Rate the wedding dress: 1890s

Last week the first half dozen of you to rate Heather’s dress were madly in love with it.  I thought we might have a perfect score!  And then the dissenters arrived.  One of you even flat out hated the design, colour, and cut.  And a few more of you didn’t hate it, but thought it was blah, and that the bodice cut was frumpy.  So balancing out those who loved, loved, loved it, those of you who were blah about it, and the one who hated it, the lavender outfit rated a solid 8.  I guess most of you did like it!

This week, it’s wedding dress week, so what do I have for you to rate?  A wedding dress of course!

This dress dates to the 1890s, a period by which most of the traditions that we have about wedding dresses had already ingrained themselves in the cultural psyche.  Brides wore white, with veils, and carried roses for love, orange blossoms for purity, and myrtle for domestic bliss.

Some things were very different from today’s wedding dresses though: weddings usually took place in the day, and wedding dresses, rather than looking live evening gowns, looked like fashionable day dresses, only in white.

Which brings us to today’s dress.  The Bowes Museum says it dates to 1880, but we know better.

Wedding dress, 1890s, Bowes Museum

It’s white silk satin, it has a train, and lace, and pleating, and poofy sleeves, and a little bolero effect, and embroidery.  Which could describe a modern wedding dress.

But it doesn’t look much like most modern dresses – it’s so…prim.  That’s the 1890s showing through.

What do you think?  Better or worse than a modern dress?  Any chance you would wear it for your wedding?  How do you like it as an example of 1890s fashion?  As an example of a wedding dress?

Rate the dress on a scale of 1 to 10

26 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Elise says:

    It seems a little over-trimmed for my taste, and it is a little difficult for me to imagine a young bride in a dress like that! Not my favorite time period, either, although at least it’s not a full mutton chop. Plus one for it not being a mutton-chop style! 7/10

  2. KC says:

    Mmmmm……. I like it.
    I like it so much better than today’s wedding dresses. I give it a 10.

    I don’t know exactly why I like it…… I just do. I JUST LOVE IT! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee he he he he.
    (That was a description of my crazy laughter. Because I like it.)

    :D

    *steals*

  3. Steph says:

    I’d wear it for my wedding if I got married wearing ice skates. Seriously, it’s the IceCapades. Silk satin always gets points in my book, so 4/10.

  4. Tracy says:

    I love it. I’d give it a 9.5. My only deduction is because the lace on the train seems a little chinsy compared to the lace on the cuffs.

    • In its defense, the lace on the train is the dust ruffle – which was meant to protect the more expensive fabric of the train from any dirt on the floor. Once the ruffle was thoroughly dirty it would be removed and replaced. So the lace on the train was supposed to be much cheaper and rougher.

  5. Stella says:

    Too prim and stuffy-looking for me. 4/10.

  6. Sarah says:

    Like! I would totally wear this as a wedding dress right now – but then I am not a sweet young thing, and can stand up to the downright architectural components around the shoulders. 10/10.

  7. Judi says:

    Hmmm. I like it. But I can’t say I’d wear it, even as a costume. I love the graceful lines of the skirt, and I think the lower portion of the sleeves is pretty nifty (I’m a sucker for pleating) but the sleeve cap is way overdone, and I’d like the lace at the front neckline to be gone. I’d say 7.5 of ten.

  8. Valerie says:

    Actually, I think I did wear this, or something very much like it, when I married my first husband. Big mistake in so many ways, like this dress! Love the skirt, everything else yechhh. Is there any decoration the dressmaker forgot to add on to the top? Where is the bride, for heaven’s sake? And the strangely futuristic sleeves! 4/10.

  9. Amber says:

    I think I would like this dress on a person rather than a mannequin. I really think that it would change people’s perceptions of the trim. I agree it looks a bit much at the moment but because there is no face/hair/hat above it.

    I would totally wear the dress just to wear, but not for my wedding. It’s a really great specimen of the 1890′s…. Being prim and crisp and all. I’m imagining Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables in this one! How pretty would that be?!

    I give it a 9.5/10

  10. T. Sedai says:

    To me this one is just sort of a blah. I do like the skirt but the top is not cutting it for me. I like the trim on the edge of the bolero, but do not like it dangling off the sleeves. Not really liking the poof on the sleeves or the ruffles and gathering on the front, at least not together. The cuffs are ok, but the main part of the sleeve makes me think of Michael Jackson as Captain EO. Fabric is lovely though.

    Probably not going on my list of favorite wedding dresses of all time, and I wouldn’t wear it for a wedding, but it is a nice example from the 1890s and sort of amazing that the whiteness has been preserved this long.

    6/10

  11. I’d totally love it, were it not for the lace on the bodice and sleeves… it seems to me it might have yellowed more over time than the satin did, and it looks weird. And there’s a bit too much of the lace on the bodice.
    I give it an 8.

    I think I’d even wear it, minus the majority of the lace on the bodice. I even think it might look good on me. :-)

  12. MrsC says:

    7 from me. I love the bolero – the sleeves included, and the contrast trim. I am fascinated by the layered sleeve caps, would love to see them from another angle – they are one of the things I love about early 19th C pelisses. What I don’t like is the fluff around the waist, and the incredibly plain skirt – at first I assumed it was a bodice only and the museum had put a blank skirt on it as they sometimes do to give an idea of the whole outfit. It emphasises the fussiness of the bodice. Crazy though it may seem, perhaps a more elaborate skirt would have balanced the bodice decoration better.
    I think it is a dress that really needs a person to show it off, not a dummy.

  13. jane says:

    LURVE IT! I think the previous comment from Amber is very true… it would look totally awesome when worn – the static dummy does nothing for it. I have worn this style before for Victorian events and it is soooo flattering, including the sleeve heads which at first glance make you go eugh! The cut of the skirt is very flattering whatever your shape underneath and you don’t have to have a tiny waist because the width of the sleeve head makes even a large waist appear small… its fab fab fab. 10 out of 10!

  14. Frankie says:

    I agree with Amber. I like the dress. I love the Victorian style. I sometimes wish we still dressed like that.. Except for the girdle! No thank you! Either way the dress is very lovely. Not sure if i would pick it to get married in but I would not rule it out either. :):)

  15. Gail says:

    Ohh, I like the color and trim. The one thing that throws me off is the short little frilly blouse. It’s like she didn’t have enough silk for a longer bodice and opted for a rather lovely bolero jacket. In a way, the bolero balances out the frilly blouse.

    9/10

    P.S: Dreamstress, how would you make a mock-bolero style like that?
    Any suggestions?

  16. I knew it! Compare to the wedding costumes from the 60s Czech(oslovak) fairy tale film Šíleně smutná princezna! (Madly Sad Princess) :-)
    http://img.listal.com/image/1172621/600full-silene-smutna-princezna-screenshot.jpg
    http://i.idnes.cz/10/122/org/JAZ37d33f_silenesmutna.JPG
    (It’s not very well seen, but the groom’s jacket has big shoulders, too.)

    • I like it, but don’t follow what that has to do with this dress?

      I do loooooooooove how the groom looks just like a Beatle though!

      • It’s not very well seen on the pictures, I couldn’t find better ones… I thought together the two costumes looked a lot like this one. :-) On its own, each of them is different, but together the style is very similar. Well, if you grow up seeing Czech fairy-tales, this kind of association jumps at you easily… The costumes in the film are a weird mix of modern and Art Nouveau.

        He’s actually a singer, too. :-) Both of them are singers, it’s a musical fairy-tale.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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