19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Charles Worth in 1897

Last week I showed you a striped 1860s number, and pointed out that the stripes weren’t aligned as we would expect them to be.  Oh foolish me!  Having had it pointed out, you all obsessed about the stripe placement, and were rather harsh on the poor gown (I know there was a tiny mis-match as well, but other than that, I actually though the unusual stripe action on the chevrons made the gown far more interesting and dynamic than a ‘normal’ stripe placement).  Beyond the stripes, some of you decried it as quite dull and blah.  Poor frock!  Some did love it though so it managed a 7.4 out of 10.

I’m quite obsessed with the late 1890s at the moment: the stiff, A-line skirts, the focus on menswear inspired tailoring, the pleating, the peculiar puffed sleeves.

This House of Worth evening gown from ca. 1897 is the perfect summation of the whole look.  The skirt, with its heavy folds and widening gores.  The juxtaposition of the über-feminine pink floral warp-patterned silk with a strong, tailored silhouette.

Evening dress House of Worth ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress House of Worth ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

The bodice which manages to be inspired both by men’s jackets and waistcoats, and 18th century stomachers and redingotes.  The sleeves: ruched below, surmounted by faux-renaissance puffs, with bands of lace forming slashings.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

And finally, the skirt pleats, perfectly framing repeats of the floral pattern.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

It’s quite a dress: feminine, masculine, multi-period historical, both ornate and paradoxically severe.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

What do you think of it?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. I like this quite stiff style, especially the skirt. I’m torn on the fabric and the bodice though. Even if I’m not a fan of the roses I adore the perfect placement in the back. I think I’ll go with a 7 for this one.

  2. What a strange dress. I like the technical aspects of the dress… the pleating, slashing, and embroidery. But, they just don’t hang well together… that black embroidery is so graphic and the print and other embellishments are so soft. And, where do the strange folds at the front (proto-lapels) come in? I guess I’m not a huge fan of this one.


  3. juliaergane says

    I LOVE this dress: the fabric, the interesting design, everything. Pink roses — aah!!! 10/10

  4. I adore the fabric! And the dress except for the bodice front. Its too crazy with small details. The rest of the dress is “big”, big pattern, big skirt, and then you have small embroidery, lapels, small puffs, small just craziness. I think it would have looked better if they had stuck with bold and big, instead of squeezing a bunch of detail in that bodice. I’d have to say a 4/10, and I would not be happy wearing this dress.

  5. Rachel says

    I think I would’ve had the lapels lie flatter or pinned them down, but for the most part I like the design. Each element – masculine/feminine, severe/ornate – is interpreted well. Even though it’s got such different influences, it still looks unified. Love the sleeves especially – those little puffs may be my favorite part. Very romantic but with a lot of presence too.

    Though the placement of the floral designs is gorgeous, I’m still kinda indifferent about their choices of materials. I’d like it better in darker, more resolute colors.


  6. I think of this gown as a brilliant failure.

    The shaping of the skirt is exquisite, and I like the odd faux lapels of the bodice. Those parts are well done.

    On the other hand, the sleeves look, to me, as though Worth was reaching to do *something* new with them that hadn’t been tried before. He came up with something–but the something, for all the care that went into the shaping, look sloppy and half-formed.

    I’m not thrilled with the color ways of this gown either. The bodice embroidery, though well-done of its type, neither harmonizes with or makes a meaningful contrast with the rest of the dress; it just looks grossly out of place. The printed silk is too pale and washed out to make a statement on its own–and I freely admit that I detest modest little floral prints like this one anyway.

    So the farthest I’m willing to go on this one is 6.5.

  7. I love and adore the fabric and pleats and color, but I do not like the front of the bodice. To me it really distracts from the beautiful, feminine, flowery wonder of the rest of the dress.
    8.5 out of 10, nevertheless!

  8. Sue Miller says

    I really like the style, the fabric, colours, the embroidery, but not all together – not a winner for me! Probably a 6 out of 10 at the most.

  9. I didn’t like the front bodice…it just looked like it didn’t really ‘go’ with the rest of the dress…and I was thinking ‘meh’. But then I saw the back. Oh! Such lovely lines! Such perfect print placement! 5 for the front and 10 for the back works out to a 7.5…

  10. Marilyn Jacobson says

    i admire so many elements in the front: the large lapels framing the bodice and flattering neckline, a-line skirt. I’m not crazy about the sleeves. However, when I saw the back, with the bouquets of flowers, I was totally sold. I don’t generally like floral prints, but appreciate the designer fully taking advantage of it. Bravo for this bold, innovative design! At least a 9 of 10.

  11. I like the cut quite a lot. Unfortunately I don’t like the colours, and I really dislike the fabric. It looks like Laura Ashley wallpaper.


  12. In any other fabric I think I would love this dress. (Well, not the boob flaps. But I just have a thing against boob flaps.) But, seriously, ANY other fabric! I really love the black and white image, but the color images… ick. Too much going on! The flowers and the embroidery and the puffy sleeves… Just too much. The shape of the skirt is divine! I just can’t get over the dress as a whole.


