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News release - Issued by York Castle Museum

It's All About That Bustle - Rounded Rears Victorian Style

Reading the newspapers and celebrity magazines, one could easily imagine that the generously proportioned posteriors of Kim Kardashian and J-Lo were a completely new phenomenon, but visitors to a new permanent exhibition at York Castle Museum will discover that displaying a rounded rump has been a fashion staple for centuries!

“Since Elizabethan times, with a few notable periods, women’s fashion has been obsessed with highlighting and accentuating a woman’s curves, with corsets used to shape and cinch the waist, and from around 1580, a padded roll that was tied around the hips. These ‘bum-rolls’ were used to accentuate the curve of the hips under a voluminous skirt and became a firm fashion favourite until the Regency period – from around 1811 – when the simpler cut of an empire line dress relied on much lighter fabrics to skim the curves,” explains senior curator for the Shaping The Body exhibition, Ali Bodley.

However, the Regency period did not signal the end of the bum roll, with Victorian fashions taking the concept of padding the rear end to more elaborate extremes. “On display, and available for visitors to try on, we’ll have a number of original and replica dresses that feature a cushion that is tied to the waist to add extra volume, or even a shelf-effect, to the rear of women’s dresses. Prudish Victorians would not have liked using the vulgar term of ‘bum-roll’ and so it became known as a ‘bustle’.”

It is around this time, in the mid-19th century that the shape of the dress changed from being voluminous all around to having a relatively modest drape at the front and sides, but with much of the volume at the back, where it fell from the bustle. Combined with a slim corseted waist, the style created a unique silhouette that highlighted curves without challenging Victorian decency standards.

In the Shaping The Body exhibition, visitors will see not only the outer garments, but examples of historic corsetry, from an iron corset that was probably intended to support a woman with some back injury or defect, to a delicate 19 inch waist corset, designed for a young woman. Much like the waist training corsets that have become popular in the last couple of years, this corset was designed
to be sufficiently comfortable to be worn during genteel sporting activities, like horse riding or playing tennis.

Alongside fashions from the last 400 years, Shaping The Body explores body modification – from Victorian ear straighteners to modern gender reassignment, tattoos and piercings – and the relationship between food and body image, from the original Sugar Tax to modern diets. Visitors will also discover how significantly lifestyle changes have changed body shapes, comparing the labour
intensive work of farmers and domestic staff with today’s office-based culture.

“Shaping The Body: 400 years of food, fashion and life” opens at York Castle Museum on 25 March 2016. For more details, please visit


A wide selection of images to accompany this news release is available for immediate download from:

The images also include a recreation of one of Kim Kardashian’s famous ‘Break the Internet’ shots, with her exploding champagne bottle replaced by a teapot, and her rear recreated in a Victorian bustle!

For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins
Pyper York Limited
Tel: 01904 500698