1880s Bustle Ensemble - Design

In the spring of 2022 I made my first bustle ensemble for a Gilded Age themed picnic at Central Park organized by the NY Historical Costumer Society. 

I started out with determining what fabrics and colors I'd use. Amanda from La Princesse Sirene had kindly gifted me two pink bustle overskirts and an unfinished pink underskirt - thank you! I pulled from my stash a few scraps of silk dupioni and taffeta in shades of pink and cream, and a 4 yard length of polyester cream/floral brocade (which has been in my stash for nearly 10 years💀).

I started out by scanning my favorite historical garment image resources - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Augusta Auctions, Abito Antichi, Pinterest, and Instagram - to find elements I could incorporate into my design. This was a new era for me and I felt overwhelmed at all the examples of trimming and fabrics that I saw in extant garments. I started collecting examples of garments that had details that seemed achievable to recreate and that seemed interesting.

This 1880s ensemble from Augusta Auctions featured brocade skirt overlays and bodice, beaded fringe, elbow length sleeves, a button front closure, and a softly squared neckline. I'm not a fan of the lapel collar though.

Also from Augusta Auctions, this brocade and satin 1880s ensemble has an amazing "dagged"/"piccadil" brocade overskirt. I really like the contrast of the gathered satin peeking through the overskirt hem flaps.

Another 1880s silk and brocade ensemble from Augusta Auctions, and another example of the brocade overskirt with "piccadil" detail. I also like the softly squared neckline shape and lace neck ruffle.

I determined that I'd use the light pink underskirt and bustle overskirt that Amanda had gifted me, and add between them an overskirt made of the floral brocade with a "piccadil" hem. The bodice would have an open square neckline and elbow length sleeves, suitable for dinner events should any come up in my calendar. Stay tuned to see how I made these garments!

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