  13. Love the fabric, and the way it’s used is masterful. But I don’t like the boob projections. So 8/10.

  14. LOVE it. I want to make a wedding dress version of it as it embodies everything I loved about 1990’s weddings, let alone 1890’s eveningwear! I know hte pink rose fabric makes it interesting but I do feel it is a little odd so half a point off for an otherwise deeelicious dress!

  15. Bakku-shan! Looks ok from the back but from the front looks like her torso is half-way through some eldritch transformation. So…. 4/10 all up.

  16. Very pretty. I don’t like the black embroidery in the front but other than that, it seems perfect to me. 8/10

  17. Helene says

    I really liked this dress at the firts quitck look, then looking closely I noticed the sleeves. I think they look uncomfortable and the draping is just odd.
    I’m also not a fan of the front bodice. I would have liked it a lot, on another dress, but it feels wrong with the severe black embroidery on together with the soft fabrick of the dress.
    That was the cons.
    I do love the fabric, I love the view from the back, I love the lapels, the upper part of the sleeve and the A-line of the skirt.
    I would wear this, even with the cons, so I give this an 8.

  18. Grace Darling says

    Beautiful silhouette although the fabric strikes me as
    being more suitable for a porcelain doll than a
    flesh-and-blood woman. Looks better in the B&W

    9/10 for the needleskills and the ‘fussy cutting’ of
    the fabric.

    OH now I remember! I had curtains in a similar
    colour and pattern in the early 70s.

    • I thought that too! That the dress did a reverse Scarlett O’Hara and ended up curtains in my grandparents’ house!

  19. I love how others describe the back as a “bouquet”, and really, this dress gets a gold star for pattern-arranging. But the whole is a big mess of parts. I think Catherine called it a “glorious disaster”. It’s an interesting dress, but only interesting is that it is strange, and not strange in a good way.

    4/10 for craftsmanship (craftswomanship)

    • For all the brilliance of Worth as a designer, I’d wary a guess that it was a woman who was behind the needle!

      • Grace Darling says

        When that Golden Age of Couture exhibition was up in Bendigo, I wrote down a quote by Charles Creed (1909-1953).

        C.C. lamented the lack of skilled needlewomen in England saying, “French girls are born with threads of sewing silk
        running in their veins”.

        Did you get to see that exhibition, Dreamstress?

        I take back the curtain crack: this is the sort of dress that Miss Virginia Lachasse (fashion doll) would have worn on her touring exhibition to raise money for Greater London Fund for the Blind.

        • Grace Darling says

          Augh! That should be Charles Creed (1909-1966), he designed a “Toffee Suit” in 1953, that was military uniform translated into couture.

          Transposed the dates.

  20. I quite like this look. It makes an impression from afar with its gorgeous large scale fabric design, and then close up still manages to hold the eye with the embroidery and more subtle details. I have to wonder how they put together a whole look from this! 9/10

  21. The back works, the front not so much. The embroidered panel and that piece below it look like they were stuck in by an inexperienced seamstress to replace a missing piece. I’m not terribly fond of the bubblegum pink in the roses, but I like the design– on the whole, it works. I’ll give it a 6.

  22. OK it’s WORTH so it must pe perfection on top 🙂 Tho’ the big floral skirt reminds me of granny’s old curtain 😀 😛 But the breast insertion is pure Worth! The wide turn-downs look wrong framing it :/But it’s WORTH so it must worth it 😀 😀 :D! 9/10

  23. Not feeling it. Just a big fat meh all round, sorry. No feelings either way – nothing that thrills me, nothing that makes me feel strongly either way – so 5/10.

  24. I like the skirt, but the whole bodice seems to be a mish-mash and trying too hard.


  25. LindaMB says

    The dress looks awkward. The neckline looks like it is missing something, the shoulders like they are pressed in the same direction(both to the right). Flaps on the front of the bodice are the wrong size (not balanced with the rest of the dress), and the white insert which I think is to represent a belt, looks like they ran out of fabric. The embroidered bit just looks mismatched to everything. It looks better from the side, and the back, which hides the issues. But the fabric reminds me of my Nana’s drapes, so it rescues it from a one 0ut of, to a 3/10. Not one of Worth’s best.

  26. Nan Jorgensen says

    1000/10. I love house of Worth— adore this. By the way I really liked the last one , too. I gave it a 9-10 but my thingie would not post . YAY! For this majestic masterpiece!

  27. I really like the sum of these parts, and it was a nice 7/10. But then I saw the back and the wonderful pleating, and those pleats are worth a lot. 9/10 for this one!

  28. The skirt is pure perfection and I love the wallpaper roses. The B&W bodice, boob flaps and sleeves not so much. It looks like the dress is the original bodice ripper – The flaps seem to say rip open here.

    A 4.

  29. Beatrix says

    Never thought I’d dislike something from Worth.
    Love the dress from the back.
    To us ‘moderns’ big florals scream ‘GRANNY’ so I’ll let that be.
    It’s that black embroidery piece on the front that irks me- WHY WOULD YOU PUT ANYTHING BLACK ON THIS DRESSS?????
    Perhaps if that black embroidery were ecru lace or embroidered in a color from the palette of the silk floral ?
    2/10 for ruining a great piece of silk, I’m feeling spiteful today & expect a lot more from the ‘House of Worth’.

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