18th Century

The unseen accessory: my 1780 bum-rump

When I originally planned the ‘Accessorise’ challenge for the Historical Sew-Fortnightly I envisioned all the things that qualified for it as being things worn on the outside of an outfit: shoes, gloves, parasols, jewellery, headgear.

Then, when I planned a photoshoot with one fully accessorised outfit, I realised that sometimes an outfit doesn’t look right without an un-seen accessory.

Silk stockings, a bergere hat, a parasol and the right shoes all brought my pet-en-l’aire outfit together, but the ensemble just looked a little flat and deflated without one last accessory.

Enter my bum-rump.

ca. 1780 bum-rump

Yep.  Without it my ass just wouldn’t look big in this.

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

I based my bum-rump on Kendra’s excellent research into skirt supports in the late 18th century  and this caricature of the ‘Bum Shop’:

Bum rump, 1785, Lewis Walpole Library

Bum rump, 1785, Lewis Walpole Library

I went for the shape shown on the lady in the far right, only I assumed (this being a cartoon) that the original it was based on would be a bit more…restrained.

ca. 1780 bum-rump

I liked the shape of this bum-rump best of all the ones that Kendra trialled, and felt it worked best for the early 1780s silhouette I was going for, with fullness over the bum and hips.

ca. 1780 bum rump

My bum-rump is two layers of fabric cut in a crescent, and quilted together over two layers of wool batting (the only sort of batting I ever have in the house), with extra batting stuffed into each channel.

When the bum rump was all stuffed I bound the edges with bias tape.

ca. 1780 bum-rump

To give the bum rump a bit more ‘poof’ and to help shape it to my body more effectively I took two tuck pleats in the back of the bum rump.   They really help with the shaping.

ca. 1780 bum-rump

The bum-rump ended up doing an interesting and unexpected thing.  The front ends of the bum rump curve down, and the front ties want to tie quite low, which makes it ideal for tucking the fastening knot under the front of my stays, avoiding a lump at the centre front.  The dipping ends of the bum rump also eliminates fullness in the waist and stomach which you don’t want.  It’s so perfect, and such a naturally occurring thing, I almost wonder if period bum-rumps might have done the same thing.

ca. 1780 bum rump

To show how effective the bum-rump is, here is flat-bottomed Isabelle in stays:

ca. 1780 bum rump

And with a bum-rump added:

ca. 1780 bum rump

And with the petticoat over:

ca. 1780 bum rump

Yay!  Bum!

I’m happy to add that the bum rump was also extremely light and comfortable to wear.  I drove in it, and sat on the ground in it, and pranced around in it and three layers of petticoats for a couple of hours, and it was fantastic.  The bum rump actually helped to keep the petticoats away from my legs, so I wasn’t too hot and didn’t get tangled in my skirts.

Skirt supported by ca 1780 bum rump

The Challenge:  Accessorise

Fabric:  1/2 metre of thin but strong floral patterned upholstery cotton (the same fabric I used for my mistletoe panniers, so now I have coordinating 18th century skirt supports).

Pattern:  none, based on historical depictions and Kendra’s research

Year:  ca. 1780

Notions:  cotton thread, cotton twill tape, wool batting, cotton bias binding.

How historically accurate is it?  Not particularly.  I made this as a quick and dirty prototype of an idea, so I wasn’t aiming for perfect historical accuracy.  Now that I know it works, I’ll refine the construction techniques to match period items, and work on an accurate hand-sewn linen version.

Hours to complete:    35 minutes!  Best project ever!

First worn:  for a photoshoot with my 1780s pet-en-l’aire

Total cost:  I paid less than $4 for the mistletoe fabric, and made the panniers out of it, so we’ll say $1 for this project.  All the other bits were left over from other projects, so really $2 at the most in total.  Did I say best project ever?


  1. Don’t you sometimes wish there were more projects that came together as simply, cheaply, and quickly as this? Long, detailed projects are awesome, but sometimes a break is nice! 🙂 Looks great.


    • I do! I like the long, detailed projects, but the quick and dirty ones like this can make all the difference too!

  2. oh thank you so much for this post! I had no clue what to do for the accessories challenge, but I have a corset pattern with bum and breast pads that I need to make.

    • You’re welcome! I don’t quite think this should count as my only accessory (as the HSF originator I feel I really ought to hold up the fullest standard), so I’m doing something much more traditional as well, but I do think it’s a perfectly valid way to think about accessories.

  3. I made a rump about two months ago and noticed the same thing! The strings just sort of naturally tuck under the stays, and the sides ever-so-subtly embellish the curve of the hips. I love those little moments. My most recent was the striped Regency dress I made for the HSF challenge. When I realized that the inner front closure was going to support my bust AND hold the inside of the gown shut, I was giddy. Costuming Nerdiness.

    • Fascinating! So it’s not just some weird quirk of my pattern. That means it really is quite likely period accurate too. Thanks for sharing your experience as well!

      Hehe! I find that apron-front regency dresses do the same thing for me. Small busts are helpful there!

  4. Cool! I didn’t know those could be counted as accessories.

    I made a bum pillow a few weeks ago and I didn’t find that the ends fit nicely under the tabs. I suppose that’s because the tabs on the sides of my 1790s stays have no boning.
    You were smart to make yours comfortable and practical. I have to sit very far forward in my chair when I wear mine. It looks super ridiculous though, so it’s worth it.

    • With a lot of the challenges, if you can justify your thought process in making it, I’m perfectly happy with a broader interpretation of the challenge. After all, one of the things this is meant to do is to encourage creativity!

      However, because I do think that for me, as the leader, this is stretching the definition of ‘accessory’ just a teeny, tiny bit, I’ll be making another item which is definitely an accessory.

  5. I love how your rump turned out, and the shape — where it moves down over the hips — is really interesting!

  6. After my serendipitous arrival on your site following the googling of calico, the enticingly named link ‘1780 Bum-Rump’ was impossible to resist. Delightful – thankyou for an entertaining and well researched read… and a little chuckle.

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