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 wire


c. 1885. Brown cotton twill bustle with spring steel wire coils and a rigid spring steel wire base, tied to the waist with plain-woven webbing.

The spring steel wire base is roughly trapezoidal (12.1 cm / 4.75 in. sides, 16.5 cm / 6.5 in. bottom, 21.6 cm / 8.5 in. top, 15.6 cm / 6.125 in. height at center), wider at the top than the bottom and with a curved upper wire, and has a horizontal cross-piece at the middle with three vertical wires reaching from the cross piece to the bottom. The frame and cross-piece are covered with flat plain-woven webbing which extends upward from the sides and is sewn to a waistband of the same material; the center of the curved top wire is also sewn to the waistband for a three-point connection. The waistband ties in front of the body when worn, and the base braces the bustle against the top of the buttocks.

The spring steel wire coils are encased in cotton twill tubes, now badly torn, and are sewn to the base in two rows. Three coils are larger ( 7.6 cm / 3 in. wide and 45.7 cm / 18 in. long) and two are smaller (6.4 cm / 2.5 in. wide and 36.8 cm / 14.5 in. long). Two of the larger coils are sewn to the base at the horizontal cross-piece by a single attachment point of the closed end of their cotton covers, which allows them to hang straight down. Above them, three coils, one larger flanked by the two smaller ones, are sewn to the base with the mouth of each coil flat against the base and attached to both the top wire and the horizontal cross-piece; the smaller coils are sewn to the sides of the base as well. With this attachment method and with the support of the coils beneath, the three upper coils arch out and away from the body at 90 degrees to create the depth of the bustle. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.


Overall length: 48.3 cm / 19 in.
Overall width: 21.6 cm / 8.5 in.
Extension from back of body: 19.1 cm / 7.5 in.


Gift of Mary Pepperrell Ffrost Sawyer

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.

Ffrost-Sawyer_history.pdf (75 kB)
Ffrost-Sawyer history


Bustles, Tournures, c. 1885, Dover, New Hampshire, United States, Cotton, Twill, Brown (color), Spring steel wire, Coils, Machine-sewn, Hand-sewn, Ffrost Sawyer (donor), Ffrost (donor), Frost (donor)


item origin