Putting Bustles On Your Wedding Gown

UPDATE 11/12/09: Read this post and then go back and read this one for a shortcut on one of the steps. You’ll be glad you did!

I have been altering wedding gowns for 25 years now, beginning with my own, 25 years ago!

One of the things I do often is put bustles on wedding gowns.

Do you need one on yours?

Let me show you how.

Today we are going to learn how to do an under bustle (some folks call them a French Bustle).

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An under bustle is just what it says, it is brought underneath the dress (so to speak) and secured underneath.

None of the ties, hooks, eyes, buttons, etc. will show from the outside of the gown.

All the workings are hidden beneath.

I use a loop and tie method that I figured out a long time ago. It has worked wonderfully and it is very simple to do.

Once again, don’t be intimidated.

First, measure the distance from the spot where the bustle will be hooked up, to the floor.

Let’s say the measurement is 24 inches.

Now, measure up from the edge of the train up 24 inches and put a pin there.

Bring the place where the pin is up and under the dress and match it to the place where you’ll fasten the bustle.

It may be off by a little, so adjust what you need to.

Put a pin in the dress on the outside of the dress to hold that bustle in place while you have the bride look at it and see if that’s where she’d like it.

Always pin on the seamline, never in the middle of the fabric (unless there is lace or something to cover up the small stitching you will do to hold these bustles in place).

On this dress, I put a pin in between two of those covered buttons to hold the under fabric in place.

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I also pulled up fabric to the left and right of the middle bustle and pinned those along the side back seams. (Side back seams are not the center back seam and they are not the side seams. They are the seams that run vertically between the center back seam and the side seam.)

So, this dress needed 3 bustles to get all the train up off the floor.

Normally, I like to make the bustle that is in the middle, a little higher than the outer two, but it didn’t work in this case. The train was of a shape that didn’t allow me to do that.

When making an under bustle, just know that you can’t put the bustle any higher than where the zipper ends on the center back seam. It needs to go at or below the zipper.

Now, let’s talk about how to make the workings of the bustle.

You don’t need many items to do this bustle.

You need some tiny scraps of fabric that doesn’t ravel.

I’ve always used a quilting product called Warm and Natural. This feels like a very soft blanket.

You could also use felt.

You could really use any fabric, but if it tends to ravel, finish the edges.

Whatever fabric you use, use one that is off white in color. If you use white with a white wedding gown, it may show from the right side.

Cut a rectangle of said fabric about 1 inch wide by 2 inches long for each bustle.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, just estimate.

Then, take a piece of grosgrain ribbon that is  1/2 inch wide. Cut a piece that is 5 inches long for each bustle.

Referring to the photo below, fold the grosgrain ribbon in half and sew it like you see in the photo below.

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Stitch straight across the ribbon, back and forth, securing it tightly. Cut your threads off.

Now, just flip that grosgrain ribbon over the top of the stitching you just did (see photo below) and stitch straight across again.

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This is what you end up with:

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Now, you need to attach this to the dress.

To do so, you are going to need to look at the dress again.

At each spot where you have the fabric pinned up, you will need to mark not only the top spot where the pin is, but you’ll also need to mark where the fabric has been pinned underneath. I do this with more pins or tailor tacks.

I don’t use a marking pen because it may not come out.

So, for every bustle, you should have two marks. One will be higher up on the train than the other, but they should be along the same seamline.

If you find that you didn’t pin exactly on the seamline, that’s no problem. Just move the marking over to the seamline.

Once you have all the markings marked, you are going to attach your loop to the dress.

You’ll have one loop per bustle.

On the inside of the dress, transfer the marking from the outside to the inside of the dress with either a pin or a tailor tack.

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Working with the top marking only at this time, place the bottom  edge of the loop (that you made earlier) at the pin placement. This means the whole loop contraption is sitting above the pin or the mark you made. (The reason for this is that when you tie the bustle together, it will meet exactly where you want it. If you don’t understand now, you will later when you see how the bustle hangs).

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Pin that fabric square onto the dress.

From the right side of the dress, stitch right in the seam to hold  the area just above the loop to the dress. (If we stitch from the wrong side of the dress, the stitches may show if we didn’t line the dress up correctly, and it wouldn’t look very good.) See the talior tack down below the pin? I left that in so you could see all the steps involved.

