Designing woman

Amy Coyne

PHOTO courtesy of Amy coyne

Amy Coyne is a native Chicoan and the designer and founder of Bottoms Up Bustles, a clothing business she operates on Etsy that specializes in custom, Victorian-inspired items. She’s also a performer who’s trained in tribal belly dancing, comedic burlesque dance and fire dance. Some of Coyne’s creations include replicating clothes similar to what Annie Bidwell would have worn, a task she performed for a Victorian fashion-show fundraiser for Bidwell Mansion. Go to to check out her clothes, or email her at for more info.

When did you learn to sew?

Well, I was definitely raised learning. My mom is great at all things domestic, so when I was really little I used to sit with her while she made my clothes and I’d wrap fabric around my dolls and hand sew them on. Through high school I liked to get thrift-store items and cut up and alter them, and every now and then I’d get ambitious and make my prom dress or Halloween costume. I didn’t have the skills to match my ideas, but I enjoyed being creative.

How would you describe your business?

I design and make costume pieces and clothing items for people who like costume clothes. Mainly they’re geared toward the Victorian, burlesque and steampunk genre.

What is steampunk?

It’s based on Victorian sci-fi. How the future was imagined through Victorian eyes, when everything had gears and ray guns and space guns and zeppelins. It’s an art genre since the ’80s that’s been growing and morphing.

What inspired you to start the business?

I started off doing costuming through Alter Ego [Costumes] right when I was out of high school. I was taken under the wing of an amazing costume designer named Grace Ramos; she was trained at [the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising] and taught me everything—proper construction technique, pattern drafting, design theory. Most of all she taught me to be relentlessly critical of my work, to be detail oriented and to really care about the outcome and take the time in the design phase to make the construction smooth.

What was the Bidwell Mansion fundraiser like?

It was a fundraiser to restore Annie’s rose garden, and we were brought in and allowed to examine Annie Bidwell’s actual clothes. She was a tiny woman, and seeing the proportions and the detail, touching the fabrics, you really got an intimate sense of her. The dresses we made were beautiful, but they couldn’t be as delicate or intricate—her dresses were works of art.