Evening dress

Date: 1884–86

Culture: American or European

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. J. Randall Creel, 1963

Accession Number: C.I.63.23.3a, b


After a period of literal descent down the back of the body, the bustle achieved its greatest extension by 1885. It was almost perpendicular to the back and heavily draped and trimmed. The 1880s versions were as padded and heavily embellished as a drawing-room hassock of the period. It was a popular conceit that these bustles could support an entire tea service. To sustain the greater weight of the 1880s gowns, light and flexible infrastructures were created with flexible materials—wire, cane, whalebone—held together by canvas tapes or inserted into quilted channels. The torso above the projection of the bustle was further articulated into an hourglass shape, so much so that it appeared to be encased in a piece of armor.