If you’ve never made a bustle dress they can look quite intimidating. The complicated fabrics swirling every which direction; the tightly-fitted bodice with a tail that floats on the skirt; the trimming that knocks you sideways with its complexity.
But under it all are actually some basic shapes. Drill down and that skirt is just 5 gored (shaped) panels around the front with the back all drawn up it its weird puffiness.
So how do you get that glorious bustle pouf? With twill tape, safety pins and room to maneuver. Here’s how…
I’ve taken the guesswork out of making a basic bustle skirt back. Here I will demo how to get even poufs on the skirt back panel. Easy-peasy.
Below, you’ll also find some helpful tips to clarify some of the things you see me working with.
1. Depending on the weight of your fashion fabric you’ll probably want to flatline it with netting. The cotton used for this demo is as-is. Two or three layers of nylon (yes, I know it’s not period correct) will give the poufs the support they need to stay in place.
2. Use three vertical rows of twill tapes. Place one at center back and the other two half way to the side seams on the left and right. Cut tapes 14″ to 30″ long depending on how many poufs you want to make and how far down you want the poufs to go along the back.
3. Start the first mark on the tapes no higher than 10″ down from the waist. Play with it on figure you’re making the skirt for.
4. The topmost marks on the side tapes are higher up than the center tape. In other words, the side tape marks are off set from the center tape marks. The center back of the skirt should pouf lower than the sides. The skirt is not as graceful to look at if the center point is higher than the sides.
5. The marks on the tapes can be anywhere from 4″ to 20″ apart. Adjust visually for the look you want.
6. Have 2 marks on the center tape and 2 to 3 on the side tapes. Remember to place the marks on the side tapes higher than the marks on the center tape.
7. You can vary the length of your skirt back to make a train. After pinning the poufs, mark & trim one half of the skirt into a round or square hem tapering up to meet the skirt side back panel.
8. This demo shows the entire skirt back bustled. You can do use this techniques to make an apron overskirt that is worn separately over a plain foundation skirt.
9. Original bustle poufs were hand tacked to very wide twill tape pieces or mounted to a fitted underlining fabric. You can simply do the same here at the marks where your skirt back is pinned to the tapes. The poufs float down over your stitching so it’s not seen. Or be very Victorian and add flowers, fancy buttons or other trims to the tacked areas. Delightful!
Use these techniques here on all your bustle skirts. Adapt them as much as you want to get the design you’re looking for. That’s the beauty of draping & using safety pins – you can adjust to your heart’s content!
For more close up photos of the draping process seen in the video visit the How to Make an 1870s Bustle Skirt page.