Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Date Created

c. 1885


Costume; Underwear; Underwear and accessories for shaping and supporting; Underwear (lower body); Bustles


Cotton twill, spring steel


c. 1885. Brown cotton twill lobster-tail bustle with four spring steel hoops and a horsehair-stuffed pad, tied to the waist with a cotton waistband.

A full width of cotton twill fabric (approximately 81.3 cm / 32 in. long and 71.1 cm / 28 in. wide) is cartridge pleated at the top onto a cotton waistband, reducing the fabric width to 25.4 cm / 10 in., and with its selvedges finishing the long sides. The bottom 2/3 of its length are sewn with three equidistant channels parallel to a channel-width hem. Each of the channels has a flat spring steel hoop wire fed through it, and each channel has a short strap (variable, approximately 25.4 cm / 10 in.) sewn to both ends, which both seals the channel shut and forces the spring steel to bend into a semi-circle. The straps are made of the same fabric as the bustle, and are designed to both maintain the tensioned shape and keep the bustle in place in back of the body by resting on the wearer’s legs and petticoats.

A small rectangular pad (20.3 cm / 8 in. long, 17.8 cm / 7 in. wide) made of a lighter brown cotton twill and stuffed with horsehair is whip-stitched to the waistband at center back. It rests on top of the bustle at the small of the back and provides support for the garment worn over it. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Overall length: 71.1 cm / 28 in.
Overall width: 35.6 cm / 14 in.


Gift of Mary Sanborn

Museum Number



University of New Hampshire Library


Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator

Date Digitized


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License


The Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection digital catalog was produced by the UNH Library Digital Collection Initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Mooseplate program and New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Additional funding provided by the E. Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.
Photography copyright, Astrida Schaeffer.


Bustles, Tournure, Lobster-tail bustles, c. 1885, Durham, New Hampshire, United States, Cotton, Twill, Brown (color), Spring steel hoops, Pad, Horsehair, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Sanborn (donor)


item origin