Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bustle Era Dress

From the seller:

A regal 1880's - 1892 light beige 2 PIECE bustled gown de-accessioned from the Rochester historical museum collection in New York state. The gown still retains it's original Museum ID catalog tag as well as sewn in catalog identification tag.

The bodice has pink machine lace and pink silk moire ribbon draped on each side of button closure and extending over the shoulders coming together in a "V" at waist. The back at the waistline forms into a "V"

The neckline and sleeve cuffs are decorated with the same pink scalloped lace. Inside bodice is a drawstring to adjust neck area.

The bodice is lined with satin and with 12 covered baleen whale bone stays and has a front button closure. One button is missing. A museum catalog identification tag is sewn inside at back neck line.

The skirt is accented with layers of pink scalloped machine lace with silk moire ribbons and an attached white pleated gauze material underskirt petticoat with white wide valenncienes lace at hem. The skirt closes by hooks and eyes at the back and gathers with pleats in the back for a nice fall and accented with pleats at hem line. The skirt is lined with gauze. A large pink wide silk moire bow with trailing ribbons.

Condition: The gown is in good condition. One missing fabric covered button on bodice. One area at bodice opening of pink lace scalloped edge has unravelled. No stains or underarm discoloration. There is pink tulle that is in the beginnings of shredded in sleeve wrist, and inside neck collar edge. Few very small holes in bodice and skirt scattered about.

A truly grand display dress/gown or for study.



Bust 30-1/2", Waist 25", Sleeve 18",

Front Shoulder to hemline 53",

Back Shoulder to hemline 55"


Front skirt length 39-1/2" Back length 39-1/2", waist 25" .

From Me:

The skirt is on...sideways. The ruffles should be at the front; the pleats should be at the back.

1875 fashion plate via the Bartos Collection

Edit: I see this has become a slightly popular topic on FB! Please feel free to post here as I don't have an account on FB. I'd love to see any documentation anyone might have that would support their claims.
For now, I'm putting this one under both 1870's and 1880's since there are good points (check comments) to support both sides.


  1. I think it's right actually. I've seen bustle era dresses with pleats on the side before, as well as many with ruffles on the front. I think it's just an example of an 1880s asymmetrical dress.

    1. I suppose it could be but, to my eye, the skirt appears to have a lot of volume on the side and almost none in the back. There are also a lot of 1870's dresses with ridiculously big side bows. Which, given the bodice shape, makes sense to me. (1870's side bow with an 1870's bodice).

    2. Here are a few side bows of unusual size:
      Clearly a piece of fabric with a bow on it but I thought it was pretty.

      One of those that hold up the trunk and then artistically draped on the sides.
      Artistically draped green

      I like this one

    3. Look! Pink side bows!

      Sorry, I'm bored at work and looking at fashion plates gives me something to do.

    4. Oh I'm not arguing that there were big bows! Tons of big bows in the 1870s. But I've never seen one on the SIDE with tails to the ground.

    5. I figured. :-) We were so bored at work earlier that the few people that are here decided it would be a great idea to teach juggling. It was really an excuse to look at fashion plates.

      The bow placement - it's hard to tell if it's on the skirt or on the bodice point. Granted, on the bodice point makes sense but I'm not sure. Also, who knows if it's something that's been resewn? I really wish there were inside shots of this one as that might help a lot!

    6. Oh I know side bows were a thing, don't get me wrong! But I've never seen a side bow that looked like the one above - with long tails to the ground and a typical bow all by itself.

  2. I'm with Loren, I think the dress is a very late 1880's dress. The beginning of the puff in the sleeve and slim body point to transition. I've seen lots of asymmetrical drapes that start at the sideback. i also think that big bow is center back. bow

    1. I think you're right. I've seen lots of side bows but never a side bow with tails reaching to the ground.

    2. I apologize in advance - I'm bored at work (Christmas eve eve and no one almost no one is here) so I spent probably too much time on this. ;-) Although the puff is associated with the 1890's, it existed in the 1870's as well just not quite as the seller depicted it. The white dress in this fashion plate shows a bit of a puff but not the 3/4 sleeve length. A few ladies in this fashion plate also have puffy sleeves. The pink and gold dress has a slight puff as well.

      What I think you are arguing for is 1888 or later. There are a couple of things I see that make me put it in the earlier decade besides what has been mentioned.

      Trim and trim placement. Using bows and lace together is much more 1870's than 1880's. The 1880's tend to be more toned down in general. They also tend to have the collar necks - which this doesn't have. If you have a fashion plate or a gown picture that is similar to the extant one, I'd love to see it.

    3. The more I look at it the more I think something about the skirt shape looks wrong. I don't know if it's ruffles should be in the front or it has the wrong underpinnings or both but something is off.

      But it still looks more like an 1880s dress to me. I disagree about the lace/ribbon - while not as overly frou frou as the 1870s there is still a LOT of lace and ribbon combos in the 1880s!
      Lace and ribbons - but in the front!

      This is kind of similar to the style I was originally thinking of:

      Or this:



      I've seen necklines like that in the 1880s on some summer/seaside gowns and dinner/evening gowns.

      Too bad we can't see it in real life!

    4. Yeah, the skirt is just *weird* looking. I really wish that we could see photos of it at least lying on a table or the floor (like some sellers do) to get a better idea of the shape. You knows, maybe if we got to look at it, it would turn out to be a really good recreation!

  3. I agree: I think the skirt is on off-kilter. I think the bow belongs off to the side, not in the center back. There's a blue dress in this collection of Peterson's Magazine images from 1888 that has a similar (though less wide) long bow off the to side:
    It and the dresses around it share similar sleeve and bodice treatments, too, though the big butt bow reminds me of an 1885 dress in the V&QA, so it could be from a tad earlier. I like this dress despite its poor display, but it makes me sad that it doesn't fit on the mannequin so some of the bodice details are lost in the photos. :(

    1. Yeah, unfortunately, sometimes, the sellers are just clearing out grandma's attic and don't know how to properly display the gowns. Thanks for the links!!! Merry Christmas!

  4. I'm going to cast a vote for 1888-1889ish. A dinner dress would not necessarily have the typical standing collar, and that fits with the 3/4 sleeves. And I do think the skirt is twisted a bit, but I too wonder if the long-tailed bow is not either attached to the bodice, or was meant to be store separately, and was tacked on wrong at a later point.

    1. Or even earlier years in the 1880s bustle, upon reflection; the sleeve puff would be less typical, but the lace ruffles would be more at home. You do see all kinds of occasional variations through the 1880s sleeve designs.