You’ve probably seen period movies or television shows with female actors scurrying about with shelves attached to their bottoms. Those shelves are bustles. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the bustle. It was just another attempt in the 1800s to change the shape of the female body.
However, it is a symptom of the bustle that is most interesting. Women were engaging in activities outside of the home with greater frequency, and as such, fashions began to change to accommodate such movement. Trains and skirts were lifted with loops and ties, gathering together to sit under the bustle. The result was that skirts were so taut as to prevent movement, defeating the purpose of the shorter skirts and lifted trains. And what’s more? Bustles were popular from 1867 through 1874 before the natural form of the female shape took hold. But then the bustles came back! From 1883 through 1890, the bustle held center stage. For a period marked with advancements the bustle seems to laugh in the face of progress.