Hot! The ‘Century of the Fruitbat’ bustle

And in order to keep a happy marriage happy he allowed Sybil to bustle in, wearing, in fact, a bustle,* to adjust his shirt, tweak his collar, and make him fit for company.

It’s no secret that one of my favourite living authors is Terry Pratchett. I’ve read every single one of his books, slip references to him into my writing, hum songs about hedgehogs to myself as I wash dishes (true story, I was 25 before I figured out what that word meant, and thus, why the song was naughty), and treat myself his newest work every time I have a plane flight longer than an hour. I love Terry Pratchett; he’s brought so much joy to my life, and is the only author I would line up to get a book signed by.

I’ll never get the opportunity now.

Terry Pratchett is dying. He has a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and so a man who has made his living by his wits is slowly loosing them.

I cried when I heard the news.

He’s the only celebrity I have ever cried for. I cried like I knew him in person, because I think I do. I think he slipped a little of himself into every book. He’s there with Rincewind, always on the run, with Sam Vimes, watching the watchman, with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, saving the world from fairies, vampires & fairy godmothers alike, with Mau on the island, trying to be a man and find his nation.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Pratchett’s books is his references to clothes. They aren’t clothes-oriented books, but you always get a good picture of what people are wearing: Magrat in her hippie layers, tripping over her necklaces, Vimes looking supremely uncomfortable in knee breeches, Polly Oliver learning the importance of socks, Captain Carrot and his breastplate radiating polish, Moist von Lipwig hiding behind his golden suit, Cheri Littlebottom with heels welded to her iron boots. Brilliant.

My favourite are the mentions of bustles. Pratchett clearly finds bustles fascinating, and hilarious (oh, c’mon, aren’t they!) Saccarrisa wears a bustle in Going Postal, and the quote at the top (and bottom, this being Pratchett) is from Snuff. If Adorabelle Dearheart wears a bustle I’m sure it’s spring-loaded.

So this is my Pratchett bustle (because even though this is the Century of the Fruitbat a lady can still keep her dignity and her extensive derriere). Someday it will go under my completed Polly Oliver uniform, where all that extra space will be the perfect place to keep half an onion (because every woman happens to have half an onion when its time to scramble up a meal).

I’m wearing the bustle with a commercial chemise, a petticoat and drawers that you can’t see, and my still-unfinished Nana corset.  Also, all of the Pratchett books I could carry (and attempt to balance on my head).

(I’d like to assure you that the second photo is staged – no books were harmed in the making of this post!)

I’m very pleased with the bustle – it’s such a fun, ridiculous thing to wear, and I really needed a new one for my historical wardrobe.  The only thing that I regret is that I haven’t found a way to make it spring-loaded.

Oh, and because this is about bats, the song to go with it is of course Batfly by FatCat & Fishface (aren’t those puppets cool and creepy?).

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 3ish metres of cotton (thrifted for no more than $5)

Pattern: Mine own

Year: ca. 1885 / Century of the Fruitbat

Notions: thread, 3m of hoopskirt boning (a gift from someone years ago), 9 buttons inherited from Nana.

And the insides? French seams

Hours: 8 hours, over 2 and a half years (sad), by at least 6 people and myself.  I cut it, a friend hemmed the ruffles, another friend sewed the side seams, another friend sewed the first ruffle on, someone else cut the boning channels, someone else hemmed it, I did the front placket, buttons, the last ruffles, and sewed on the boning channels.  It was a group effort!

First worn?: Thursday 16 August under this to give a talk.

Wear again?: Yes!  Under Polly Oliver, under Japonisme, and maybe for the heck of it.

Make again?: Actually, yes.  I sometimes have the need for lot of bustles.

Total cost: $5

*Sybil had explained to Vimes that in the country one dresses at least a decade earlier than in the city, hence the bustle, and, for Vimes, a pair of breeches: the ancient ones with trap doors front and rear and a slightly distressing smell all over.


Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. This is fabulous. I never wanted to own a bustle till now. And I love your writing style. And also, somehow I have never heard of Terry Pratchett, but I will immediately start collecting his books. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Looks like it a lot of fun to wear.

  3. Splendid bustle! At least you had your drawers on. ;)
    I have been lucky enough to see him read and talk a few years ago – he is such a brilliant and entertaining man. I love his books so much. Each year since I heard of his illness, I fear it’s the last one I have in my hands. I’m getting hesistant to read them…

  4. I can just imagine how fine that will make yr historical dresses look. Cute photoshoot and enjoyed the read as well.

  5. I have always wanted a bustle. I love yours! I don’t have anything to wear one with but it would give me a great excuse to make something fun.

    I love your pictures too. you really have the right look for the style. I have also never heard of Terry Pratchett but will look into finding one of his books. Do you start with book one?

  6. I so love Terry Pratchett – I think he’s my favorite contemporary writer EVER. (Not even J.K.Rowling will be able to change that although I am a huge Harry Potter fan as well…) I was seriously considering doing something Terry-Pratchetty but I couldn’t think of anything because I don’t consider them wearable for myself…I was thinking about a female dwarf costume, Anguas uniform, Magrat’s crazy gothic outfits, Nanny Ogg’s red boots (I would love to have red boots but how do you SEW boots?. Definitely not wearable and I just don’t have the time to make something that I’ll never wear again…A bustle isn’t that practical if you work as a translator and you’re constantly sitting at a computer but it seems to work out very well for you (wow for Japonisme!) I so love it that you actually used Terry Pratchett as an inspiration! I immediately recognized the quote because I just recently read “Snuff” and I remember being quite amused by this particularly paragraph.
    I have to admit that I didn’t cry when I heard about his disease but I perfectly understand that you did. This man is a genius on so many levels. And he loves cats. The perfect man.

  7. Great post and a great historical make. I will have to check our Terry Prachett now. :)

  8. amazon…Terry Pratchett…thank you!! :)

  9. Yay! I’m introducing people to Terry Pratchett! I do hope you all enjoy him!

    You can start with any of the Diskworld books, though there is an order, and sort of ‘mini-series’ within the series, that work in order. I think I started with Wyrd Sisters, but I wouldn’t say that was the best to start with – or the worst. Nation is stand alone, as is Good Omens..

    Sorry that I’m not responding to each comment individually – I’m currently visiting my parents in Hawaii and internet is sooooooo slow. I’m having a great time, but looking forward to being able to come back and see everyone elses creations!

  10. My first Terry Pratchett book was “Interesting Times” – that was a pretty perfect start and I got my husband hooked up on Terry Pratchett with “Feet of Clay”.
    Enjoy Hawaii, Leimomi! Glad to hear you’re finally there.

  11. I hope Jen has seen this because she is the biggest Pratchett fan, I made a dreadful top last year that I called “I shall wear midnight” and you have made me ashamed of myself with yoru fabulous bustle.

    My first one was Wyrd Sisters. It’s a goody!

  12. Have to admit I’ve never read any Terry Pratchett either, but that bustle is stand alone gorgeous!

  13. Sir Terry Is one of my absolute favorite authors. I have a bookshelf dedicated to his books, and I still am on the lookout for ones I dont have. I love that you picked him!