The Costume Trunk: The Incredibly Easy Bustle Skirt
October 7, 2010
It's a staple of a Victorian wardrobe, but it can also be used for all kinds of dress up fun: the bustle skirt! Fairies, princesses and even fancy female pirates can all use a good skirt with some pouf to it. And the best part? This is a shockingly easy project!
This is a great project for all kinds of fabrics. I used a striped home dec fabric, but silks and taffetas are also fantastic. Whatever you love that has a bit of body to it. I would not recommend this projects for lightweight or sheer fabrics.
You will need to cut three identical pieces for the skirt front and skirt sides, similar to the diagram below.
Line 1 = ¼ your waist measurement
Line 2 = the distance from your waist to the floor, plus 5"
Line 3 = 3x the length of line 1.
The 4th piece you need to cut (which will form the bustle) is a simple rectangle. I used the full 60' width of my fabric, 2 yds long. If you would like a less ample bustle, you may reduce the measurements to suit your taste.
- Sew your three front and side pieces together. Since they are all identical, order is of no concern.
- To attach bustle, stitch it flat to the side pieces 5" down from the waist, and 12" up from the bottom, leaving the rest of the seam open for now. You should have a longer amount of the bustle piece left loose than you do the side piece. (I had a remaining side length of 24" on my skirt side, and 56" of bustle left.)
- Pleat or gather the remaining bustle fabric into the seam. I like to use binder clips to hold the pleats while I test for placement. Once you have things the way you like, stitch 'em down!
- Repeat pleating on opposite side of bustle, matching pleats/gathers to the first side.
Turn your skirt right side out. You're probably thinking "I made a big wadded up tube!" and to some degree you're right. But now we will sculpt said tube into skirty awesomeness!
- Leaving your three skirt front and side sections flat, pleat the bustle in at the waist to reduce it to the size of your waist, leaving approximately 9" unpleated and loose at center back. This is a time when a dress form or similarly-sized friend is indispensable. Again, my love of binder clips shows.
- Baste waist pleats into place.
- Cut a waistband out of any scrap of fabric long enough to encircle the entire waist of your skirt. I used a scrap of satin cut about 3.5" wide.
- Use this waistband scrap to encase the waistband. Stitch the waistband to the the skirt, right sides together, all the way around the circle of the waist opening. (For a nice, clean finish, fold in the raw edge of the waistband where you start stitching. )
- Flip the remaining waistband fabric to the inside of the skirt and hand or machine stitch it in place.
- At the center back of the waist, sew in a heavy-duty hook and eye. Yes, you'll still have 9" of waist fabric flapping around with no tether.
- Fold remaining waistband fabric to form two even pleats across center back. Sew skirt hooks onto waistband to secure pleats. Now you can put on your skirt and it won't fall off!
To form the bustle - (here's where patience and play meet):
- Sew 3 30" pieces of grosgrain ribbon at the waistband of the skirt so they dangle free inside the skirt. Attach one at each skirt hook, and one on either side of the center back closure.
- Using safety pins, tack your skirt fabric to the grosgrain ribbon to create the bustle shape. Fold and billow your fabric however you like - there are no hard and fast rules for this!
- Once you have your fabric bustled to your ribbon, be sure to put it on a dress form or friend to check the shape and placement. What looks good flat on a table doesn't always translate on a body. If you're like me, it will take several passes to get things where you want them.
If you like the ways things are looking, lock it down! Stitch the fabric to the grosgrain and remove all safety pins. Cut any excess ribbon that dangles past your last bustle point.Try on your skirt to check the length, then hem either by machine or by hand.
Voila! A Bustle Skirt!
There are many places you can go from here. Add trim if you like. I cut about 300" of 7" wide bias and pleated it to make the two rows of ruffles pictured on the sample garment. Trim is always a fun way to really customize a piece like this one. You should also feel free to change the method of bustling if another makes more sense to you. Make a shorter version for a less formal feel. Remember, this is your creation - have a ball!
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