Truly Victorian 101 – Petticoat with Bustle was the first piece of authentic historical clothing I ever made. It was the first foundation garment of my now considerable Victorian wardrobe. I was thrilled with how it turned out and even wore it a couple of times just a skirt. It served me very well but after six years it was getting a bit tired. Since I decided that this would be the year I would finally overhaul all of my undergarments, it was time for a new bustle.
I made this decision right as the historical costuming community was in crisis. The ubiquitous plastic covered hoop steel needed to construct the bustle was sold out everywhere. None of the usual sources had any. No one knew why. As a specialty material, sometimes there can be manufacturing shortages that just need to be endured. But the hoop steel was not being restocked and fear started to mount. It turned out that hoop steel was only manufactured by one family run factory and for what ever reason, this factory had closed its doors. Panic and hording ensued as bustle and hoop creation screeched to a momentary halt.
Eventually, stockists seemed to decide on a replacement. The new hoop steel is a lot like corset boning. It is very springy and rigid but also less than half the width of the old steel. Doubt abounds on if this is better, worse or even an acceptable replacement but it’s all we have so I decided to go for it. I did briefly consider scavenging the bones from my old bustle but part of why the bustle is tired is because the bones, while still decent, are getting kind of tired too. They don’t hold the shape as well and are more prone to collapse. Time to try the new technology.
As was my original bustle, my new bustle is made of sheets. I found a nice twin cotton sheet set in an acceptable pattern on sale at Target for about $20.
I washed the sheets and painfully removed all the elastic from the fitted sheet. I’m very glad I took the time to do this versus just cutting that off as I probably would have come up a bit short on fabric if I had. I used both sheets and the pillow case to make the bustle and the ruffled overlay. All I had were random scraps left over.
I used my ruffler attachment for pretty much everything except the waistband. It took a bit of experimenting to get the correct ruffling ratio but once I had it everything went so much faster.
As for the new steel, it seems ok so far. The shape is good and the bustle is still nice and lightweight. I have to tie the drawstrings a little bit differently to get the optimal curve. I haven’t had a chance to put the bustle to a weight test yet but I’m sure that will come soon enough. Seems to look fine with my wrinkly petticoat. I’m sure all of this will look even better when I’m wearing my corset or any other proper garments for that matter.
I’ll hold on to my old bustle for the moment until I am sure I like this one. This time around I made the bustle bones easy to remove. I think that will really help me when I travel. I can remove the bones to fold the actual fabric more efficiently. Here’s to the new wire, I guess!