19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: late Regency details

There was lots of love for last week’s green & buff linen and lace 1900’s ensemble, with the only caveats coming because of too-unique trim.  That tiny imperfection brought the rating down to a respectable but not perfect 7.9 out of 10.

This week I’m sticking with the super distinctive trim theme, to find out how far I can push that envelope.  The period and colour scheme is totally different though.  Late Regency.  Yellow and black.  Not usually your favourites!  Have I pushed too far?

Dress, ca. 1818, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The really noteworthy thing about this dress is the trim: the stylized leaves and lacing on the bodice, the cord twisting through the leaves at the hem.  It’s quite something.

Dress (bodice detail), ca. 1818, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress (detail), ca. 1818, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What do you think?  Too crazy and distinctive, or a wonderfully unique frock, sure to stand out in a crowd in the right way?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. the colors and the cut are quite nice … I like it, but the stem (?) at the bottom , wich is weaved through the leaves looks a little bit weired …
    I would’ve liked it more, when it wouldn’t be so stiff and padded —
    trimed like this it looks more like a costume for a play … 7 of 10

  2. Kim K says

    I really like this dress – The use of the gold piping on both the sleeves and the hem really pulls the dress together. I suspect that the bottom trim needed to be heavy to pull down the net and give it some “swish” as the wearer walked.

    I am not too fond of the use of piping on the bodice. For some reason I am reminded of the old TV show Xena Warrior Princess.

    I give it an 8.5.

  3. The “details” here are a bit too excessive for me! Remove the gold applique from the bodice and the bottom of the net skirt, and add a belt at the elevated waist (either in gold, black, or a combination of both) and this would be a dress I could love. As it is, however, 5 of 10.

  4. Elise says

    I wonder how the skirt is weighted. Would it bounce and move while the lady danced?

    And the top is made for The Elise whose body doesn’t do too well in high-waisted fashions and appreciates how the seamstress enhanced the whole thing.

    All in all, it makes me think of those transitional periods where everyone was figuring out all at once how the style would change. “Hems are being embroidered! Here is a passel of varying hem elaborations!”

    Right, the rating! 7/10 for me!

  5. I actually really like this dress! I feel like perhaps it is a bit conceptual and experimental, with the end result perhaps not being the most practical of designs, but I do find it aesthetically pleasing. Usually I am not a fan of yellow/black bumble bee color schemes, but here I don’t mind it. Overall I think this is a very remarkable dress.


  6. I’ve posted this dress on my tumblr before, and people seem to like it since it gets a lot of likes and reblogs, but I personally think it looks rather like a dead wasp that someone stepped on. 5/10

  7. Gosh I wonder if Maud Warrender ever saw this dress. All that black velvet and gold and leaf details reminds me of Laurel. I love it, I love the boldness and originality of it at a time when froth was taking over. This dress was for a woman of distinct and original taste. I approve! And I am gobsmacked that it survived – how easy it would have been to catch that hem detail in something and riiiipppp.
    The cording in the bodice reminds me of a duck egg blue spencer I saw in the Museum of London too. I drew the details in my notebook as I do love me rouleau cording/cornelli detailing and I’d love to take something like this on. Do you want to make one together? huh? 🙂
    Anyway, I give it a 10/10!!

  8. wow, beautiful! I don’t care for all the trim on the bodice, but the skirt is absolutely gorgeous. 8 out of 10!!

  9. Courtney F. says

    8/10. I think it’s very striking. The fact that the gown’s provenance is British surprised me, though. It definitely evokes the image of a honeybee, and that was one of Napoleon’s favorite imperial devices. Though I suppose the lady who wore it might have been thinking less about geopolitics and more about being her own “queen bee.” 😉

  10. Rebecca says

    I really, super liked this one at first glance. BUT the more I look, the more I can see two big gold buggy eyes staring out of the bodice (I guess I’ve been watching too much sci-fi). But ah well, I do super like it, sooooo…..10/10 (You never know when buggy eyes on your chest could come in handy!)

