Easy Breezy Bustling: A Wedding Dress Bustle Guide

Image of a bride wearing a long white wedding dress standing at the end of a walkway in front of a body of water outside with a long veil blowing in the breeze.

Wedding dress bustles are perfect for prepping you to fully enjoy yourself at your reception, especially if you’ve got your heart set on a stunning bridal gown with a lengthy or elaborate train. No need to worry about other guests stepping on your train as you mingle or figuring out how to dance without tripping over yourself—a gorgeous wedding dress bustle has got your back. However, not all types of wedding dress bustles are created equal! They are as varied as the wedding dress styles, fabrics, and designs. In this guide, not only will you learn about the most common types of wedding dress bustle styles, but you’ll also pick up some tips on how to bustle your wedding dress, how to fix a bustle in a wedding day emergency, and even how to get around using a bustle if you discover that they’re just not right for you. Read on to follow each topic in order, or click one of the options below to jump ahead to the wedding dress bustle section you’re most interested in exploring.

Types of Wedding Dress Bustles
Tips for Bustling Your Wedding Dress
How to Bustle a Wedding Dress Yourself
How to Fix a Broken Bustle on Your Wedding Day
Wedding Dress Bustle Alternatives

Types of Wedding Dress Bustles

Let’s take a look at some of the most common wedding dress bustle styles. We’ll explore what each type of bustle looks like on a wedding dress, as well as which gown styles they suit best.

  • American Bustle (Traditional or Over Bustle): Considered the easiest bustle for a wedding dress, the American bustle is created by pulling the train up and securing it over the skirt (usually near the waistline), creating a cascading effect. This wedding dress bustle style is one of the most popular because of its affordability and ease of use. Best for: ball gown wedding dresses, wedding gowns with long cathedral trains or heavily detailed and embellished trains.
  • Austrian Bustle: Gathering the wedding dress fabric along the back middle of the skirt, the Austrian bustle is a visual masterpiece. Depending upon the type of fabric, this bustle can look very similar to ruching or ruffles down the back of your wedding gown. As an added perk, the Austrian bustle is one of the easier styles for bridesmaids to help secure in place since it involves pulling up on a drawstring. On the other hand, you’ll be facing a higher wedding dress bustle cost for the Austrian style given the work that goes into creating this intricate design. Best for: wedding gowns with delicate or intricate details along the skirt and train.
  • Ballroom Bustle (Train-Flip Bustle): No, this kind of bustle will not suddenly turn your bridal gown into a ball gown! In fact, it won’t change the overall look and silhouette of your wedding dress at all other than a little extra volume in the skirt, which is what makes the ballroom bustle a bridal favorite. The dress fabric is tucked up under the dress and secured at several different spots, then you’re left with a floor-length version of your wedding gown that’s easy to dance and maneuver in. Another variation of this style is the train-flip bustle, which has the train pinned into itself when it is flipped under the dress. Among the many wedding dress bustle styles, the ballroom bustle is often the most expensive because of how many secure points need to be added. Best for: bridal dresses with short trains, ball gown wedding dresses.
  • Bow Bustle: Similar to the American bustle, the bow bustle pulls the wedding dress fabric up over the back of the skirt, but this style pulls it all to one focal point: the bow. With the extra fabric flowing beautifully down from your signature back bow, the classic over bustle cascade is a picture of elegance. Best for: wedding dresses with a statement sash or bow in the back.
  • French Bustle (Under Bustle): The visual opposite of the American bustle, the French bustle tucks your train under itself to create a beautiful layered effect (rather than the waterfall cascade look of the over bustle). Usually secured by a series of coordinating ribbons and loops, the fastened French bustle can look like a series of pleats or an extra, rounded layer. Best for: wedding gowns with embellishments near the waist, bridal gowns made from heavier fabrics, dresses with short trains that have minimal embellishments.
  • English Bustle: Considered a variation of the American bustle, the English “pick-up” bustle is secured over the skirt too, but usually around mid-skirt instead of near the waistline. The train is picked up from the middle and pinned to the outside of the wedding dress across the middle of the skirt. Best for: long train wedding gowns, wedding dress styles fitted through the hips (mermaid, trumpet, sheath).
  • Royal Bustle (Victorian Bustle): Creating beautiful folds around the middle of the skirt that pulls the train up, the royal bustle is dramatic, elegant, and princess-worthy (much like Belle’s gown in Beauty and the Beast). The complexity of the royal bustle can be simple if you want one bold fold to lift your dress off the ground or elaborate if you want multiple folds wrapping around the back of your wedding gown. Best for: wedding gowns with full skirts, long train wedding dresses.
  • Sling Bustle (Side Sling Bustle): Creating (or enhancing) an asymmetrical look, the sling bustle pulls the fabric up to be secured on a side seam. Typically secured on one side anchor, this type of wedding dress bustle is absolutely eye-catching at a fraction of the cost of other bustle styles. Best for: asymmetrical wedding dress styles, bridal gowns made from lightweight fabrics, wedding dresses with short trains.

