19th Century, Sewing

The ‘Century of the Fruitbat’ 1880s bustle

Books and bustles are both good

And in order to keep a happy marriage happy he allowed Sybil to bustle in, wearing, in fact, a bustle,* to adjust his shirt, tweak his collar, and make him fit for company.

Bustling in a bustle

It’s no secret that one of my favourite living authors is Terry Pratchett. I’ve read every single one of his books, slip references to him into my writing, hum songs about hedgehogs to myself as I wash dishes (true story, I was 25 before I figured out what that word meant, and thus, why the song was naughty), and treat myself his newest work every time I have a plane flight longer than an hour. I love Terry Pratchett; he’s brought so much joy to my life, and is the only author I would line up to get a book signed by.

I’ll never get the opportunity now.

Terry Pratchett is dying. He has a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and so a man who has made his living by his wits is slowly loosing them.

I cried when I heard the news.

He’s the only celebrity I have ever cried for. I cried like I knew him in person, because I think I do. I think he slipped a little of himself into every book. He’s there with Rincewind, always on the run, with Sam Vimes, watching the watchman, with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, saving the world from fairies, vampires & fairy godmothers alike, with Mau on the island, trying to be a man and find his nation.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Pratchett’s books is his references to clothes. They aren’t clothes-oriented books, but you always get a good picture of what people are wearing: Magrat in her hippie layers, tripping over her necklaces, Vimes looking supremely uncomfortable in knee breeches, Polly Oliver learning the importance of socks, Captain Carrot and his breastplate radiating polish, Moist von Lipwig hiding behind his golden suit, Cheri Littlebottom with heels welded to her iron boots. Brilliant.

My favourite are the mentions of bustles. Pratchett clearly finds bustles fascinating, and hilarious (oh, c’mon, aren’t they!) Saccarrisa wears a bustle in Going Postal, and the quote at the top (and bottom, this being Pratchett) is from Snuff. If Adorabelle Dearheart wears a bustle I’m sure it’s spring-loaded.

Dang it! I want a spring loaded bustle!

So this is my Pratchett bustle (because even though this is the Century of the Fruitbat a lady can still keep her dignity and her extensive derriere). Someday it will go under my completed Polly Oliver uniform, where all that extra space will be the perfect place to keep half an onion (because every woman happens to have half an onion when its time to scramble up a meal).

Bustle backs

And bustle balancing acts

Don’t worry – no books were harmed in the making of this post – this photo is staged!

Alas, I haven’t found a way to make mine spring-loaded.

*Sybil had explained to Vimes that in the country one dresses at least a decade earlier than in the city, hence the bustle, and, for Vimes, a pair of breeches: the ancient ones with trap doors front and rear and a slightly distressing smell all over.


  1. So cute!! And with buttons down the front in case it is ever necessary to quick change into your brother’s clothes (whilst forgetting that The Duchess is watching, hopefully).

    Have you seen Pratchett’s documentary called “Choosing to Die?” I wasn’t able to make it through the end (it gets really tough), but you get a very personal look at how Terry is dealing with his disease.

    • Indeed! My other bustle has side openings, so I wanted to do one a bit differently for this one.

      I’ve read about the documentary, but never been able to see it. I imagine it would be very hard to watch, but I admire how he is facing the rest of his life.

  2. I am pleased to learn that you are a Pratchett fan! By the way, I have been fortunate enough to meet him (several different times, at different SF conventions) and he is every bit as wonderful a person as you’d deduce from his books.

    I think that the Polly Oliver costume is a wonderful idea! I look forward to seeing it, when you complete it.

  3. I adore Terry’s books too, it is such a shame about his illness and I really do hope they change the laws on assisted suicide before he reaches the point of not being able to choose for himself. Having seen 2 grandmother’s dissolve into dementia I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
    In the meantime I’m considering getting his books on Kindle so I can keep enjoying them and can read them at the same time as my husband who’s currently working his way through our book copies

    • I’m right with you on assisted suicide laws. And I am so sorry you watched your grandmothers disappear. HUGS.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmothers. It’s such a hard balance between protecting people and giving them a choice – hopefully we’ll work it out.

      I love the idea of you and your DH reading them together. Alas Mr D is not a fan. Sigh.

  4. Lynne says

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute to one of my favourite authors. You and your bustle looks absolutely terrific! Books and bustles! What more can we ask for? (Okay, possibly chocolate.)

    Terry Pratchett is still very much on the go. I am sitting panting waiting for ‘Dodger’ to come out next week. I am not 100% rejoicing about ‘The Long Earth’, though it had its moments. Have you read ‘Miss Felicity Beedle’s “The World of Poo” ‘ which is to ‘Snuff’ what ‘Where is my cow?’ is to ‘Thud’. ‘Poo’ is a gem. Beautifully illustrated, too.

  5. I can’t say I’ve read all of Terry Pratchett’s books but I will get round to growing a senient pear tree one day. My favourite book has to be his collaboration with Melvyn Grant over ‘Where’s my Cow?” Wonderfully subversive.
    I do love Pratchett’s take on Morris dancing and how he has paradoxically spawned a new Morris style. Here in NZ, Jack Frost Morris Dancers actively practice the Dark Morris when the are not being otherwise crazy. I featured them in a post early in the year:


    • Thank you for that link! It all looks wonderful. Bravo, the Jack Frost Morris Dancers! Especially the Dark Morris. Terry Pratchett said in an afterword in one of the books that he was very touched when morris dancers appeared at one of his signings and danced the Dark Morris for him.

      • We choreographed a Morris Dance for a stage production of Lords and Ladies – the accordian music was Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. It’s quite effective when rendered on the accordian… hehehe

  6. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Wow, EIGHT books on your head!
    That is one impressive balancing act.
    The bustle is gorgeous too. I have never read anything by Terry Pratchett before but all these bizarre quotes and names are intriguing, I may be needing to go to the library soon.

    Thank you so much for letting us know the last picture was staged, I was worried when I saw all those wonderful books scattered on the floor.

    • Yep, 8 books. I would have made a Victorian governess proud 😉 Of course, they only balanced for about half a second before I had to reach up and grab them to make sure that the final photo didn’t happen for real 😉

      And yes, I don’t condone book abuse! We carefully arranged the books on the floor and I posed, and then we picked them up!

  7. I share your love of Pratchett. Just seeing “Century of the Fruitbat” up there in the post title was enough to make me break out in a big grin, before I read anything else.

    I cried too when I heard about his illness.

  8. Dear Dreamstress,

    I just wanted to let you know that as a result of your publishing this post on the Sew Weekly I finally started reading Terry Pratchett. I’d been vaguely aware of him and the Discworld novels for some time, but never actually read anything. Now I’ve read the Colour of Magic & the Light Fantastic and have the next Discworld novel reserved at my public library. They really are delightful! Thank you for being the spark that finally ignited my interest :o)

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