When Should I Bustle My Dress?

The what, when, and how of a bustle can be complicated. After reading this, you’ll know how to bustle a wedding dress beautifully.

By Emily Forrest

bustled wedding dress
Photo by Angelica Radway Photography

A wedding dress with a train is a beautiful thing—until it comes time to hit the dance floor and you have every guest doing the Cupid Shuffle on your hemline.

If you’re wondering how to dance in a wedding dress with a train, bustling it is your safest choice. It can help you avoid tears, stains, and other damage to the bottom of your dress. The problem? Finding the time between the wedding ceremony and reception to tie up your train can be tricky. Not to mention, a bustle comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on the style of the dress, making execution just as complicated.

Here, we’ll venture into the unknown and share all the ins and outs of a bustle, from what it is, to the different types, to what to do with it. After reading this, you’ll know exactly how to bustle a wedding dress beautifully.

When Should I Bustle My Dress? - Zola Photo Credit // Fonyat Wedding Photographer

What Is a Bustle

A bustle is a series of loops and buttons that turn your gorgeous bridal gown with a killer train into a manageable maxi dress. It allows you to tie up your train to be even with your hemline, so that it’s out of the way after its walk of fame. Not every dress can be looped up in the same fashion, of course, so there is a variety of bustle types.

Types of Bustle

American Bustle

The American, or “over” bustle, can add interest to your wedding gown, because it creates cascading layers that fall over the skirt of your dress in the back. This style is particularly good for wedding gowns with cathedral-length trains or ball gowns with layers of tulle and taffeta.

French Bustle

With a French bustle, the train is tied up underneath the skirt in a billowy fashion. This style works best with A-line, sheath, and mermaid or trumpet gowns.

Royal Bustle

A royal bustle is similar to the American bustle in that the loops and buttons are on the outside of the skirt. However, in this regal variation, the train is affixed to the skirt at multiple points, as opposed to just along the center. This creates a similar cascading effect, but with added drama. It’s necessary for long or very full trains such as royal and cathedral.

Ballroom Bustle

What the royal bustle is to the American bustle, the ballroom bustle is to the French bustle. In this style, the dress is tied up at multiple points underneath the skirt. The ballroom bustle is subtle and useful for any style bridal gown.

Bow Bustle

If you want to bustle your dress in feminine style, consider adding a bow or sash around your waist to cover the hook or button where you loop your train to your dress.

When Should I Bustle My Dress? - Zola Photo Credit // Pop Pictures Studio

How to Bustle a Wedding Dress

Talk to Your Seamstress

Depending on the kind of bustle your seamstress adds to your dress, you will bustle it differently. If you’ve already said yes to your dress and discussed the bustle with your seamstress, learn how to bustle a wedding dress according to your style in particular. Being the creator of your particular bustle, your seamstress will be your best help in learning the right way to go about bustling.

Recruit Help

More often than not, you will need a bit of help bustling your dress. Elect your maid of honor, mom, or a bridesmaid to help bustle your dress between the wedding ceremony and reception.

If one or all of your chosen help is available, have them accompany you to your final wedding dress fitting. They will be able to watch and learn first-hand from the seamstress, which will be much more helpful than hearing it second-hand from you. If they can’t be there, have someone take a video of the bustling process and show them later. While you may have the process down pat, you will be in the dress and unable to reach the loops and buttons behind you.

Start From the Center

In order for the bustle to lay nicely, it is usually created in a symmetrical fashion. So, when bustling your dress, it’s important to find the center loops, hooks, or buttons first and work outward from there. This ensures you will be on the right path from the start and won’t match the wrong loop with the wrong hook or button. This also makes the loops and hooks easier to find, because you can follow the seam that falls down the center of the dress in the back. When there are layers of tulle and taffeta to work with, or lace and embellishment that easily disguise tiny loops, starting from the center seam is extremely helpful in locating the parts you will need to bustle the dress correctly.

Match the Loops and Buttons

For whatever wedding dress bustle type you are working with, there will be one or more loops and a coordinating button or hook to match. Following the dress’s seams will make locating the loops, hooks, and buttons easier, but it will require a careful eye as the seamstress or designer will do her best to make these parts unnoticeable, or even hide them. Once you locate the coordinating pieces, you will always bring the loop to meet the hook or button. If done right, the fabric of the train should drape nicely and symmetrically over the rest of the skirt.


The best way to learn how to bustle a wedding dress is to practice. Your dress and its bustle will be specifically tailored to you. While this makes it fit like a glove and flow beautifully, it does add a layer of complexity to bustling. Try on your dress for your maid of honor before the big day, whether it is at your final wedding dress fitting or after, and let her practice with the bustle so it’s quick and easy on the day of.

When to Bustle a Wedding Dress

You should bustle your wedding dress sometime between the ceremony and the reception. Typically, if you’re having a cocktail hour, this gives you ample time to bustle your gown before the grand entrance. In order to help you decide when to bustle your wedding dress, we’ve put together a few questions to ask yourself.

How Easy Is It to Walk In?

If you can’t get anywhere without a slew of flower girls carrying your train around, you may want to bustle your train ASAP. You will feel far more comfortable and at ease when you don’t have to worry about dragging your dress through the mud or rely on the help of your ladies in waiting to get around.

When Are You Taking Photos?

What do you want your dress to look like in photos? If you’re taking photos after the ceremony, you may want to keep your wedding dress train intact. However, if you took most of your portraits before the ceremony and are only taking photos with family and the wedding party post-ceremony, bustling your dress right away could keep your crew from trampling all over it. On the other hand, if you’ve allotted time to sneak away from the reception for a few photos at sunset, you may want your train to be looking its best ie. not yet bustled.

If you have a simple wedding gown bustle that is one loop, you will more easily be able to take your train up and down. This way, you can bustle it for the grand entrance and first dance and still let it shine during sunset photos. Remember though, you need a bit of time and help to bustle, so be sure to factor that in.

How Much Time Do You Have?

The wedding day will go as fast as you can say “I Do.” You will be shuffled from place to place and event to event with little time for pause. Make time to bustle your dress during the cocktail hour or right before the grand entrance, and don’t wait for a free moment (that doesn’t exist) during the reception. Designate a time and place to bustle the dress, like right after the ceremony or moments before you make your debut as newlyweds.

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