The Butt and the Bustle

Decoder Ring

Nov 22 2022 • 46 mins

For about two decades towards the end of the Victorian era, in the 1870s and 1880s, a large bustle-enhanced bottom was the height of fashion. In this episode we explore how it’s connected to today’s big booty craze. We look at the bustle’s history with a curator fascinated by old undergarments; consider the various theories about its popularity with the author Heather Radke; and then hone in the tragic story of Sarah Baartman. The bustle may be old-fashioned, but it still has a lot to tell us about race, sex, power and how much people know, or let themselves know, about what they put on everyday. We hear from Heather Radke, author of Butts: A Backstory, as well as Kristina Haughland, Janell Hobson, Pamela Scully, and Maria Garcia.  Special thanks to Wesley Stevens and Daisy Rosario. This podcast was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Andrea Bruce. Derek John is Slate’s Executive Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. If you haven’t please yet, subscribe and rate our feed in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And even better, tell your friends. If you’re a fan of the show, I’d love for you to sign up for Slate Plus.   Slate Plus members get to listen to Decoder Ring without any ads. Their support is also crucial to our work. So please go to to join Slate Plus today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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