  11. On first look, I’d have given it a 9/10. After looking at the closer views, though, my score went down to a 6/10 because it’s sloppily constructed. except for the hem embellishment. Makes me wonder if it was a costume for a pantomime, or some such.
    It would go over quite well here in Pittsburgh, PA though! Black and Gold!!

  12. Demented Seamstress says

    This is quite a bit better than most regency dresses. The colours are quite nice and the trim is not too bad.
    I am amazed that the overskirt had survived though, the hem decoration looks way too big and heavy for that sheer fabric.

    I will never like the regency silhouette though.


  13. Love it. Yes the trim is certainly ‘distinctive’, but all the elements of the dress tie in – it’s not like the black trim on last week’s otherwise green and buff dress.

    I really like the detailing on the bodice, it balances the madness going on at the hem.


  14. karenb says

    I really like this dress. My husband is a beekeeper and I could just see myself wearing this to a beekeepers conference and it would be a talking point thats for sure. Actually I love the dress….its crazy but perfect. Even though I realise its not actually representing bees it certainly comes close.

    • Claire Payne says

      How marvellous. You’d be the best dressed bee keeper ever.

    • Claire Payne says

      How marvellous. You’d be the best dressed bee keeper ever.

  15. Lynne says

    I love this! The colours are very effective – not a dress to be ignored. Lovely fabric, great trim. But I did have a giggle about the bit over the bust. It does say, “My boyfriend is an hussar, and I have a BUST!” A girl has to be proud of her assets.

    9 out of 10

  16. I like it. It’s crazy and over the top. Not sure that I would wear it though. Besides my not needing to have attention brought to the bust area by a pair of wings spread over the bodice, I’m pretty sure I’d rip out the hem before the first dance ended. 7/10 anyway, because I like looking at it.

  17. Queen Bee.
    That is what came to mind when I saw this one. I like the overdress of sheer black fabric complements the yellow of the underdress. Plus the use of textures like the patterns on the sheer black pattern, the work on the bodice and the cording on the hem, twisting like leafs and vines is very unique. I wondered how people could put this much effort and detail into a dress. This is some serious labor intense stuff here.

    Too bad the accessories are not with the dress.


  18. Normally I don’t like late Regency (I actually like empire waists, but not the wide shoulders and fussy trim so much) or black and yellow, but I like this pretty well! I like the contrast of the sheer overlay of the skirt, and I also like the trim on the bodice (perhaps because it reminds me of Wonder Woman). Points get taken off because I feel that the trim at the hem is too-elaborate, and distracting. Also, it is so stiff-looking that I feel it would make the bottom of the dress stick out in a bad way if the lady wearing the dress was dancing, or walking briskly. If the trim at the hem was less dramatic, I would probably score it at a 9. As it is, though, I’ll go ahead and give it an 8. It really is a nice example from its era.

  19. I really like it, I think the type of yellow makes a big difference this is a butter yellow which works with the black; it makes me think of bumble bees whereas a lot of yellow used with black is wasp yellow which is rather ick. I love the piping on the skirt, the only bit I’m not 100% happy with is the bust shield, so I’m giving it a 9

  20. The trim sort of looks creepy close up but has great impact on the full length shot. It must have been stunning when worn.

    Yellow, why does it have to be yellow – as if I didn’t know. Still, if it were red I’d give it a 10 so I guess I should swallow my prejudice and give it a 10/10

  21. Zach says

    Lovely! While I did NOT like the last black and yellow ensemble, this one is much better. Instead of electric yellow, this is a more buttery honey-gold, which is far better in my book. The design is a little heavy, but I don’t think that it’s so bad. In fact, I think it’s very striking. It’s a gown, not to be worn by the sickly sweet girl, but by the ravishing, sly one. How attractive!

    Ten out of ten!

  22. Ironically I’m making a late regency dress at the moment. SO I’m starting to soften to the detailing in these kinds of dresses.
    I like the netting over that colour effect and don’t mind the black and yellow. But the braid on the bodice is very unfortunately placed. Looks a bit ridiculous. Like two bee wings.

