20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Extremely green in 1919

Despite the difficult rust colour  of last weeks 1840s dress you quite liked it, and thought it one of the best examples of its era.  It rated a quite fabulous 9.2 out of 10.

This week I thought I should pick something a bit brighter:

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening dress, Callot Soeurs, 1919, silk & metallic lace, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This end of the ‘teens dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is all chartreuse velvet and gold lace.  Do you like the bold colours and the transition from Directorie revival to the 20’s silhouette?   Or is it too garish, and neither one period nor the other?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

63 Comments

  1. That is *very* green. Like a insects wings (or maybe lime jelly). It looks a bit flimsy.
    5/10

  2. Oh my gosh 10! 10! 10! This is absolutely my dream dress! I would die for it! Chartreuse and gold?! Inspired. I think i’d even bind my boobs to wear this beauty!
    My fashion history professor says we should never imagine ourselves within the clothing we study but I don’t think I could stop myself with this!

    • I would also bind my boobs to wear this. And get a shingle-bob especially for the occasion.

    • Elise says

      ha-HA! For once, having tiny little acorns is the best! Seriously, I would wear this. I wuv it. Imagine how it moves! 9/10 (because it’s missing shoes)

  3. It would’ve been stand-out gorgeous at a party. Not usually my favorite color, but it really works here.
    8/10

  4. Merciful heavens! Green was the correct color for that thing–it makes me sick just looking at it! I would rip that beautiful lace off in a heartbeat for use on a much more flattering gown. I love green, but those devoré animal print swirls are just plain hideous. What’s with the mullet-iness too? Does it want to be a fish? If it had more shape in the waist instead of looking like someone filled it with helium and the velvet had a more elegant pattern, it would be extraordinary. What a shame! Oh, well. I suppose you can’t love them all.

    Three out of ten for the lace and the *idea* of green velvet.

    • You know how when you look at something long enough, it really gets in your brain? That’s what happened to me. I keep looking at the dress, and it keeps looking less offensive… This and the dress, is, after all, pretty neat as a transition gown (maybe I’m just making excuses). Either way, this little insect of a dress has now planted itself inside my cranium and refuses to budge until I up my rating, so…

      Seven out of ten….silly dress……..

  5. I am so sorry, but this is the first time one of the rating dresses has made me cringe in horror. D: Saw the thumbnail and couldn’t help myself! A closer look, though, revealed some truly lovely lace and a fair attempt at texturing fabric. Still not pretty.

    5/10 for a try at ingenuity.

  6. This is actually one of my favorite shades of green/yellow! For some reason I have a hard time finding greens that suit my complexion and this is one of them, ergo I like it. Very insect-y.

  7. GAAH! My first reaction was, “OH MY GAW, it’s HORRIBLE!” I like the silvery top an fringe, though, and the overall style.

    I’ll give a 4

  8. Normally I am not a fan of this style of dress (well, I am still not really), but that fabric is gorgeous and that lace is pure heaven. I am wrestling with loving the materials and not actually caring for the overall shape of the dress. But the lovely fabrics are winning. By a landslide.

    8/10

  9. I actually really love it for some reason. I think it would look really beautiful on a very short and compact girl with some matching lace around her head. Not sure if the long part is meant to be a train but I think it would look beautiful as one. That lace is to die for and I quite like the color.

    9/10

  10. I am torn about dresses like this. On the one hand, part of me thinks it’s butt ugly. On the other hand, the fabrics are gorgeous, the shape is fascinating, and I would probably love to see it on someone else—I might even like actually wearing it (it’s happened before.)

    Ok, compromise.

    8/10

  11. Oh laws…. I’m sorry I cannot find anything redeeming about this dress… All of the components would be fine by themselves, but together = disaster.

    2/10

    Em

  12. I like!!!
    I love the simplicity, the color and the material. It looks as if it can be layered nicely with another dress. I always wondered were these dresses easy to make or did they require alot of fitting.
    Any suggestions?

