Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: “The New Panthom” Bustle, 1884

The New Phantom
Steel Wires and Cotton Tapes
English, 1884
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the 1860’s, as the bell-shaped skirt fell out of fashion, a lady began to drape the excess fabric of her crinolines around her hips so that they would bunch up behind her, making a different silhouette.

This fashion gave rise to the bustle. The word “bustle” was considered vulgar to Victorian ladies who referred to the new contraptions that they would wear under their gowns as “tournures” or “dress improvers.” At first, the tournure served to gather the crinoline and excess fabric of existing dresses. Soon, however, it became a separate piece of clothing, worn under a dress and fastened with a series of uncomfortable belts and straps. Bustles could be constructed of a variety of materials which served to pad the back of a dress—horse hair, down, straw and padding—taking the form of little cushions.

Victoria & Albert Museum
By the 1870’s the tournure was constructed by steel and took the form of a cage which could be adapted into the necessary shape. This mode, called “The New Phantom,” rose in prominence in the 1880’s. New technology allowed for the cage to collapse when a lady sat down and expand when she rose and was considered infinitely more comfortable than the cumbersome cushions of the past.

For the Queen’s 1887 Golden Jubilee, a variation of this tournure was made as a special novelty. When a woman rose, a mechanism would release, causing a music box to play “God Save the Queen.” The phenomenon was short-lived. 

The Victoria & Albert Museum

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