    For that I give it a 7/10

  23. Daniel says

    I think I’d have had a black underskirt and yellow embroidered sprigs on the overskirt, and then this dress would be an easy 10/10.  I do wonder who wore a dress like this as it’s really quite bold and distinctive – someone was certainly making a style statement. I do love this era generally, I think the detailing is always superb and I love the silhouette. Hmm. I do like the dress too, but there’s a lot of yellow in the underskirt and it kind of emphasises that the overdress is transparent, in the “LOOK AT THIS, THERE’S A SEE THROUGH OVERSKIRT” sense – rather than being quite subtle about it. Which can work sometimes, but black over yellow in this instance is an extreme colour contrast and in this instance, quite harsh so I’m taking off a couple points and saying 8/10.

  24. 6/10 I want to love it, and I love the idea, but I don’t love the execution. The stiffness of the detailing fabric does not go well with the net, and, perhaps as a result of that, the shapes look too much like the pictures you get when you try to draw on computer, with the mouse: rough and uneven.
    It reminds me of something Spanish. A painting by Goya? Something like that.

  25. Normally I dislike this era. But I like this dress. If I were to make it, I’d keep the colors and most of the trim. The only thing I would do is change the trim on the bodice so it doesn’t look like bumble bee wings. It makes me wonder if it wasn’t meant to be for a costume party.

  26. fidelio says

    I love everything except the bodice “wings” 9/10. I find the padded hem finish on the everskirt–I expect it gives just enough weight to make to sheer fabric hang well without draffing it down. The appliqued leaves are different and interesting as well.

  27. I love this dress. It’s been one of my favorites for many years now. It’s amazing it has survived well near 200 years in such beautiful shape, especially that gorgeous embroidered net! Usually dresses in this style have lots of shredding because of all the heavy hem decorations that come into vogue around 1820. The color is still bright, gorgeous and on a woman like me who is a little top heavy, the black would minimize while the golden yellow overlay would make everything look a might bit perkier! 🙂
    I am always a fan of black and yellow. The combo is quite passe right now (I blame cheap Halloween costumes), but the origami-like appliques on this dress are spot-on and lavish. Diamonds in gold would absolutely shine with this gown! All it needs are some fabulous shoes and a giant black and yellow plume for your hair to finish it off.

    10/10– I would wear it in a heartbeat!

  28. I love this! I am mesmerised by the way the skirt border is constructed, it’s so modern it wouldn’t look out of place on a modern catwalk. 10 out of 10 for me. Just this once 🙂

  29. It’s bold but lovely. I would never, ever wear such a dress – the color combination and its distinctiveness aren’t really my style – but I do like it for some reason. It would look good on a bold and distinctive woman, I think. 9/10

  30. Haha, I love the overlay on the skirt, the colors are okay, and the silhouette is very pretty but the rest is just ridiculous. Someone above said something about it looking like a wasp that’s been stepped on and I agree. 5/10

  31. Roxanne says

    Love the lace overlay skirt…not so much the odd front yellow bit. The silhouette…yes. 6.5/10

  32. Claire Payne says

    I’m not a regency fan but there is something I love about this dress. 8 out of 10 from me for the unusual detail on the bodice and skirt. I seem to be favouring golden shades of yellow at present so perhaps that is what swayed me.

  33. Claire Payne says

    I’m not a regency fan but there is something I love about this dress. 8 out of 10 from me for the unusual detail on the bodice and skirt. I seem to be favouring golden shades of yellow at present so perhaps that is what swayed me.

  34. I really, really like this – all except for the trim on the bodice front. It looks like a slightly misshapen butterfly landed there by mistake! But the rest is beautiful. 9/10 for me!

    (Also, you need an option on your latest poll for “one, because I haven’t had a chance to make more yet!”)

  35. I suppose you’re expecting a low mark from me, based on my previous reactions to regency style, but I actually really like this one. The waist is high but not ridiculously so, and I find the skirt very graceful. I also like the garland at the hem. Sure it’s crazy, but I like crazy and I do really love this idea of having a band of sculptural decoration around the hem. 9/10

  36. I just realized that I wasn’t very clear about what I wanted to remove from the hem. I would remove just the gold cord looping through the leaves; the cord on the hem of the net overskirt probably is necessary to weight it down so that it hangs properly, and is not unattractive (though I might have used a black padded cord instead of gold).

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