All the Types of Wedding Dress Bustles

Not even sure what a bustle is? We have the answers.
lauren levy the knot
Lauren Levy
lauren levy the knot
Lauren Levy
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren writes articles for The Knot Worldwide on a range of topics from Real Weddings and personal essays to registry and fashion.
  • Lauren has a decade of experience in the wedding industry.
  • Lauren was an intern as well as a Real Weddings Editorial Assistant at The Knot.
Updated Aug 21, 2020

Brides quickly realize that wedding planning comes with an endless flow of decisions needing to be made. And just because you finally picked out your dream gown doesn't mean that you're done with making final decisions in the dress department. As your wedding budget will quickly learn, wedding gown alterations can be major — both financially and mentally — when it comes to perfecting the final look. Not only does having your seamstress create a wedding dress bustle add to the alterations bill, but it also changes the look of the gown from behind. Which is why one important aspect of dress alterations is knowing the wedding dress bustle types and picking out which one is best for your dress.

What Is a Bustle?

Despite what some might think, bustles aren't just for ball gowns or dresses with some major train drama. There are many types of bustles and nearly all wedding gowns that aren't tea length have hooks, ties, or buttons sewn into the wedding dress train to create a uniformed hemline after the ceremony. They seamlessly secure any extra fabric off of the ground and into the back of the dress to keep it from dragging across the floor all night.

Before going into your fitting, it's helpful to know that one bustle doesn't fit all and there are many to choose from -- which is why there are a variety of ways a seamstress can tailor your gown's train depending on your preference. And once you pick which bustle style you like best, the next decision is which bridesmaid gets tasked with learning how to do it. It's helpful to have this lucky loved one attend your last fitting to learn directly from your seamstress (aka the bustle pro) so there's no stress when it comes time to officially bustle the train come wedding day.

american bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

It's clear that bustles are pretty essential since they give brides freedom to be able to dance instead of having to change into something more functional that won't get stepped on all night. Yet, almost every gown comes without one until a seamstress adds it in during alterations. So be prepared for your appointment by checking out the different types of wedding dress bustles options you have. This way, you and your seamstress can decide together which is the best bustle for your gown.

Different Types of Bustles

american bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

American Bustle

A popular way to pick up the train is with the American bustle. Also known as an over-bustle, this look is made when the outside of the train is lifted and secured over the back of the gown to the wedding dress's waistline. It's a simple bustle for the seamstress to create and easy to attach on wedding day. This bustle adds drama to the back by creating a cascading feel as the fabric folds flow over the rest of the skirt. Brides also have some flexibility with this bustle to decide if they want one statement pickup or to add multiple pickup points for extra flair depending on what they think complements the style of their gown best.

A traditional bustle is very similar to the American bustle—these styles may be used interchangeably. Like the American bustle, the fabric folds over instead of under but the difference is in in the pickup placements. For this wedding dress bustle, loops or hooks are added along the waistline and when the train is fastened across the multiple points, it creates the look of elegant pleats for the waist.

ballroom bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

Ballroom Bustle

Don't let the name fool you, this style bustle isn't exclusive to sweeping gowns. Instead the ballroom style is one of the most flattering wedding dress bustle types on most silhouettes because it completely hides the train without changing the look of the dress. In order to create this seamless illusion, several points are added under the dress for the train to attach to. This results in the look of an untouched, floor-length gown.

bow bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

Bow Bustle

This type of wedding dress bustle is easy to envision and is perfect for gowns that have a statement bow or sash in the back. With a bow bustle, the fabric is folded above the gown and is secured with ties hidden under the bow. This allows the fabric to pick up and symmetrically flow from the elegant visual point of the bow.

french bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

French Bustle

Although this type of bustle can make some bridesmaids sweat, a French bustle is a stunning option and isn't overly complicated thanks to a handy trick from the seamstress. Also known as the under-bustle, this technique is the opposite of the American style as it has the train fold under itself instead of over. The end look is an understated, two layer hem that creates design in the back. With this type of bustle, the seamstress adds color-coordinated ribbons or numbers underneath the gown. Then when it's time to be bustled, the train tucks up and under as each hook is easily matched with its pair, creating a streamline fold.

royal bustle wedding dress
David's Bridal

Royal Bustle

This type of bustle can be simple or elaborate depending on the desired look. If the bride wants a singular pickup point, it only requires one hook and eyelet to lift the train. But for more detail, multiple pickup points can be added down and across the back. This style is known as the royal or Victorian bustle because it ups the drama as the folds add more dimension to the silhouette.

How to Bustle a Wedding Dress

Watch the video below to see exactly how to bustle a wedding dress.

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