Sure the train of your wedding gown is gorgeous, but it will be pretty hard to dance with it trailing behind you all through the reception. After the formal photographs are done, it is time to bustle your gown to get it off the floor and out of your way. Bustling is not as easy as it may seem, though, so first you will have to learn how to bustle your bridal gown.
The shape of the bustle will largely depend on the shape and length of your train. The longer the train, the fuller the bustle. Some trains will look best bustled to the outside, whereas others work best as a French bustle, which is done on the inside. Your seamstress will create the bustle as part of your alterations. Since the bride will not be able to tie up her own dress, it is critical to bring someone to the final fitting to get lessons. Believe me, I speak from experience when I say that trying to figure out a bustle system without lessons is very hard, even for a wedding professional! Normally the mother of the bride or maid of honor is in charge of this task.
The simplest way to tie up a gown is a single tie on the outside, usually near the waistline of the gown or for very short trains, around the knees. This tends to be the most practical when the fabric to be bustled is lightweight, such as tulle or a lace overlay. A heavy satin would tear out a single tie. Since the tie up will be visible, make sure that it is beautiful. For instance, a small toggle and loop of pearls is lovely when you are wearing pearl earrings. A fabric covered button at the waist with a loop on the skirt is also commonly used, although it is not as pretty, unless the gown has more buttons down the back.
What about that loop of cord or ribbon sewn onto the inside edge of my gown's train, you may wonder? Isn't that for bustling, either on the skirt of the wedding dress or to wear over my wrist? No, it is actually something that bridal gown manufacturers sew in to help the trains of gowns be looped up over hangers to get them off the floor. They are definitely not for bustling, and in fact, you should cut it out before your wedding, as it does not look pretty if it drags behind your gown down the aisle (the same goes for the hanging straps in the bodice, by the way: cut them out!).
The French bustle is a very elegant style which works well with any gown of at least an A-line fullness (and some slimmer gowns as well). The general idea is that a series of ties is attached in two rows inside the bridal gown. One is towards the bottom of the train, and the other row is inside the skirt, around knee height. When it is time to bustle the gown, the lower set is tied to the upper set of ribbons, which pulls the train up and under. When all is said and done, the remaining hem of the train should line up with the rest of the hemline of the gown, just off the floor.
The only trick to the French bustle is matching up the right pairs of ties. It sounds easy, but under a big wedding gown, it can get tricky. In a gown with a small train, you might only have three pairs of ties, but a fuller gown might require a dozen, making it very confusing. Some bridal salons will write numbers on the pairs to match them, but there is an even more elegant solution. Simply stitch something tiny and pretty to the end of each ribbon (organza ribbons hold very well and are so much prettier than shoelace material), so that the sets are easily found. Tiny bows, itty-bitty fabric flowers, or even a pearl or a crystal (so cute to coordinate with your pearl earrings!) will all work wonderfully and make the inside of your gown just as pretty as the outside. The best bustles are not merely utilitarian, but add to the overall loveliness of the bridal gown. With your train under control, you will be ready to dance the night away!