1884 Collapsible Wire Bustle Tutorial

1884 Collapsible Wire Bustle

This is an imitation of an 1884 collapsible wire bustle based on a bustle pictured in the Victoria and Albert Collection: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O73542/bustle-the-new-phantom

Materials: 7 wire coat hangers, soldering iron and lead-free solder, copper wire, 1 package of woven edge seam binding (or ribbon), scrap bias tape (enough to go around your waist and a bit more).

First, untwist 5 of the coat hangers and form them into arcs. Mine were approximately 15 inches wide and 12 inches high, which made fit a few inches smaller than the back of my hips.

Untwist another coat hanger and bend it into a straight line, with rings at the end that are turned upwards.

One at a time, bend the ends of the arcs into loops thread them through the two rings on the straight coat hanger. It should look something like the picture to the left.

To secure the arcs to the straight piece, wrap copper wire around the ends of the loops to hold it closed. Then solder over the copper wire to completely secure the loop closed, as the picture below shows. (An example of the un-soldered copper wrapping can be seen on the table in the picture. It was my practice piece before I wrapped the wire arcs.
Then do this for all of the arcs of wire until they are all attached to the "hinge piece." I covered the soldered joints with electrical tape to make sure that they wouldn't damage the petticoat, but it is not necessary if the solder joints are neat.
Use the last coat hanger to create the waistband of the bustle. I measured it to a few inches smaller than my waist (as I'll be wearing a corset with my dress) and made soldered loops on the ends as well. Sew along the very edge of the bias tape in a small zig-zag stitch and slide this tube over the coat hanger. Attach two lengths of sturdy cord onto these loops so it can be tied around the waist to the size needed.
To attach the arcs to the waistband, use copper wire to create small loops on the top sides of the top arc and solder them in place. Then loop woven edge seam binding around the arc, through the loop and around the waistband. Sew these into place at the length needed to hold the bustle where it should fall. Also, for extra stability, sew loops of seam binding from the hinge piece to the waistband.
Then sew the seam binding from arc to arc to hold them in place at the right distance from each other. I did three rows of seam binding to keep them in place.
The result is quite sturdy, which is necessary as it'll need to hold about 5 pounds of skirts, and it collapses and opens quite easily.
The picture below is how my bustle came out!

April 5, 2013:
I am currently working on a prototype of a spring hinged collapsible wire bustle of this kind to support heavier skirts. Once I complete and test it, I'll post a link to the new tutorial here!