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From the wrong side, it will look like this:

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Ok, now we’re going to make sure that the fabric square is really held on good. It is already held on well, but this gives me peace of mind.

Turn the dress inside out again and find the loop.

The bottom edge of this fabric square is not sewn down.

So sew it down.

I do it by hand because I don’t want another bit of stitching to do from the front side in case I get it wrong, there’s less chance for error. So, sew it down to the lining only by hand like this:

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Now let’s go to the second marking on the dress,  below your newly attached loop.

Again, mark the inside of the dress, making sure that the lining and the dress are in the correct position and that they lay flat. This time I use a pin, pinning it vertically along the seamline from the right side of the fabric.

Take a piece of 1/4″ wide off white ribbon that is about 20 inches long.

Now, turn the dress inside out and thread that ribbon through the pin that you placed along the seamline. It will be in the perfect position now. See how it is threaded through the pin in the photo below?

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Turn the dress right side out and  make sure the ribbon isn’t all scrunched up underneath. Smooth it out and then stitch along the seamline back and forth a couple to times to secure it.

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It is barely noticeable from the front. Your guests won’t notice it.

Now, after the ceremony, just have a bridesmaid or someone else who is nearby, lift the skirt and take each ribbon and run it through its corresponding loop.

Tie the ribbons just like a shoelace.

Then, drop the train and smooth it out.

That’s all there is to it!

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****Note: After having been to many weddings, as a coordinator and a guest, I just have to say….make sure the bride wears off white under garments. If you/she is wearing a white dress, this is so important because white undergarments will show under a white dress. But, the off white won’t show, unless you are using a yellowish off white under garment. And please don’t wear a colored pair of underwear under your wedding dress! That looks so tacky. Wedding guests everywhere will thank you!

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47 Responses

  1. Thank you for the great instructions. You have saved me. I was asked to alter and bustle a wedding gown. Altering isn’t a problem but I’ve never made the bustle for a gown before and have such a problem finding instructions.
    I feel very confident that I can do the job now.
    Thanks again. I can sleep tonight!

  2. Hi Tina,
    I am so glad this helped. This morning, I posted an updated version with a shortcut to the loop step. It is entitled, “French Bustles, Making Them Even Easier Than Before.” Check it out!
    Linda

  3. Linda,
    I’m trying to come up with a bustle for a train that does not have any seams in it. Do you have any suggestions! Thanks

  4. You’re going to be surprised by my answer, but the simplest thing to do (and maybe the only thing), when there isn’t any seam, is to pull the train up underneath after the ceremony and use safety pins to keep it in place! This may make some small holes in the dress, though, so you may want to use some other fastener.

    The only other option is an overbustle, but that will only work if you have something like a button or hook at the back waist area to hook it to. You can add one if it would look good. If there isn’t any lace or appliques or anything to hide that button or hook, that button/hook may stand out like a sore thumb. What does your dress look like in the back? If you wouldn’t mind sending me a photo, I could give you a better idea.

    Hope this helps,
    Linda

  5. Hello,

    I want to do my own underbustle. This is my wedding dress: http://www.maggiesottero.com/dress.aspx?keywordText=poppy&keywordType=any&page=0&pageSize=15&style=A3245

    As you can see it has a lace fabric above the satin fabric. What should I do to make the french bustle? Should I use 3 points? Do I have to sew the lace to the satin in order to place the ribbon and pull the train?

    Do you think my wedding dress is appropiate for a french bustle?

    Thank you very much! This post is

    • It’s hard for me to tell how many points it needs without being there and trying it. But, that’s exactly what I want you to do. First, try one and see if that takes care of the train. You may need to pull up three total, or maybe five. But, I just pull the fabric up and under and stick a pin in it. Then, if that’s not quite right, just try it at a different spots until you get them where you want them. (You can measure from the floor up to where you want to pin and for some people, they like doing that better, but I like to just play with it.)

