>My newest costume infatuation is the bustle, baby. No offense to my beloved top hats and aprons, but pretty much every item in my costume bin just had to scoot over for bustly layers of lace and tulle…
The obsession butted itself back into my life along with a pair of lacy skirts from girlhood. When was about six my dad dated this wonderful woman named Melanie who gave a couple of very inspired gifts that really stand out in my memory. The first was this painting she had made of, along with a hand-written story about, the mysterious and lovely Bananafish. As I have kept every report card, seashell and ribbon from childhood, I’m sure this is crammed in some bin with other such treasures and I can’t wait to stumble upon it in the future. For now, I’m enjoying these two amazing skirts she made for my sister and I back in the day which have recently resurfaced.
The first skirt is made of tiers of white lace accented with small colorful bows on each tier and a big red bow in the back. 18 years ago the skirt probably brushed the ground but now it brushes just below my knees. Thanks to forgiving elastic waistbands (and a bit of fairy dust?) these skirts still fit! The key feature of this piece is that the back was made with a generous extra helping of lace and falls into a long, bride-like train, that can then be fastened up to that big red ribbon on the back to create… voila! A Bustle.
The second skirt, originally made for my sister Emily, is constructed of black lace and two wire hoops. The hoop farther down is larger and thus creates that lovely voluminous hoop-skirt effect. At the Country Fair this past summer Miss Katie Malloy and I fashioned a bustle for her by pinning this skirt onto a fabulous fringed scarf of hers which she proceeded to tie around her waste. Thus the bustle-belt was born.
Why all this fuss about a bustle anyway? What’s so hot about a booty accentuated with lace and tulle, that swishes and sways when she walks and jives… Wait, what ISN’T hot about that? I guess the Victorians knew a thing or two about posterior plumping when they used massive cages and horsehair bags under their skirts to highlight the derriere. When I was up late one night making fanny-packs I caught an infomercial selling falsies to wear under your jeans to give you that round booty shape you’ve been dreaming of… While falsies are not my style, bustles are, so I’m taking it back to the mid 1800’s to get back some shape in the back. Besides, stuffing your bra is sooo Middle School.
My favorite online source for bustle inspiration is the fabulous Lovechild Boudoir. They have gorgeous bustles; dreamy concoctions of ribbons, lace and taffeta that I gazed at long enough to gather some clues about their construction.
Now, I sew kind of like how I sing: with more enthusiasm than talent but usually enough wherewithall to get the job done. By googling ”How to Make a Bustle” I came across THIS step-by-step description. I loosely based my bustle on the pattern provided using the tablecloths, curtains, a baby girls’ dress and mysterious waistband I had scored at The Bins (the Goodwill Outlet store which sells its goods by the pound) for under ten bucks. The only additional material I bought was lace to trim the edges of each layer. Then under the patient and watchful eye of Erica, who actually knows how to sow and therefore refuses to do it, I cut and pasted and put together ever more layers of lace, tulle and other sheer fabrics and connected them to a waistband with a couple hidden pockets for practicality.
The debut was the MartyParty/MIMOSA/EOTO concert that marked my last day in Portland for a while. The booty-shaking has never been better.