'Lobster tail' bustle

  • Gift of Madame Marie-José Lepicard
  • C. 1885
  • Cotton, wool and blue velvet ribbon
  • GAL1994.124.1
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

In the mid-1860s skirts featured a tapered shape – something like a long, curving shell – at the back, sometimes beginning well above the waistline. This was made possible by a specific undergarment: the bustle. Made of fabric mounted on hoops, it was called – its appearance makes it clear why – a 'lobster tail'. Decorated with pleats and a flounce, it was often covered with red fabric which accentuated the resemblance even further at a time when 'lobster red' was a fashionable colour. The rigid hoops were set very close together and folded accordion-style against the back of the chair when the wearer sat down. The thirty or so bustles in the Palais Galliera collection are no more than curiosities now: once they dropped out of fashion they became the sole form of underwear never to leave any legacy in the history of lingerie. Every other historic fashion item – the crinoline, the corset, the garter-belt – has made its comeback, at least on the catwalk if not as everyday wear.

Notice's author : Anne Zazzo