    9/10

    • I don’t think these dresses required a lot of fitting, but they did take a lot of skill with the cut. Just a tiny bit wrong, and they do (as someone said) make you look like a walrus, but got just right they are amazingly flattering.

  13. The fabrics are all lovely on their own – especially that lace… gorgeous – but together they just look blurred and incongruous. I’ve never cared for that shade of green so I’m sure that’s affecting my judgement as well, but I don’t like this. The dress seems shapeless (I’m sure it’s suffering from the lack of a person inside it) and just overall awkward.

    I give it a 4, and that’s only because I love the metallic lace.

  14. It’s a bit like I imagine catching a werewolf mid transformation would be like. Both the before and after are present in conflict with one another. Partly in the shape, where it seems that the front is ahead of the back in its morphing, and definitely in the conflicting fabric and patternings. The gold lace is more traditional and symmetrical in its style and would look at home in a dress 10 years younger I imagine, whereas the devore velvet is fashion forward indeed! I love its Klimtesque/CR Mackintoshesque styling and colour, but one wonders what the fabric and lace are doing on the same dress!
    It all makes me want to urge the dress to keep morphing,
    “Come on little Dress, you can do it, kick yourself into the ’20s, don’t stop now!!”
    Tweeny eras are always a bit demented and experimental, after all that is where the styles and shapes noone wanted to carry on with came out and got abandoned in favour of, hopefully, something more definitive and wearable. but where would we be without them!
    I give it a 7.

  15. Any other main fabric, and this dress would be earning somewhere in the 6-8 range. If I imagine it in, say, a deep blue charmeuse instead of the acid green velvet, I sigh a little. Even the mullet effect, as Zach aptly called it, would be charming little inflection on a dress in a different fabric.

    But BLECTH! What is that supposed to be, a new fabric design inspired by tribal motifs crossed with nuclear waste? The color makes this one iffy, but it’s the busy burnout pattern that really kills it. It takes the dress from potentially interesting to a busy insta-migraine. And then the heaviness of the fabric, too–it makes it lie more like sofa upholstery than a beautiful gown. Sorry, little dress –you’re a 2.

  16. ellipsisknits says

    I love it.

    Love the glowing vibrancy of the color. Love the abstract shining pattern. It looks like a piece of jewelry for your whole body.

    10/10

      • Yes! Yes it does! An imaginative, well-executed piece of jewelry for the body..

        I haven’t felt this way about a Rate This Dress ever…

  17. Personally, I love chartreuse green – but even so I am not liking that dress. It’s almost got anti-tailoring going on, the way it ensures that not one centimeter of lace or silk is cut to flatter a womanly figure. Nonetheless, I have to give that dress props: it would be cutting-edge even today. One of my personal theories is that Western society keeps ricocheting around modernism and a limited set of style changes because we’ve had so much change in the past 100 years that we are still coping with it. And this dress sums that up.

    So, I’m giving it a 7. Even though I don’t want to take it home with me, we are having an interesting conversation, that dress and I.

  18. I don’t hate it. I don’t think the dressform is doing it any favours as the form seems too small for the dress. Although the ideal body this style is headed towards is supposed to be non-curvy, this dress seems to need some curves to pretend to conceal, and to avoid it looking sack-like round the hips.
    Also, is the back supposed to be off the ground, or is it supposed to be a train?

    I wouldn’t want to wear it myself, but I think it would look good on an actual moving person. 8/10

    • I think this is supposed to be calf length, with the tiniest, barest train. Most of the dresses from this era were worn much bigger on the figure than modern aesthetics demand, so I don’t think the dressform is too small.

  19. Lynne says

    MrsC says it so well. When I first looked at the dress, I thought, ‘It wants to be a painting.’ Yes, Klimt.

    7 out of 10.

  20. Love this dress. I can definitely see from all the comments that it’s a “love it or hate it” dress. Ha ha! But I love it. It is wild and pretty and fun and almost more of a personality than a dress. =] It would definitely be a hard one to wear unless you were the exact right shape I suppose… small and flat.
    I give it a 9.
    Thanks for the great post!

  21. chris says

    it’s interesting and the trim is beautiful! it seems to me that the color would be very overwhelming.

