Historical Underwear, part II: The ‘Dress Improver’

Historical Underwear, part II: The dress improver

A metal frame bustle from c.1884 England.

Bustles were used underneath dresses to create the late Victorian ideal of a small waist/large chest and bottom, ‘hourglass’ silhouette. It was basically a pillow or a metal frame that you wore underneath your dress to emphasize your behind.  According to the Victoria and Albert Museum where this artefact is housed, the bustle was given the polite name “the dress improver”.

If you look closely at the bottom corners of this metal-frame bustle, you’ll notice a “pivot” which allowed the frame to collapse when the woman wearing it sat down and which sprung back into shape when a lady stood up.

Is it just me or is it impossible to look at this photo without singing the intro to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’?

Source: [Victoria and Albert Museum no.T.131C-1919]

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Image | This entry was posted in European History, Everyday Life, Historical Underwear, Modern History, Museum Artefact, Uncategorized, Women's History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Historical Underwear, part II: The ‘Dress Improver’

  1. I learn interesting things from your posts and besides the actual subject on this I found out about Sir Mix a lots ‘Baby got back’! I had to look it up and now I am much wiser! Thanks as always.

  2. Lasseter says:

    Ah, yes …

    I like elaborate metallic frames and I cannot lie
    You Victorian brothers can’t deny
    That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
    And a wiry contraption in your face …

  3. Lasseter says:

    (Sir Mix-a-Lot wasn’t knighted for nuthin’, ya know.)

  4. lilyklep says:

    Reblogged this on Lily Does Archaeology and commented:
    I feel this this would be a total mood killer once all that velvet, tulle, and chiffon came off.

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