How to Make a Costume With a Ruffled Bustle

Written by camela bryan
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How to Make a Costume With a Ruffled Bustle
A graceful ruffled bustle cascades down the back of this dress. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

A ruffled bustle consists of rows of draped fabric that cascade down the back of a skirt from the waist to the knees or all the way to the hem. Add a ruffled bustle to the back of a straight skirt to create a period costume. You can make an "over bustle" from fabric that matches the skirt to quickly turn an existing skirt or dress into a costume for a period play.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 4 yards of fabric
  • Yardstick
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Pins
  • 4, 1-inch wide, heavy-duty snaps

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  1. 1

    Cut a rectangle of fabric 4 yards long and 21 inches wide.

  2. 2

    Fold the of fabric in half lengthwise with the wrong side of the fabric out.

  3. 3

    Sew across both of the short ends with a straight stitch and a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Turn the ruffle right side out and press it.

  4. 4

    Zigzag or overcast the top, unfinished edge of the ruffle.

  5. 5

    Create a base for the ruffle by cutting two rectangles of fabric 9 inches wide and 21 inches long. Place the rectangles on top of each other with the right sides together and all edges even.

  6. 6

    Sew around the edges of the rectangle, 1/2-inch from the edges. Leave a 3-inch opening for turning. Turn the rectangle right side out, press it and sew the opening closed.

  7. 7

    Place the centre of the ruffle at the top of the centre of the base. The bottom of the ruffle should be up and the top of the ruffle should overlap the base by 3/4 inch. Sewing the ruffle on upside down will give it a full finished look when you fold it down after you sew it on. Pin the ruffle in place.

  8. 8

    Sew across the top of the ruffle, 1/2 inch from the top edge. This will be 1/4 inch below the top of the base. Start and stop this seam 1/2 inch from the side edges.

  9. 9

    Create the ruffles on the right side of the bustle by bringing the ruffle on that side down 2 inches and then bringing it toward the centre. This will be the first curve of the ruffle, sew it in place with a straight stitch, 1/2 inch from the edge. You may pin the curve in place before you sew it or you may find it easier to sew it freehand. For the first curve, make sure the zigzag edge is pointing toward the centre of the bustle so it will not show. It will not matter where the edge is placed on the rest of the curves because the ruffle above them will hide the top edge.

  10. 10

    Make the next curve on this side by bringing the ruffle down the centre of the bustle two inches and then taking it straight out toward the edge. Sew it in place.

  11. 11

    Continue sewing the ruffle in place, going from the edge to the centre and back, along the right side. Make the layers of fabric approximately two inches apart.

  12. 12

    Sew the ruffles on the left side of the bustle on in the same way. Try to keep the layers of fabric on each side even. Minor differences will not show.

  13. 13

    Sew the male part of a 1-inch-wide heavy duty snap in each corner of the top of the bustle and one in the centre of the top. Place the snaps so they are 1/2 inch from the edges. Add two more snaps, placing them 3 inches further down along each side.

  14. 14

    Sew the female parts of the snaps onto the garment. One should be in the centre of the back of the waist band and two more should 3 1/2 inches along the waistband on either side of it. Measure from the centre of one snap to the centre of the other. Try on the outfit and the bustle to determine the placement of the other snaps. Place them so that they do not change the way the skirt hangs. Sew on the last two snaps.

Tips and warnings

  • If you want a fuller ruffled bustle, use an 8-yard length of fabric and gather the top edge before you sew it to the base. If you are not an experience seamstress, make a bustle with ungathered fabric first to learn the technique. The gathered version involves putting many yards of fabric into a small space, which can be very difficult.

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