Tips for Bustling Your Wedding Dress

If you’ll be getting a bustle for your wedding dress, you’ll want to do a little planning in advance to make sure you’re ready to go when the big day arrives. From choosing the wedding dress bustle style (as covered above) to asking for bustling assistance, Avery Austin’s got all the general tips you need to be ready for bustling your wedding dress. Read on for our insider wedding dress bustle advice.

  • Ask a seamstress (or an Avery Austin bridal specialist) for recommendations on the types of wedding dress bustles that will work best for your bridal gown style. As you may have noticed when checking out the common wedding dress bustle styles described above, there are some types of fabrics, designs, train lengths, and silhouettes that are best suited to each type of bustle. Get an insider’s opinion about your chosen bridal gown before making your selection.
  • Ribbons are more durable than buttons, hooks, or threaded loops, so consider using them to secure your bustle if possible.
  • Request that your seamstress reinforce your bustle points with monofilament (fishing line) to make them stronger and less likely to break on your wedding day.
  • Ask for wedding day support in advance so your bridesmaid (or other loved one) can learn how to bustle with you before the big day. In fact, bring them along to your final fitting so they can see exactly how the seamstress pins up and lets down your bustle.
  • Make time for bustling your gown on your wedding day. This is especially important for intricate wedding dress bustle styles! You’ll need to make sure you have enough time between the ceremony and reception to look for any buttons, ribbons, hooks, or loops and secure them.
  • Prepare yourself for potential wedding dress bustle repairs because accidents happen! Check out the advice below for managing a broken bustle.

How to Bustle a Wedding Dress Yourself

If you’ve ever wondered if you can bustle your own wedding dress, know that you can do it yourself, but creating your own wedding dress bustle will require at least some basic sewing knowledge and comfort in working with fancy fabrics.

  • To create your own wedding dress bustle, you will need to:
    • Use clean or gloved hands when touching your wedding dress, as well as maintain a very clean work space.
    • Pull up or tuck in your wedding dress fabric by hand to get a feel for how different types of bustles might look on your wedding dress and about where you might want the fabric to fold over or under.
    • Measure carefully to determine the best bustle locations.
    • Use safety pins to mark or hold the dress fabric as needed.
    • Choose appropriately sized needles and matching or clear thread.
    • Decide between buttons, hooks, or ribbon, which may be visually exposed depending upon how you design your bustle.

Remember, this is your beloved bridal gown, so if there is any hesitation or worry at all on your end about making changes to your dress, consider hiring a seamstress to create the type of wedding dress bustle you desire or look into wedding dress bustle alternatives (more on that below) so you feel zero pressure about creating a bustle.

