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icon freeFor the Victorians, methods of folding and draping the fabric of a bustle truly developed into an art form. There were many different styles with assorted fanciful names like "The Waterfall", which burst in and out of fashion.

I'm going to show you how I created my ladybird gown's "Butterfly" bustle drape. It is very simple and needs no pattern at all, being created from just a rectangle of fabric.

Other dressmakers and designers have experimented with this style too, and it can still be seen in some museum pieces. It is made to be worn over the bustle cage and a plain skirt.


Examples of the Finished Bustle


This bustle is made to be worn over the bustle cage and a plain skirt.

I like to sew my drapes in place as I go along, but many historical bustles had a series of loops and ribbons to allow for the fabric to be straightened out, laundered and pressed. I include instructions for loops and ribbons at the end of the process.


I have also included a lining for my drape but it is also possible to make this bustle using only one layer of fabric, which can look lovely if the reverse of the fabric is pretty. If you want to use this method, just hem one long edge and the two shorter sides and ignore steps 6, 7 and 8. This is shown in the silver bustle to the right, which is made from shot taffeta.

Silver butterfly bustle, side Silver butterfly bustle
There are two ways of wearing this bustle. The first is with a hip length Cuirass bodice. In this case the butterfly can be attached to the back of the bodice, coming up and over the back of the long bodice. Bustle, worn over the bodice Bustle, worn over the bodice Bustle, worn over the bodice
In the second method the butterfly is just attached permanently to the waist band. This works well with a waist length bodice or a jacket with a very small, frilly peplum. Bustle drape with Cuirass bodice Bustle drape with Cuirass bodice, side Bustle drape with Cuirass bodice, back

It is also possible to add two extra sets of horizontal pleats for extra volume.

This is also covered at the end of the tutorial.

Close up, extra pleats Butterfly drape with extra pleats, front Butterfly drape with extra pleats Butterfly drape with extra pleats, close up


Making the Bustle

1.  First cut your fabric. You will need a rectangle of 45" (112cm) wide material that's 2½ yds (2¼m) long.

If you are using a lining, cut the lining rectangle to the same size.

Don't panic if your fabric is a slightly different width or you don't quite have enough length - a little more or less, within reason, will work too ;)

Step 1

2.  To make it fit elegantly over the hips, on the reverse of each piece, mark 4 darts. These need to be positioned perpendicular to one of the long edges, (which will become the waist edge).

Each dart needs to be 5" (13cm) long and 1½" (3.8cm) wide. Measure 9" (23cm) from each shorter side along the waist edge and mark. Then measure 4½" (11.5cm) from each edge and mark. Draw in the darts.

Do this on the reverse of both the outer fabric and the lining (if using one).

Step 2

3.  Mark the centre back and also 23" (58cm) from each of the side edges. This point is where the butterfly bit will begin.

If you have a waist size of more than 35" (88cm), you may want to measure 30" (75cm) from the sides to allow for more pleating.

Step 3

4.  On the reverse of the lining, draw a straight line square down from the centre back 24" (60cm) long.

Mark it at 3" (8cm) intervals.

Sew tailor tacks at these places (if you aren't using a lining, do the tacks on the fabric.)

Step 4

5.  Pin and sew up all the darts and press away from the centre front on both sides.

Step 5

6.  Place the two rectangles on top of each other, right sides together, matching the centre back marks.

Pin and sew around the sides and bottom edges, leaving the waistband edge open.

Step 6

7.  Clip the corners and turn the pieces inside out like a bag. Press all the edges together.

Step 7

8.  Snip down 1" (2.5cm) at the 9" (23cm)marks on each side.

Turn the raw edge between the marks to the inside and press.

Step 8

9. Pin and slip stitch this central section to neaten.

Step 9

10.  Cut a strip 3" (8cm) wide by the length of your waist plus 2" (5cm).

Mark the centre back.

Step 10

11.  Create 4 pleats along the top edge, starting at the second dart and continuing to the beginning of the neatened edge. You should be reducing this amount of fabric to approximately 5" (13cm).

If your waist is not within the 28-35" (70-87cm) range you can make more or fewer darts to fit the waistband.

Step 11

12.  Pin the waistband to the top edge of pleats, right sides together, matching the centre mark of the waistband to the beginning of the neatened central section, on both sides.

Step 12

13.  There will be a large loop of neatened edge at the centre back, which is not going to be included in the waistband.

Step 13

14.  Machine sew the waistband on then turn over and press the waistband to neaten, slip stitch in place, turning in the ends, allowing an overlap of 1" (2.5cm) on one side for the hook and eye.

Step 14A

This picture shows the waistband sewn in place and the neatened loop at the centre back.

Step 14

15.  Pin the back pleats together horizontally, using the tailor tacked marks as a guide.

These pleats should layer on top of each other with the marks furthest from the waistband creating the top pleat.

Step 15

16.  I prefer to sew all these in place, but if you are creating a day dress bustle that will need laundering,  you can sew loops of ribbon at alternate bottom tailor tack marks (on the inside of the bustle drape i.e. the outside of the lining) and sew a long length of ribbon at the midpoint to the centre back waist.

Then by threading the ribbon through the loops and pulling tight then fixing with a bow, you will create the pleats.

Step 16

17.  Now you can either sew this section to the waistband (right), or add a hook to pin it up over a cuirass bodice.

Step 17A

18.  You can also add an extra layer of pleats either side to increase volume of the bustle for a different effect.

I added mine using the loop and ribbon method, so I can let them down for total versatility! Just mark another set of horizontal pleats about 15" (38cm) each side from the center back and follow the instructions.

Step 18

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