Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Bustle a Skirt

Since I made my Burda 7880 dress, I've had several people ask for help with how to bustle the overskirt. The pattern instructions are not very good, and this part is especially mysterious. In fact, I have no idea what they actually mean for you to do. But I'll share what I did.

You can also use this technique to make your own bustle from scratch or to bustle an existing skirt. The example overskirt is just a huge rectangle in the back, with two layers of fabric. The outside is solid purple and the inside is print.


Skirt to bustle
Underskirt or other garment you will wear under the bustle skirt
at least 1 yd drapery ring tape (you can find this in the drapery section of your fabric store) or 15 loose plastic drapery rings
6 large jewelry clasps or 6 lengths of strong ribbon or cord


1. The first step is to sew three drapery rings onto the waistband of your underskirt. On the Burda pattern the placement of these rings is marked with an X, but you can just evenly space three rings. If you have loose drapery rings, you will have to sew them on by hand.

2. Then a length of drapery tape is attached to the underside of the overskirt at six points. Each of these sections has two rings, although you could attach more. You can see the general placement of the rings. Essentially there are two lengths of tape for each ring attached to the waistband. It's important that you sew through both layers of the overskirt when attaching these rings, whether you do so by machine or are hand attaching individual rings.

3. This is where the pattern instructions get really iffy. The next step is to gather the rings of each length of tape together, so you have six gathered points. I used what I had on hand, which was 6 large jewelry clasps, which worked rather well. I've since seen similar bustling techniques done with ribbon. So you can use ribbon or cord. Tie it through the rings and knot it securely.

You can see that if there was a third ring in between these two, it might work even better, but this was the spacing on my ring tape.

4. Now all you have to do is attach each clasp or ribbon to the rings at the waist. Each ring at the waist is attached to the two overskirt rings that line up with it. If you're using ribbon, again, tie securely. You don't want your bustle falling down. (I find it easiest to attach the overskirt to the underskirt before putting it on. Otherwise you will need help to attach them. I just leave them on the hanger together.)

And here's what the bustling looks like from the outside:

And here it is being worn over a bustle pad. (If you need to know how to make a bustle pad, see this post.)

I want to experiment more with this technique and try using ribbons and attaching the overskirt to its own waistband. But that has to wait either until someone pays me to make them one, or until I can afford enough fabric for a bustle.


  1. I've bustled skirts in a similar manner and hung them while attached. Just a word to the wise, it's really not a good idea to hang them while they are bustled -- the weight of the skirts causes wear and tear on the drapery tape and on ribbon ties (which is what I use). I now undo everything and just hang them all up separately.

    Miss Leah J. Wilde
    Airship Archon
    Columbus, OH

  2. @Jennilee Cookman

    That's a good point that I hadn't considered. I'll have to go unclip my bustle... :)

  3. Thanks for posting this! I'm about to start this pattern myself so this will be helpful.