Bustles

BustledEveningDressVictorian School TeacherBustles can quite appropriately be considered one of the oddest fashion trends in history.  On a parallel with the pannier styles (wide hipped dresses) of the late-1700's, the bustle effect was created by a hoop which when place under a lady's dress extended the rear portion of the dress.  Seen for only a short time, the bustle was popular from the early-1870's until the late-1880's.  Although a cumbersome fashion, the gowns created during this time managed to appear ladylike and elegant.  Adhering to the customs of England's Queen Victoria, ladies covered their ankles and wore high collars during the day.  As a balance to the strict code of etiquette as to dress style, colors were rich and stripes and floral prints were popular.  Color and ornamentation compensated for the rigidity of style.  The color mauve for example, discovered accidentally by an English dyemaker at this time, was an overnight success.  Mauve was so frequently worn that a newspaperman compared the multitude of mauve dresses he saw to a measles outbreak.  Depending on the use of the dress, it would be trimmed in a wide variety of lace, ruffles, and even floral effects, or a combination of all.  In many ways, the perceived dowdiness of Victorianism is an illusion.  The clothing of the time, while being very modest and proper, made a mockery of conservatism through color and trimmings.

The gentlemen of the time maintained the "uniform" established in the previous decade of frock coat, vest, and trousers.  The proper dress for business and evening, this would remain the appropriate dress of gentlemen into the early-1900's.  The 1870's did see change for the future of menswear, however.  The sport coat, cut similarly to the modern single-breasted suit, appeared on the market.  Intended mainly for hunting and other outdoor activities, the sport coat was made in tweeds and other hard wearing fabrics.  As fashion progressed into the next period, however, the sport coat would make its way into men's everyday wardrobe.