Day dress Elsa Schiaparelli
/ Hoops & Bustles
Designs may be inventive and modern even when they reinterpret garments as seemingly antithetical to modern fashion as hoop skirts or bustles. Detractors have decried referencing as derivative, but innovation is often the result of a backward glance to fashions past.

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A bustle undergarment would have been worn underneath this ensemble to create the volume at the back, further emphasized by the elaborate drapery of the skirt. The decorative swags and pleated ruffles are typical of the heavily upholstered look of many garments from this period. Bustle revivals bookended the 1930s. In 1939, the New York Times noted that although some of the “new” bustle dresses had understructures, many were merely composed of “bows and puffs and gatherings at the back,” as is the case with this example by Schiaparelli.

Two-piece day dress
Ivory wool and silk taffeta
Circa 1880, USA
Museum purchase, P86.66.1

Elsa Schiaparelli
Evening dress
Bronze and black shot silk taffeta
Circa 1939, France
The Museum at FIT, PL74.1.55
Courtesy of Mrs. Michael Blankfort