      Yes, you’ll have to attach the lace to the satin. You are in a great situation, because whatever you do to attach the two layers together, it won’t show. You can loosely attach them with a big loop if you want, or you can stitch the two fabrics together. Just make sure you have the lineup of the two fabrics good before you stitch. In other words, you don’t want to have a big bubble when the dress hangs. I lay it on the table and just pull both fabrics until I’m sure they are lining up right. Does that make sense? Then, just pin it and stick both layers under your presser foot and tack them down, making sure not to catch any fabric underneath that shouldn’t be there, (That’s probably a big “duh”, but it is frustrating if you forget that part!).

      Be sure to read (if you haven’t already) my other post entitled, “French Bustles, Making them even easier than before.”

      Let me know if you have any other questions,
      Linda

  6. Thank you for the great ideas for making a french bustle. I have been making and altering dresses for at least 30 years and this is my first time for someone to request a french bustle. I read both of the posts and I think it will be no problem at all. Thanks so much.

  7. These were great, detailed instructions but my dilema is similar to a recent post. My train has a center back seam but the side back seam is not verticle, it is on the bias. So I,too have no safe place to stitch a tie or loop to get the 3 point pin-up. Any ideas?

  8. I’m guessing that the dress is pure satin with no lace to hide your work under. Is that correct? Does the dress have lining? If it does, you may be able to put the loop on the lining and the tie on the dress and then put the tie throught the loop after the ceremony and tie it.

    If you don’t have lining: Have you tried pinning the bustle to the “biased” side back seams? If that didn’t work, try making a much longer loop from some point on that biased seam (or if there is a waist seam, attach it to that) and let it hang down as far as you need in order for that bustle to look good.

    You may have to do an overbustle, if the above suggestions don’t work. Let me know if I missed anything from your description. Also, I’d love to hear if these ideas helped you or if you figured out a different solution.

  9. I have been in the alteration and custom sewing business for 30 years and have never had this request. A bride has asked me to cut the train off her dress and make it all one length. Can you give me any advise on doing this? Any help would be greatly appreciated as the wedding is in just a few days.

    • Have the bride try on the gown. While she’s standing in it, trim off all but about 4 inches of the dress (the first time you do this, it kills you to have to cut it off). If you don’t trim, it’s way too much fabric to work with and try to pin up. Once the excess is off, just pin up the four inches as you would a regular hem. Then, hem the dress in the desired finish.

      If the dress has a lace edge, remove that lace edge first, trim the excess fabric and then reattach the lace edge. Most of the time, you can usually reattach the lace by machine stitching it back on.

      Hope that helps!

  10. Hello,

    The train on my wedding dress does not fall straight down the back of my dress. It comes from a gathering on the side of my dress by my right hip, so I’m not sure how do do a bustle that looks even/centered/professional. This is my dress:

    http://www.maggiesottero.com/dress.aspx?keywordText=desirae&keywordType=any&page=0&pageSize=15&style=J1309

    If you notice the back – it looks kind of sideways. It also has a bubble hem at the end of the train. What suggestions do you have for a bustle for this dress? Any tips would be much appreciated!

    • First of all, it is beautiful!!! Wow!

      I have several ideas:

      1. I would suggest pulling the train up at various spots until you get the look you desire, even if you are only bustling one side of the dress. Put pins in the areas where you want the bustles. Then, follow the directions above.

      2. You can also make an overbustle and attach it to a clear button at the bottom of the corset back lacing, if you like that look better than an underbustle.

      3. The other thing you could do is make a ribbon loop at the bottom of the train that fits over your wrist. You don’t see those too often anymore, but it might make a nice statement especially since your dress swoops to the side like it does. That would further enhance that look.

      Linda

  11. I just picked my dress up from alterations and they have sewed the loops and rings for the bustle into the middle of the fabric on my dress. You can see the stitch marks from the outside!! Now I have six “pinch” spots on my dress and I am at a loss and do not know what to do. Obviously from reading your post, this is not supposed to be how it looks.

  12. What do you do if there is no seam in the middle of the train. It is an inset in the middle with beading at the top of the attachment.

    • I would attach the train in the same manner only have one pick up on each seam, for a total of two pick ups. You may need more depending on how it hangs. Try pinning it first.

