Every woman who has wished her chest filled out a form-fitting dress, stepped into Victoria’s Secret searching for just the right padded (or water) bra, or used silicone inserts to fill out a dress (or swimming suit or bra) understands exactly why American women in the Victorian Era bought Bust Pads.

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Bust pad and hip pads with bustle, from the 1897 Sears Catalog, no. 104.

Bust pad and hip pads with bustle, from the 1897 Sears Catalog, no. 104.

Two posts ago, when covering Victorian Hair Augmentation (hair pieces, among other devices), I shared an image of a warning published in 1873 (and circulated within several editions of the Matrimonial News) wherein Judge John H. Arbuckle stated such padding would be grounds to declare a mail-order marriage null and void…if the ‘fooled’ groom so desired. Here it is once more:

This warning appeared as an insert in sereral editions of the Matrimonial News in the 1870's. While this image is readily available (without citations) on the internet and various websites, I believe this image (and the caption) comes from at least one mail-order bride nonfiction title by Chris Enss.

This warning appeared as an insert in several editions of the Matrimonial News in the 1870’s. While this image is readily available (without citations) on the internet and various websites, I believe this image (and the caption) comes from at least one mail-order bride nonfiction title by Chris Enss.

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NOTHING NEW

If women were guilty in the American Victorian Era of padding some parts and minimizing others, they’ve done nothing others haven’t done both before and after them. (Who says corsets are out of fashion, entirely?)

English Lords–physically inactive as most were–often wore girdles to skinny in their midsections and padded their shoulders and arms and thighs in order to cut a fine figure in their expensive attire. Ladies did the same. Not only was a bit of weight (plump hips, plump breasts and arms) considered a sign of wealth (after all, only the wealthy could afford to be idle and pay someone else to do the work) but considered stylish.

Victorian-era women worldwide had worn their skirts in the large bell reminiscent of Civil War-era images. The bigger the better. Once the bell skirt began to diminish and eventually embark on the “bustle era”, skirts were still strongly shaped by the foundation garments beneath.

One can only assume Judge John H. Arbuckle did not mention bustles in his list of divorce-able offenses because men understood, generally, that the shape of a woman’s lower body was not defined by the shape of her skirt. so why was the padding of hips listed? Note the first image, above, showing the Sears Catalog offering of a combination bustle and hip pads. In the Victorian Era, steel boning in corsets strengthened the garment adequately to constrict the waist smaller than ever before. Those who study fashion will note that every element of a woman’s costume drew the eye to the smallness of her waist: balloon sleeves, wide collars, drapes across the hips, and apparently–padding of those hips.

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BUST PADDING VICTORIAN STYLE

Corset Advertisement within the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895, stating:

Corset Advertisement within the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895, stating: “It has perfectly formed self-sustaining “Tricora” busts, which will give to every lady wearing it the outlines of perfect development and stylish figure.

Two examples of Bust Enhancers, labeled "Dress Forms" for sale in the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895.

Two examples of Bust Enhancers, labeled “Dress Forms” for sale in the Montgomery, Ward & Co. Catalog of 1895.

Lemon cup bust improver 1890 (c) The Symington Corsetry Collection

“Lemon Cup” bust improver, circa 1890 © The Symington Corsetry Collection, via Victoria and Albert Museum

Lemon cup 1

Lemon Cup Breast Enhancers circa 1890, via La Gatta Ciara

Lemon Cup Breast Enhancers circa 1890, via La Gatta Ciara

Bust Improvers of 1880 to 1910's, via Pinterest and

Bust Improvers of 1880 to 1910’s, via Pinterest and La Gatta Ciara

Victorian 1840s to 1850s ball gown hows large bust improver sewn into dress, from Pinterest

Victorian 1840s to 1850s ball gown shows large bust improver sewn into dress, from Pinterest

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PRINCESS BUST DEVELOPER AND BUST CREAM

Princess Biust Food Bust Improver.Sears Roebuck & Co., 1897,

Princess Bust Developer and Bust Cream or Food, Sears Roebuck & Co., 1897.

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HIP PADDING VICTORIAN STYLE

Scott Hipform and Bustle. C.1903. An unsual shaped three peice turn of the century bustle made out of white sateen and stuffed with horsehair. Metal grommets allow for ventilation. This type of bustle was worn by extremely slender women who wanted to pad out their hips and bum to acheive a balanced hourglass shape. The original tag is still attached is is marked as being a size 8. Sizes 00 up to a size 1 were worn by very large ladies as they were made less padded, etc. with sizes going up for smaller figures. Via Pinterest and Corsets and Crinolines.

Scott Hipform and Bustle. C.1903. An unusual shaped three piece turn of the century bustle made out of white sateen and stuffed with horsehair. Metal grommets allow for ventilation. This type of bustle was worn by extremely slender women who wanted to pad out their hips and bum to achieve a balanced hourglass shape. The original tag is still attached is is marked as being a size 8. Sizes 00 up to a size 1 were worn by very large ladies as they were made less padded, etc. with sizes going up for smaller figures. Via Pinterest and Corsets and Crinolines.

1870 horsehair bustle, via Pinterest and VintageTextile.com

1870 horsehair bustle, via Pinterest and VintageTextile.com

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Up Next!

Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene

Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene

and then…

Victorian Ladies Underwear

Victorian Ladies Underwear

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False Beauty Spots How Did Victorian Stockings Stay Up? Victorian Ladies Underwear Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene Pencil Skirts, Victorian Style Victorian Curling Irons Victorian Hair Augmentation L-O-N-G Victorian Hair Mail-Order Catalogs and the Old West Mail-Order Catalogs: Timeline and Truth Corsets in the Era: Yes, even Maternity Corsets Victorians at the Seashore 19th Century Bathing Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC