After many years of working with brides and creating gowns I have learned there are as many unique styles of wedding gown as there are brides. Each bride brings her own special vision to her gown and the result is a dress that not only fits her body, but her beautiful personality as well. Keeping that in mind, my team and I often have to create unique solutions for bustling these beautiful gowns. That is why this edition of our Anatomy of a Wedding Gown series is all about bustles!

There are two basic types of bustle used by seamstresses on most wedding gowns; French and American. The primary difference between these two bustles is that the French is tucked under leaving any decoration at the waist or down the back of the dress on display, while the American is pulled up over the back showing off the bottom of the train. The French style bustle is often used for heavier trains as it is constructed with ribbons and loops which can be tied and knotted for more security. These ribbons and loops are typically numbered or color coded for easy bustling on the day of the wedding. The American bustle employs a system of loops and buttons or hook and eyes. While these are the two primary styles of bustle, they certainly aren’t the only options.

Many brides are surprised to learn that despite all gowns needing a bustle wedding gowns are not manufactured with bustles built in. This is due in large part to the fact that alterations are often needed to tailor the dress to the bride and of course the height of the bride will determine the positioning of the pick up points on the gown. Each dress has its own personality and presents its own set of challenges; having the ability to play around with the bustling results in a more tailored and special gown on your big day.

For simple gowns with a more fitted waist a Pick-Up bustle can be used. This is a bustle which uses only one pickup point at the waist and results in a beautiful draped bustle. The pick-up bustle can be done in either the French or the American style (over or under). Another option that this bustle offers is to attach the pickup point on the side of the dress, which is perfect for those dresses with beautiful pleats or decoration at the hip. The Over-Bustle is similar to the pickup bustle except that it uses multiple pick up points at the waist to achieve the effect of the gown being the same length all the way around. The result is a gown that looks more like a traditional ballroom gown.

Tufted gowns, while stunning and voluminous, can be quite challenging. I have found the best way to bustle these gowns is to place a hook behind the appliqué at each pick up point and hook it into the loops. With a bit of fluffing and rearranging the dress maintains its tufts and doesn’t become overly ‘poofy.' This also allows details such as flowers or beadwork to be shown off.



For gowns with more delicate fabrics, such as organza, the less common Austrian Bustle is an option. To achieve this gathered shade effect eyes are placed along the seams under the skirt and a ribbon is threaded through. Once you have played around and found the right length, a dot can be placed on the ribbon where it should be tied. Although this is a stunning bustle, I have found that the double or triple French bustle gives the same look, and is much more secure for dancing.

Another dress style which presents unique challenges are those which have a colorful back. For these gowns a Train Flip is very effective as it flips the train under which preserves the appearance of the back of the gown. A drawback to this type of bustle is that the edge of the train that is flipped under could get heavily soiled during the course of the evening, resulting in a line across the train that may be difficult to clean. That said, if a bride really desires a more typical French or American bustle it can be achieved by playing around with the fabric and the folds and using the color can create a stunning effect.



Another style of bustle for very lightweight and flowing dresses in which the bride doesn't want any buttons or loops showing on the train is the wristlet option. This type of bustle includes a clear wrist loop that can fasten into a bracelet or be worn draped over the wrist. This is a very romantic style for dancing as the train becomes an element of its own, trailing down from the brides wrist to the floor.

For those brides who don’t want to have to fuss with bustling between photos and reception, or for brides who don’t want to carry around the bulk of their gown during the reception there is the convertible dress option. One of the top trends for Fall 2016 according to The Knot this option presents a bride with a whole new world of choices.



Finally, and this is particularly true as I create more custom gowns, there are times when the best approach is a combination of styles. The important takeaway is that no matter what style or fabric you choose for your dress, you can achieve the bustle that you want by working closely with your seamstress and approaching each challenge with an open mind.



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