If one is designing a Bustle Gown, of the later period (1883-1888) there are some styles one should be aware of that will give you that authentic look:
1. Mix your materials. Plush and Smooth. Patterned and unpatterned. You can see in the example (From the Museum of London collection) that velvet (called plush in contemporary fashion magazines) is mixed with a smooth silk taffeta and a lovely brocade or Jacquard. Put your heavier color and/or fabric on cuffs, collars, decorative bows and underskirts.
2. Pleating. Note the row of pleats under the plush skirt. Very typical of the period. You can use very simple techniques to accomplish this and your pleats don’t have to be narrow. In the example, the pleats may be box rather than knife pleated, but because they are squished by the heavy plush skirt, it isn’t quite clear. Either will do.
3. Fit. I can never say it enough, and when I don’t get it right it bugs me silly. The Late Bustle Period was all about tailoring. Fitted arms, fitted basque (bodice,) fitted neckline.
4. Speaking of necklines: be bold and try for a high collar neckline. They were the standard, but modern women (me too!) prefer lower necklines. You can have your cake and eat it too: make the high collar portion an insert (or dickie,) or a lacy filler. This way you can have the best of both styles. But do be aware that authentic clothing of the period was high necked.
5. Underpinnings. Please forgive me if this seems obvious, but you cannot fake a corset or bustle. They must be a part of the suit of clothes.
6. Comfortable shoes. You don’t always need to wear those typical Victorian boots. Flat, slip on ballet style or low heal pumps are very appropriate. Add decoration. Black is probably best. Pointed or softly rounded toe. Try to avoid the strange current fashion of round, short toe shoes that make your feet look bulbous. A Victorian lady wanted small, elegant feet. Dark stockings were very common, though you may find that dark colors beyond black were quite fashionable too.
7. Hat. If you are dressing in the tailored fashion, you will want a hat or bonnet that reflects this look. Tall crowned hats with a controlled explosion of feathers is typical. Remember the Bustle Mantra: The bigger the bustle, the taller the hat/bonnet.