  13. […] of my blue sapphire earrings from Amazon.com; Image of bustle from Sew For Dough.} Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Green Laptops: Going […]

  14. hoiw do u bustle a bubble wedding dress withy a long train? Were thinking a frencch bustle is bet

    • HI Wendy,
      I just did my daughter’s wedding dress and it was almost impossible to do an over bustle. So, you are right, an under bustle would be best. In fact, we had to do 2 under bustles. Follow the instructions on my blog for the mechanics of the under bustle, but you’ll need to do one way down low on the dress and then one just above it. I had to make two of them along the center back seam and then one on each side of the center back seam. There is no concrete formula on where those are located. Just play around with the train until you get them where you need them to go.

      I hope that helps.

      If not, email me back with photos and ask me more questions.

      Thanks!
      Linda

      • Hi Linda, I just left a message at the bottom, but after spending more time on your blog, I just realized that my dress looks very similar to your daughter’s dress (congratulations by the way, beautiful beautiful photos!!).

        This is the picture of my dress again, and I was hoping for an under bustle that blends into the rest of the dress.

        ANY advice (now many buttons on which seams) would be greatly appreciated, including an advice as to whether I should try it at home at all, or take it back to David’s Bridal.

        Thank you!!

      • I dont know what your level of sewing skill is, so it’s hard for me to answer that question for you. If my posts on that subject are over your head, then consider taking it back to David’s. See my last comment though and then decide. Linda

  15. Your information is very helpful for the under bustle. Do you have as clear instructions for an over bustle on a train where beaded area is shaped like an upside down “V” on satin finish. Thank you!

  16. Your information is very helpful for the under bustle. Do you have as clear instructions for an over bustle on a train where beaded area is shaped like an upside down “V” on satin finish. Thank you!

  17. Hi! I have a silk crepe sheath dress with a center seam but no side seams. I sewed an underbustle on the center seam but it isn’t taking care of all the fabric of the train. There’s a lot of fabric on the sides still. How do I sew in two more bustles (one on each side) if the dress doesn’t have side seams? The dress has a lining. Thanks!

    • Boy, that is a tough one. I have had multiple problems with this situation and I can’t blog on it because each dress is so different. You may have already figured it out, but if not, it may be helpful to pull the dress up and under by the hem in the different places you need it up and have long ribbons from the waist and the loops just at the hem, making sure they don’t show when you stitch them on. Sometimes you can attach the hem to the lining, but many times the lining has to be pulled up too, so you can pull them both together as one fabric as well. Try that and let me know if you came up with a different solution.

      • Here is what the reader responded with next:
        Thanks, that sounds like a good idea! I had been thinking and thinking about it and hadn’t been able to figure it out yet. I’ll take a look at my dress later this week when my fiance is out of the house and see if I can use your suggestion. Otherwise, I guess there are worse things than just having to hitch up my dress all night :-).

      • I have put more than one tie on each bustle point. So the center bustle would have 3 tied in one spot. That might help.

  18. After corresponding with the reader once again, here is the final solution she came up with:
    Just wanted to let you know what I ended up doing. Unfortunately there isn’t a perfect solution, but I think I made an okay compromise.

    I took your advice and sewed loops at the hem of the dress; I was able to disguise the sewing in the existing stitching along the hem. Unfortunately I couldn’t sew the ribbons at the waist because my dress is fit quite slim, and with the heavy silk crepe fabric, any crease or fold will show. So instead I sewed two ribbons along the center back seam lower down in the skirt (right about where the skirt starts to fan out), one on each side of the seam. Voila!

    I’m not sure if this would look lopsided or bunchy on another dress, but with my dress, where everything is quite narrow and the fabric is drapey, it works great.

    Thanks again for your help!

  19. Can I ask what your general guidelines for pricing bustles? I know they vary as to the amount of time you put into it. I’ve done many of them in my alterations biz – just wondering what you charge :) Thanks!

    • Hi Katie,
      I usually charge $10-$15 per bustle. I would call and ask what other shops in your area charge just to be sure that is on target for your area. I wouldn’t want you to be too low or far too high.

      Hope that helps!
      Linda

  20. beautiful I love it thank you for your tips and advice.

  21. This is an amazing forum. Thank you in advance for your advice. I have a dress with bubble hem and train. I would like an under bustle that will make the dress look like it didn’t even have a train to begin with, but just fuller on the back.