How to Fix a Broken Bustle on Your Wedding Day

Even the strongest of wedding dress bustle styles can experience a wedding day break. Snags, not-so-fancy footwork, and other mishaps are always a possibility, so it’s important to make a plan for what you can do if your bustle breaks on the big day. You may already have plans for a wedding day emergency kit. If you do, be sure to add the items below. If not, consider putting together a kit to have on hand for any and all wedding day emergencies!

Wedding Dress Bustle Repair Tools

  • Large Safety Pins: Especially helpful if your bustle points are hidden from view, safety pins can easily be hooked into place to keep dress fabric where it needs to be.
  • Sewing Kit with Clear Fishing Line: The fishing line is incredibly handy because it’s not easily visible and it’s a little bit stronger than standard thread. You can use a sewing kit to stitch the fishing line into a new loop to replace a broken one, put buttons back where they belong, or (as a worst case scenario) stitch the dress right onto itself. Keep in mind that that last option can be very tricky to undo later, so save it as a last resort!
  • Sewing Kit with Ribbon: If you still have functional loops on your bustle (or just put in a new one with fishing line as previously described) but the button or hook that used to attach to the loop is missing, then ribbon can save the day! Stitch a piece of matching ribbon to the gown where the bustle point should be, then tie the ribbon through the loop to secure the bustle (and a cute bow makes the repair just a bit prettier!).

Having an emergency repair kit on hand is the first step. Asking a bridesmaid or loved one to be ready to step in and help you with repairs (if needed) is the next step. You’ll want to make sure that your chosen helper is comfortable with using safety pins and a sewing kit if the need arises. Having a plan in place for wedding dress bustle repairs is sure to give you peace of mind on your wedding day!

Wedding Dress Bustle Alternatives

Some of the most common questions about wedding dress bustles are about not bustling. Is it okay to not bustle your wedding dress? Do you have to bustle your wedding dress? To answer both of these questions at once, it’s absolutely okay to skip the bustle because you don’t have to have one! But then comes the follow up question of what you can use instead of a bustle. Believe it or not, there are several wedding dress bustle alternatives to consider that skip the bustle entirely. Whatever your reason for wanting to avoid bustling on your wedding day, here are a few options to explore.

  1. Detachable Train: A perfect compromise for the bride who loves a long train but hates a bustle, a detachable train gives you the chance to enjoy all the beauty of a long train for your ceremony and the freedom of movement you crave for your reception.
  2. Wrist Loop: A loop can be added to the hemline of your train, and you can wear the loop around your wrist. This wedding dress bustle alternative works best for short trains made from simple, lightweight fabric since you’d be doing all the heavy lifting to keep your train off the floor. Certainly one of the least expensive options, a wrist loop is easy to add and use, and the overall effect is downright classy (not to mention perfect for timeless, vintage wedding themes).
  3. Two Wedding Dresses: Imagine the oohs and aahs as you walk down the aisle in your long train wedding dress, followed by the awed, surprised cheers when you arrive at your reception in a completely different wedding dress style! If you’ve got the wiggle room in your bridal budget for a dramatic ceremony style and a dance-worthy reception style, then two wedding dresses is the perfect bustle alternative for you.
  4. Cape or Veil: A long cape or cathedral veil is perfect for creating a similar effect to a long train, and then you can easily remove the cape or veil before the reception. Be sure to check out Avery Austin’s cathedral veils if you love this wedding dress bustle alternative!

Whether you’ve already settled on a favorite wedding dress bustle style or you’re leaning towards a wedding dress bustle alternative, thanks to this guide, you know you’ve got plenty of options for beautifully and easily managing a long bridal gown. Now you’re prepared to ask all the right questions, make advanced plans for bustling (or not bustling), and take care of any wedding dress bustle emergencies during your celebration. Still have a few questions or just want to talk through your thoughts on your wedding dress bustle style? Avery Austin is here for you! Simply contact one of our bridal experts who are happy to help you bring your wedding day dreams to life.