AskDefine | Define bustle

Dictionary Definition



1 a rapid bustling commotion [syn: hustle, flurry, ado, fuss, stir]
2 a framework worn at the back below the waist for giving fullness to a woman's skirt v : move or cause to move energetically or busily; "The cheerleaders bustled about excitingly before their performance" [syn: bustle about, hustle]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An excited activity; a stir.
    • 1748. David Hume. Enquiries concerning the human understanding and concerning the principles of moral. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. § 34.
      we are, perhaps, all the while flattering our natural indolence, which, hating the bustle of the world, and drudgery of business seeks a pretence of reason to give itself a full and uncontrolled indulgence
  2. A cover to protect and hide the back panel of a computer or other office machine.
  3. A frame worn underneath a woman's skirt.

Derived terms


An excited activity; a stir
A frame worn underneath a woman's skirt
A cover to protect and hide the back panel of a computer or other office machine


  1. To move busily and energetically (often followed by about).
    The commuters bustled about inside the train station.
  2. To teem or abound (usually followed by with); to exhibit an energetic and active abundance (of a thing).
    The train station was bustling with commuters.


To move busily and energetically
To teem or abound (with)

Extensive Definition

A bustle is a type of framework used to expand the fullness or support the drapery of the back of a woman's dress, occurring predominantly between the mid- to late 1800s. Bustles were worn under the skirt in the back, just below the waist, to keep the skirt from dragging. Heavy fabric tended to pull the back of a skirt down and flatten it. Thus, a woman's petticoated or crinolined skirt would lose its shape during everyday wear (from merely sitting down or moving about). The word "bustle" has become synonymous with the fashion to which the bustle was integral.


Transition from crinoline (1867-1872)

As the fashion for crinolines wore on, their shape changed. Instead of the large bell-like silhouette previously in vogue, they began to flatten out at the front and sides, creating more fullness at the back of the skirts. One type of crinoline, the crinolette, created a shape very similar to the one produced by a bustle. The excess skirt fabric created by this alteration in shape was looped around to the back, again creating increased fullness.

Early bustle (1869 - 1876)

The bustle later developed into a feature of fashion on its own after the overskirt of the late 1860s was draped up toward the back and some kind of support was needed for the new draped shape. Fullness of some sort was still considered necessary to make the waist look smaller and the bustle eventually replaced the crinoline completely. The bustle was worn in different shapes for most of the 1870s and 1880s, with a short period of non-bustled, flat-backed dresses from 1878 to 1882.
In the early stages of the fashion for the bustle, the fullness to the back of the skirts was carried quite low and often fanned out to create a train. The transition from the voluminous crinoline enhanced skirts of the 1850s and 1860s can be seen in the loops and gathers of fabric and trimmings worn during this period. The bustle later evolved into a much more pronounced humped shape on the back of the skirt immediately below the waist, with the fabric of the skirts falling quite sharply to the floor.

Late bustle (1881 - 1887)

It reappeared in late 1881, and was exaggerated to become a major fashion feature in the mid-1880s, and ended in December 1887.


It then survived into the 1890s and early 1900s as a skirt support was still needed and the stylish shape dictated a curve in the back of the skirt to balance the curve of the bust in front. The bustle had completely disappeared by 1905, as the long corset of the early twentieth century was now successful in shaping the body to protrude behind.


The bustle was a typically Victorian fashion. Although most bustle gowns covered nearly all of a woman, the shape created by the combination of a bustle and corset (accentuating the rump, waist, and bosom) resulted in a highly erotic and idealized conception of femininity, possibly inspired by the exaggerated images of the South African woman known as "Hottentot Venus" exhibited throughout Europe in the first part of the 19th century.
Bustles and bustle gowns are rarely worn in contemporary society. Notable exceptions occur in the realm of haute couture and bridal fashion. A dress in the bustle style may be worn as a costume. For example, in 1993 Eiko Ishioka won an Academy Award for her costume designs from Bram Stoker's Dracula. The film features several extravagant bustle gowns created for female leads Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost.



bustle in French: Tournure
bustle in Japanese: バッスル
bustle in Finnish: Turnyyri
bustle in Polish: Turniura

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accelerate, ado, agitation, bake, beat, bilk, bite, bluff, bluster, bluster and bluff, blustering, boastfulness, bobbery, boil, boiling, bother, botheration, bravado, brouhaha, bullying, bundle, burst, buzz about, chase, cheat, chisel, chouse, churn, clamor, commotion, conturbation, cozen, crowd, dash, dash off, dash on, discomposure, disorder, dispatch, disquiet, disquietude, disturbance, double-time, drive, drive on, dust, ebullience, ebullition, eddy, effervescence, embroilment, excitement, expedite, fanfaronade, feery-fary, ferment, fermentation, festinate, fever, feverishness, fidgetiness, fidgets, fit, flap, flit, flurry, fluster, flutter, flutteration, flutteriness, fly, foment, forward, fume, furore, fuss, fussiness, get going, get moving, gyp, hassle, haste, hasten, hasten on, hectoring, helter-skelter, hie on, hubbub, hullabaloo, hurly-burly, hurry, hurry about, hurry along, hurry on, hurry through, hurry up, hurry-scurry, hustle, hustle up, inquietude, intimidation, jitters, jumpiness, kiln, leap, lose no time, maelstrom, make a fuss, make haste, malaise, moil, move quickly, nerviness, nervosity, nervousness, overreach, pell-mell, perturbation, plunge, post, pother, precipitate, press, press on, push, push on, push through, quicken, race, railroad through, rant, ream, restlessness, rodomontade, roil, rout, row, ruffle, run, rush, rush about, rush along, rush around, rush through, scamper, scramble, scurry, scuttle, seethe, seething, side, spasm, speed, speed along, speed up, splutter, spur, spurt, sputter, stampede, stew, sting, stir, swagger, swashbucklery, sweat, swirl, swirling, take, tear, tear around, to-do, trepidation, trepidity, tumult, tumultuation, turbidity, turbulence, turmoil, twitter, unease, unquiet, unrest, uproar, upset, urge, vortex, whip, whip along, whirl, whirlpool, whirlwind, whisk, whiz about, yeastiness
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