    8/10

  22. Stella says

    Hmm. I like the colours and the fabrics, and the cute little train, but I’m not sold on the silhouette. Perhaps it’d look better on a person or a mannequin, but it looks disturbingly sack-like on that dressform. That’s the exact opposite of what I look for in a dress. 5/10, and it would be a 2 if I wasn’t so impressed with the train.

  23. This is exquisite, unique. I would wear it, even though the green is slightly yellow for me.

    Wow. I would wear the heck out of it. Can you imagine what it would be like to float regally into an important dinner or premiere wearing that? It reminds me of a dragonfly.

    10/10

  24. I hate everything about it. Well the fabric is nice, but they made something hideous out of it. 1/10

  25. Pamlin says

    I’m confused on where the hem would hit. Is the back just brought up so it’s off the ground (t keep the fabric from being stressed), or is it actually below the knee/mid-shin in the front? Until I know that, I don’t know how I can rate it. I love the color choices, and the train (if it is a train), but if it’s mid-shin length in the front, I may have to drop the rating a bit just for sheer awkwardness.

    7/10 (5.5/10 if it’s as awkward as I fear)

    • Hmmmm…I actually want Katherine to stop wearing 20s and show off her darling figure in shaped stuff. I imagine this on Fleur – who I don’t think is shown to her best advantage in 40s and 50s stuff. I’m dreadful and dress the historical fashion community in my head.

      • You could be Historical Fashion Gok, Leimomi!!! But without the hidjus baggy jeans and chain thing, of course!

        • Heh. Except I would be the woman on his show that dresses women in extremely expensive clothes. I don’t agree with his cheap high street fashion. I’m “Buy Less, Wear Better”

          • Oh yes, I agree. He needs to stop peddling polyester and body wrecking heels. Less is more (I make an exception to my maximalist principles when it comes to owning lots of tat!!)

  26. H. Monaghan says

    Love the color and overall style of this dress. The points on the train are reminiscent of elytra, enhancing the insect like appearance of the dress.
    However the display of the dress is awkward and confusing.
    8.5/10

  27. Wow. At first glance, it was a horror: Devore satin has never rung my bell, and the lace design didn’t seem to work with the main fabric, but when you look at the back of the dress, the design works rather well, actually.

    One has to slope one’s shoulders, lean just so, a little off-kilter, and be flat — or made flat — in front, for this to work.

    It would take some guts but yes, yes, I’d like to wear it!

    Very best,

    Natalie

  28. I feel like on a mannequin this might look hideous but on a woman walking into a low-lit bar or nightclub it would be smashing.

    8/10

  29. I like that green. I can’t wear it but I like it. Not a fan of the 20s. So a 6 from me.

  30. I don’t think it’s especially green at all–it’s more of a chartreuse. It’s the color of olive oil. The silhouette and trim are very elegant but the pattern on the “green” section is revolting. 7.5, because of that stupid swirl pattern.

  31. I like the unique color, and I like that it does kinda look like an insect, it’s very organic yet fancy. And sparkly!

    9/10

  32. Polly says

    This makes for very entertaining reading, thank everyone! And so far, I concur, initial response, 10/10. then I looked closer to the detail and the numbers slowly dropped away… bizarre contrast of fabrics, totally odd neckline, hmmm…. maybe a final 7/10 for making a shock statement in its era.

  33. Tenshi says

    Ugh, hate the silhouette. I just don’t like clothes without a defined waist. The beadwork or whatever it is at the hem and bust is totally amazing, and that goldish green is actually not that unpretty (though it would make me look like a zombie), but apart from that, I think it’s positively hideous, from the pattern in the green fabric to that weird mullet hemline, the straps that look like an afterthought and the slightly baloony silhouette that will make the woman wearing it look like a walrus. No, just no. 2/10.
    Disclaimer: I neither like empire nor 20’s – a lovechild of the two can only be horrible in my eyes.

  34. I think it’s lovely. While the colour might not be flattering to 90% of people it looks great in this dress. It is of its time. 10/10.

