Friday, August 8, 2008

Did You Ever Wonder About Bustles?

You would think that with the nineteenth century only 200 years past or less, we’d know all about how everything was done. Oh, certainly we have diaries and books written from the time that tell us how people traveled or made political decisions or baked a strawberry trifle. We know when battles were fought and kings married. But for an author writing about young people during that time, we’re left with a whole list of things to wonder about.

Like bustles. The farther you go in the period, the more elaborate they become. What started out as a small pad over your behind, tied on around your waist, became cages that stuck out behind or on the sides or all around. Did you ever wonder how people sat in those things? I mean, when you have a wire cage going from your waist to your toes, that can’t be easy, right?

Turns out it can. Those hoops may not have drifted sideways or down (or your dress would have collapsed), but they lifted up! So when you had to sit, you simply sat and they folded up behind you like an accordion. When you had to go through a narrow space, you picked up the top edge and lifted and everything folded up as well. Neat as you please.

I’m so glad to learn that whoever invented the things actually put a little practicality behind them. Pardon the bun er pun.


Gillian Layne said...

Great pictures!

I never could imagine sitting in them--and I sure can't imagine trying to use the bathroom in them, either! It always makes me think of the funny movies where a bride has to use the toilet with her bridesmaids holding her dress up around her. :)

Regina Scott said...

I know! And remember, for a good part of the century, you weren't going in a toilet. You were squatting over a chamber pot.

And that's a whole other post!

QNPoohBear said...

I just watched Daniel Deronda, set in 1874 during the bustle era and Gwendolyn seemed to sit leaning to one side because of her bustle. I've seen the same pose in paintings of the period. I'm glad bustles are no longer in fashion - that part of my anatomy is big enough without it LOL!

Angela said...

What great research!