Two-tone taffeta and velvet bustle dress, early 1870s
This lovely bustle dress is perfect for the collector who wants the look without the higher price of a museum quality piece in excellent condition. The structurally sound dress, which will probably last longer than any of us, has a few small flaws, but the gown displays beautifully.
With a sweeping train and graphic two-tone design, the stylish dress can be an impressive presentation piece in any collection of early pieces. The dress was made from copper colored silk taffeta and trimmed with a darker shade of burnt umber velvet. The matching braided silk fringe is a delightful touch.
There are two parts to the dress: a bodice and a layered skirt. It was common in the early 1870s for skirts to have two separate layers. In this case, the layers are both attached together at the waist. The dress retains design elements of the 1860s: the dropped shoulder; the narrow corded piping around the armholes; and the use of silk fringe.
The bodice, interlined with ecru polished cotton, is boned on the front seams and closes in front with velvet covered buttons, all intact. The sleeves are bordered at the wrist with self-pleated ruffles. The skirt is lined with ecru polished cotton and is stiffened around the hem with a wide facing. The skirt also has inner ties to hold the shape of the bustle train in place.
In the second half of the 19th century, the bustle dominated women's fashion. Even when it went out of style, the bustle retained its hold on the fashionable imagination. In 1938 Elsa Schiaparelli dressed Mae West for the film Every Day’s a Holiday. The curvaceous actress was the inspiration for the extravagantly draped bustle dresses in Schiaparelli's 1939 collections. Bustle dresses appeared in many different fabrics, including Gay 90s prints designed by the artist Christian Bérard as seen in Vogue in 1939.
The condition is very good. The flaws are all minor: crushed spots on the pile of the velvet; a small (1/2") mended tear on one sleeve; a few tiny black spots (tar?, ink?) on the overskirt; barely noticeable, faint underarm stains; and two small tears on the the overskirt.
The bodice measures: 34" bust, 24 1/2" waist, 14 1/2" from shoulder seam to shoulder seam, 20" sleeve length, 17 1/2" center-front length, and 23" center-back length.
The skirt measures: 23" waist, and 39" center-front length.