For my Steampunk costume, one of the most important things I could work on was the bustle. I thought about doing a full hoop skirt and wire piece, but I wanted freedom of movement and those things aren’t remotely comfortable. I had a ruffly ivory sundress that was shirred at the bust, in a manner that made it really hard to wear. I pulled it down to my waist, and it became a calf-length skirt. This was a start.
Most skirts, however, are the same length all around. With padding under the back, the back hem would be awkwardly higher than the rest. Vertical gathering was an element in Edwardian fashion anyway, so using it to shorten the skirt made sense. I did two symmetrical gathers on the front, but you can do whatever you like.
To hand-stitch gathers the way I did, start with a thin needle and two seed beads, or as many as you want rows of gathers. Slide one seed bead onto one end of a length of strong thread the same color as your skirt and twice its length. Thread that onto the needle doubled over, and tie the ends together into a loop. Starting at the bottom so that the seed bead holds the thread in place, do a wide running stitch in a straight line up the skirt. Carefully pull the thread tight to form the gathers, and knot the thread at the top. Repeat this with all your other gathers, adjusting them as you go. Then, run a second running stitch along them all to lock the gathers in place.
I based my bustle pad on medieval bum rolls. The Edwardian silhouette focused on a large backside, so my version doesn’t extend to the hips. Basically, it sits on top of your natural posterior under your clothes, where a tramp stamp would be. I made my first one almost entirely out of cotton t-shirt scraps, which were both comfortable and easy to clean.
And now, let us do pattern math. Measure an inch or so below your natural waist, and divide that number in half. Then, get some help in measuring from below your natural waist to the widest part of your backside. Make a football-shaped pattern that’s as wide as your first measurement, and as long as your second. Tracing that onto another piece of paper, make a second football shape that’s a couple of inches wider, to taste. These will be the top and bottom layers of your bustle padding. Then, with your remaining material make a two-inch strip that’s about half again your waist measurement. Pin the two football pieces right sides together, and sew almost all the way around. Turn it right side out, and stuff with whatever filling you have. Finish sewing it up and attach the long strip. This can be tied around your waist, pinned to your undergarments, wrapped around the back of a garter belt, whatever.
And now you have a simple, comfortable alternative to a crinoline. Get out there and show off your artificially-inflated booty.