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.