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Historic Clothing Collection


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Watered silk ensemble, ca. 1888
Watered silk ensemble, ca. 1888Maine Historical Society

Women wore bustle supports of various shapes and sizes. Some were separate items such as half cage crinolines, tied on at the waist, while others were fixed to the skirt. A small horsehair stuffed cushion shaped bustle support remains attached to the inner waistband of Sarah Wilson's black watered silk skirt. The dress also includes two large jet beaded medallions, holding a satin swag that is draped over the skirt's front. The same medallions trim the fitted bodice.

A sturdy metal half hoop bustle support is still securely sewn into the lining of a ca. 1880 wine-colored taffeta bustle skirt. The skirt has deep pleats of velvet and taffeta along the hemline, and a short wine velvet basque adorned with eight round silk thread covered buttons. The collection includes a variety of 1880s bustle dresses with heavily draped and layered skirts, all of which would have required some sort of specially shaped and structured bustle support. Numerous elaborate, heavily trimmed bustle and trained wedding dresses from the 1880s and 1890s are tributes to remarkable dressmaking skills.

In the late 1880s, the bustle simplified in shape and disappeared by 1890. As fashions moved towards the next century, skirts lost the over layers and elaborations accrued over the past twenty years.