Wednesday, September 3, 2014

1880's Red Bustle Dress

From the seller:

I did research this in my large vintage fashion catalog collection to find the correct time period for it.

The fitted bodice with many metal stays and the box-pleated skirt with a small padded and two interior wire bustles plus ties indicate an early to mid 1880's period of time.

It is in excellent condition for a silk garment that is over 130 years old. I believe that due to a lack of damage, this dress was probably only worn once or maybe even not at all:

The color is deep, rich, even, and unfaded. The color can also vary from a reddish-maroon to a bright ruby red depending on the lighting.
The fabric is free of shattering, holes, or noticeable stains.
The hem is also free of the usual frayed edges, dirt, or water stains.
As you can see in the close-ups of the lining of the bodice, there aren't any perspiration stains or rust spots from the metal stays.
There is just the faintest ring in the underarms.
The bodice still has all of its original abalone buttons.
All measurements were taken while the garment was laying flat on a table:


The bust is 15" (30") from one armpit to the other.
The waist is 12" (24").
The length of the sleeve from the armhole seam to the cuff is 21".

The waist is 12" (24").
The length is 40".

From Me:

What I find interesting about this dress is the skirt. The bustle being attached to the inside and the boning in the skirt itself to give that bustle shape makes me think this was some sort of costume for the theater (making it later) or perhaps a display gown of some sort.


  1. Very interesting hypothesis, Isabella. It does seem odd that even a woman of privilege would have a built-in bustle rather than one or a few bustles that would rotate with different gowns.

    1. I admit I was hesitant to post it because it could be a very, very well done costume but I know if I didn't, three years later there will be one just like this in a different color and I won't be able to pull the two together for documentation to prove that this built in bustle was a thing. :-)

    2. I'm pretty sure several patterns in the Frances Grimble books call for built-in boning and padding.

  2. Lovely dress!

    I've read several descriptions of skirts with the steels built in. It wasn't common, but it wasn't that rare, either. The owner could slip the steels out of the skirt for storage, and presumably for use in other skirts. Next time I run across it, I'll save the description for you. But I'm stuck in 1871 at the moment. :-)

  3. One of the dresses i own has the built in pad, and another the hoops. I get the impression they were worn with a bustle also, and helped define the shape