The 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume that I made Sarah for Halloween last fall is made from historically accurate Truly Victorian patterns, with an accurate corset which I draped using duct tape, but it isn’t made to be historically accurate; it’s made to be a fun, pretty, historically inspired Halloween/masquerade costume. But because it’s made from historically accurate bustle era patterns, it needs a skirt support. For Halloween, Sarah wore the costume over a borrowed bustle of not-quite-the-right shape, and an old cotton Civil War era skirt of mine, which I puffed and pinned to keep it from dragging on the floor (she is not as tall as I am), and to help smooth the lines of the bustle and create a softer, early 1870s shape. It worked shockingly well.
But in order to make the costume wearable on its own, without major borrowed components, she needed a bustle of her very own. I finally made just such a bustle…in April. Oh well! I used eight yards of 70″ wide pansy purple nylon net from Fabric.com, a piece of scrap ribbon, some upholstery thread, and a bit of regular thread. It took me about an hour, all told.
I measured out a length of net a couple inches shorter than the skirt, folded it evenly, and measured out the same length again. Leaving it folded in half, I cut off the doubled length from my yardage. Then I measured out another length of net, a couple inches shorter than a single side of the previous piece (so, probably 6 or 7 inches shorter than the skirt). Same as before, I folded that evenly, measured out the same length again, and cut off my new doubled length, leaving it folded. Now I had two big pieces of netting, folded in half. I laid them together along the folds, matching up the long (remember, this is wide netting!) folds. Then I pinned one end of the pair of folds to the arm of the couch, and the other end to a pair which I put in the middle of the room, basically stretching the netting out across the room. This made it very easy to run a gathering thread through both doubled pieces at once (by hand), using a length of upholstery thread.
After I ran all 70″ of gathering, I scrunched it up and used a quick whipstitch to secure all of it to the piece of ribbon, gathering all 70″ of all four layers into a space of about 15 inches. I didn’t want to make a full petticoat, only, well, a nice big butt fluff. After the base “skirt” layers of the bustle were secured, I basically bundled up the rest of the netting into one big bouf with a bit of a tail, and hand-stitched the whole mass, rather haphazardly, to the center of the “skirt” section. Because the netting is very lightweight, and the costume is very lightweight overall, the support doesn’t need to be very sturdy, or very determinedly poufy – just fluffy. And it succeeds in being fluffy!
Once it was finished, I persuaded Lyndie to try it on so I could see how it looked, and I was quite satisfied. Very purple, and very fluffy. On its own, it actually looks rather charmingly burlesque. It has yet to be worn with the rest of the costume, because I want to put some finishing touches on the costume first…and also sleeves…but I think it will do nicely. At some point, I think I’ll have to make one of these for myself (because a faux bustle is a good thing to have), and when I do, I’ll take photos along the way and make a more comprehensible tutorial. I didn’t try to take pictures this time around, because I was making it up as I went along and wasn’t sure what I was doing. But I like how it turned out! It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.