    ANY advice (now many buttons on which seams) would be greatly appreciated, including estimated pricing or if I should even try at home at all.

    • Type in “under bustle” in the search engine on my blog and you’ll find my posts on bubble dresses. Also, read my posts on pricing and then let me know if you have more questions… Thanks!

  22. Oh thank you! Yes, those are the two posts that cover that topic.
    It’s really hard to judge pricing on this because each dress and alteration is different. I always price by the hour. Without seeing it in person and looking at the construction, I can’t give you a price. One thing I haven’t mentioned on the blog before, is that David’s construction of garments can be difficult and weird sometimes. This makes for a longer alteration process. If you look inside the dress and are confused at the construction, that may be a good reason to let them do it if you are not familiar with this type of alteration. Weird construction is not always the case, but I just wanted to give you a “heads up” just in case.

  23. Thank you SO MUCH for the clear, detailed instructions. I put 3 underbustles in and they held up beautifully through heavy dancing. The first was easiest as it was along the back seam, attached at the waist to the inner lining. The others were on the side seams. You are right, sewing on top of the seam made it nearly invisible. For the side bustles I attached the ribbons about an inch above the hemline to the lining, through the horsehair braid sewn along the bottom between the lining and the dress, which made it stronger. It cascaded nicely at the back.

  24. I was inspecting my dress for repairs before sending it off for cleaning,repair and preservation, and noticed how they created the bustle. They cut little holes in the lace overlay and attached loops that attached to buttons above. I now have little holes with raw edges in the back of my dress. Was this correct? It doesn’t look professional at all.

    • Well, it isn’t what I would have done. But you can go to a JoAnn Fabric store (if you have one nearby, or online) and buy a tube of June Tailor’s Fray Block . Dab some of that on and it will keep the edges from ravelling.

      • What would you have done, I made loops on my daughter’s overlay and it made holes, how can I fix it before the wedding because I don’t think it will hols up without making bigger holes

      • Please email me a photo so I can see what you’re looking at. Thanks! Thesewinggarden@gmail.com

      • Hi thanks for replying so quick. I am in a terrible dilemma. I can’t send a pic right now because I sent my daughter’s gown to be steamed and pressed yesterday. Wedding is next weekend. I did the alterations for her, taking in, shortening, added bra insert and under bustle for lining, over bustle for tulle. The under has ribbons, top..buttons and loops. I did a combo to take some bulk and weight off the over bustle. So, the top gas 6 layers of tulle. I sewed a loop thru the 6 layers, but at my daughter’s last fitting, she wore it for awhile at my house and the rule must’ve had stress. At two points there are holes in the top layer of tulle about like a dime. And I just noticed it right before sending it off. THEN! On top of that, the dry cleaner noticed a rip in the top layer on the train about 2″. I just am beside myself …

        Sew for dough wrote: Howdy,

        sewfordough commented on: Putting Bustles On Your Wedding Gown.

        Comment URL: (http://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/bustles-for-your-wedding-gown#comment-6045) Post URL: (http://sewfordough.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/bustles-for-your-wedding-gown)

        This was in response to pauline:

  25. Hi, my friend bought a wedding dress with a long cathedral train. I have done bustles for small trains never for this long one. Which style bustle would best fit for this train? It is in lace material with satin lining. Hence quite heavy.

    • You’ll want to try both kinds because each dress is different. If it is a heavy train, you may want to put in many bustles. I’ve put in between 5 and 8 on many dresses. Use all the seams if possible.

  26. Hi. I’m altering my friends dress for her. It is a beautiful Eliza Jane Howell dress – vintage inspired and fully beaded. I’m not sure of the best way to create a bustle as the fabric is very delicate but also fairly heavy due to the beading.
    Can you help?

  27. Hello! This is a great tutorial. I am currently working on my first wedding dress anddoing an over bustle. This may seem like a silly question but what do you use to create your loops? I have seen strips of what looks like braided thread but for the life of me I cannot seem to figure out how to do that! Any suggestions?

    • Breanna, I make a chain of thread by hand using a buttonhole stitch and heavier thread. It goes super fast and you just make it the length you want (to fit over the button), and then push he needle through to the back of the dress and anchor it good with knots.

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