Read this guide before you start dress shopping!
wedding reception dresses one shoulder sheath
Credit: Greg Finck

If you've ever marveled at how gracefully brides can navigate tables of wedding guests and float across the dance floor without once stepping on the fringes of their gowns, you're appreciating the handiwork of good tailoring and dress fitting, which almost surely includes adding a bustle. Through some combination of buttons, hooks, ribbons, and pins, a bustle does the heavy lifting (quite literally) once your vows have been sealed with a kiss and all of your most important wedding photos have been taken; the bustle lifts your wedding dress train off the floor, fastening it into a pretty, draped arrangement on or underneath your gown, allowing you to mix and mingle for the rest of the night with ease.

Still, brides tend to underestimate just how important bustles are, says Julie Sabatino, founder of The Stylish Bride. Just because bustles are primarily about function and practicality doesn't mean they should be an afterthought. "You spend a huge majority of your night bustled, so you want to make sure you like how it looks!" Sabatino says.

The Bustle Is a Key Part of Wedding Dress Shopping

Falling in love with a certain silhouette or even have your eye on a specific gown? It's never too early to start exploring your options for how the dress could be bustled, says Sabatino, who advises requesting to meet with a fitter to have them mock up what this would like before you make your purchase. "Most of the time, the bustle styling is fine, but sometimes the bride just doesn't like it, or it's heavier than she's expecting," says Sabatino. "Once the dress is purchased and it comes in, it's a lot harder to do something about that."

The Longer the Train or the More Embellished the Dress, the More Bustling Required

"A lot of brides don't think about this, but the more fabric you have, the heavier it's going to be to bustle," Sabatino says. The same goes for embroidery and lace; these beautiful embellishments also add weight to your gown when it's bustled and can potentially tug or pull at the back of your dress. That being said, even if you have your heart set on a gown with a train worthy of a royal wedding, every wedding dress can be bustled-some just require more elaborate, more time-consuming, and more expensive bustle options than others.

There Are Different Ways to Bustle a Wedding Dress

Bustle styles fall into one of two categories: the over-bustle, also most commonly known as the American bustle, where the fabric from the train is gathered and fastened to the back of the gown in one or more sections; and the under-bustle, a traditional style as exemplified by the French bustle, where extra fabric from the gown's train is tucked underneath in a cascading fashion. More niche variations include the Austrian bustle and the ballroom bustle, both of which are over bustles. At the end of the day, "a lot of dresses can be done both ways, but one looks significantly prettier than the other," says Sabatino. "What matters is which one you like on your dress."


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