller", that's where I got the information from.

      Third, never EVER wear anything that is older than your Mum. This dress would fall apart during the ceremony which wouldn't make for nice pictures. Also, you'd be the destroyer of a historical artifact that would have otherwise provided information to a few more generations about how our ancestors lived. The dress not only tells us the fashion at the time, but the types of materials available, the technology available (Sewing machine), and the mores of the age (high neck typically equals modesty). To wear something like this is to destroy it. It would be like taking a wrecking ball to a Victorian home. We know have the understanding that we don't destroy historic homes - we shouldn't to historic outfits either.