Top 10 Bustle Frock Flicks, Part 1


One of my favorite historical fashion periods is 19th-century bustles, and I’m not picky about the specific type — I like all the varieties from the really big first bustle fashions of the 1870s through the slim natural-form styles of the early 1880s until the final aggressive bustle shapes of the late 1880s. All of these dress shapes moved the skirting towards the back in some way, with the size of the “pouf” getting bigger or smaller, more rounded or more architectural, depending on the exact year. Films and TV shows tend to pick a tight range of bustle styles and use that throughout the production because showing the progression of sizes would be a lot more work without much gain for the story.

When I tried to pick my favorite top fives bustle frock flicks, I had some trouble … there are too many to choose from! There are some frock flicks that are crammed full of lots of fabulous bustle gowns, but there are others that have only a few bustle gowns, but they’re really spectacular and memorable ones. So I’m doing two top fives, and here’s part one. I’m counting down from 10 to 1 of the best bustle frock flicks, starting this week and continuing next Friday!



10. Crimson Peak (2015)

There aren’t a lot of bustle gowns in this horror movie, but it has two freaking AMAZING ones.

Crimson Peak (2015) Crimson Peak (2015)



9. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Supposedly set in the 1890s, this movie shouldn’t have any bustle gowns. But it has a couple that have become iconic.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)



8. Gaslight (1944)

Some of the best black-and-white era bustles around. Surprisingly historically accurate for the ’40s and just plain gorgeous.

Gaslight (1944) Gaslight (1944) Gaslight (1944) Gaslight (1944) Gaslight (1944) Gaslight (1944)



7. Original Sin (2001)

The less-clothed sex scenes are what we may remember from this movie, but the costumes (when worn!) are really quite beautiful.

Original Sin (2001) Original Sin (2001) Original Sin (2001)





6. Anna Karenina (1997)

Depressing story with divinely elegant bustles. Just watch for the costumes.

Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997)Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997) Anna Karenina (1997)



This is just the first half — what do you think so far? What bustle frock flicks do you predict will be in next week’s top five?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

17 Responses

  1. Fran in NYC

    I bet you include Lilli! The Pallisers had great bustle dresses but you haven’t covered that series yet.

  2. Boxermom

    I definitely think that The Age of Innocence will be there. :)

    • Saraquill

      If it’s not there, I’d question whether or not Trystan and company have had their caffeine.

  3. Christine C

    Re Crimson Peak, the teal velvet is also gorgeous.

  4. Viola

    Topsy-Turvy had some absolutely gorgeous gowns, especially Gilbert’s wife Kitty. Plus there’s a lovely scene where the actresses are getting dressed after a performance and are in various stages of frillies/ petticoats/ bustle cages.

  5. Emma L Bull

    Daniel Deronda? Portrait of a Lady? Buccaneers goes without saying…

    • Kate Dominguez

      Buccaneers for sure. Daniel Deronda has a couple great ones. I’m also betting on Age of Innocence.

  6. Anna bright

    The bustle era is one of my absolutely favorite eras! The clothes are lovely, and they had great hairstyles!

  7. Nzie

    Yay! I really like the bustle eras, too. I need to fix my bustle. I love how some of these look right out of a fashion plate. I would love to get the look, but my figuring out skills and/or my sewing skills are not adequately advanced at this time. But maybe someday.

  8. Mizdema

    Bustle = tournure or faux-cul in french
    This last word really funny :
    False ass, if I may translate word to word A faux-cul also means an hypocritical person.
    Bust, bustle, busc. Sometimes, I need to check.

  9. Karen K.

    Those are STUNNING, especially the stripes. The skill of dressmakers never ceases to amaze me. And the Winona pics remind me that Age of Innocence will probably make it into your next bustle post — maybe even more than one Wharton adaptation?

  10. Roxana

    Personally I hate bustles. How do you sit in those things? How can you walk? I’m not fond of the look at all but I admit it can be done well and was in these pictures.

    • Roxana

      PS: I really hate the centaurish silhouette of the mid eighties.

    • Fran in NYC

      Watch Priorattire on Youtube and you’ll see how it was managed. But wouldn’t want to do it myself!

      • Roxana

        Very interesting channel, thank you! So bustle frames were collapsible like cage crinolines, no problem sitting. But the narrow layered skirts of the early 1880s must have been like swaddling bands.

  11. Roxana

    The Secret of Moonacre has some cray-cray bustles where the rubbing structure is allowed to show.