  35. Daniel says

    Oh. Crikey. That IS transitional. On one level I really like the exoticism, and I can see someone looking absolutely stunning in this dress. On the other level, my instinctive reaction was “Ick”, perhaps in reaction to the sharp lime cordial colour, but I think it’s still quite nice and properly mounted on a full figure, probably incredibly charming.

    I’m torn. 10/10 for being such a brilliant and little-seen example of transitional dress of its time. 6/10 personally. So will split the difference and say 8/10.

  36. fidelio says

    philamuseum.organtiquedress.comA friend of mine once described something as being like your first taste of stong black coffee–you might not like it, but you really noticed it. This dress is like that.

    I haven’t seen a lot of things by Callot Soeurs, but everything they did seems to have been like this: amazing, but non-typical fabric, striking lines and very much of their own school of thought about clothes. They were bringing on the Twenties look before the Twenties, it seems like. The Chicago History Museum has several items; the red dress there, even though it’s nearly a hundred years ago, would be wearable today without looking “vintage”. This court presentation dress in Philadelphia shows the same train-with-calf-length look the green dress has.

    As a dress and nothing more, I might not rate this very high–it’s so clearly designed to suit a single woman, and possibly only that woman. It’s got awkward spots in it–that top hasn’t made its way out of the teens, even though the rest of the dress is well on its way to 1924 or 1925. As fashion art, though, it’s at the head of the pack–if Poiret dragged fashion out of the nineteenth century, this is dragging it into the postwar world. this page at AntiqueDress.com has several other 1919 evening dresses, which show how far ahead of the pack this dress was. (There’s also a pale blue velvet Callot Soeurs evening dress from 1924 which is so simple it’s genius; take a look!)

    I give it 7/10–lower because as a dress and nothing more, it’s such a challenge to the wearer, and yet it is such a bold statement that just dismissing it because the color is odd and difficult to wear, or the bodice/neckline and the rest of the dress are not quite in sync sells it short on its place in the history of style.

    I’m now going to go and moon over the red dress in Chicago. I’ll be in Chicago at the end of August; maybe I can moon over it in person then.

  37. fidelio says

    Here”s the curatorial statement from the Chicago History Museum on one of their Callot SOuers pieces:

    “Is there a vast difference between a Callot dress and one from any other shop?” asked Proust’s fictional alter-ego, Marcel. “Why, an enormous difference” replied his girlfriend, Albertine. “Only, alas! What you get for 300 francs in an ordinary shop will cost you two thousand there. But there can be no comparison; they look the same only to people who know nothing about it.”

  38. I have such a fondness for both the late 1910’s and Callot Soeurs, but I’m going to have to give this one a 3/10. It looks like it’s about to fall off that mannequin and scurry out of the room.

  39. Cornelia Moore says

    The historian in me absolutely loves this. the aesthetist in me says, oh, no, not patterned velvet with the lace, it distracts from it. and my personal taste say, oh, ick, what a painful color. but it’s absolutely AWESOME historically. it needs a proper snood of the period, with matching lace, Erte style, I’ve never cared for the head band with feathers in it….and of course shoes with rhinestone (or diamond!) shoe clips, and a silver clutch with a large perodot clasp. that’s while it remains this shade of green. but for me, it needs a little tuck at the waist, just a hint to suggest the feminine figure, and electric blue untextured velvet, for both my aesthetic and personal taste. that lace needs shown off, so the rest of the dress needs simplicity. but I absolutely love the cut, the sway of the train catches the eye, (it flips shyly yet coyly as the wearer walks) and the lines of lace draw the eyes to various specific points. I’ve seen period shows with this cut, the train barely brushes the tops of the heel, or the floor at most, it doesn’t actually touch or drag on the floor-the fabric is often a fragile tule or silk, and probably would easily tear if stepped on or caught on a rough spot on a polished floor.

  40. I love it! I want it! I’m not generally a huge fan of this green, but with the silvery-gold and the tone on tone pattern I am very intrigued. 8 out of 10…but mostly because I couldn’t pull it off with my shape or my skin tone.

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