Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: ca. 1888 Flight of Fancy

Last week I showed you a lady of 1660s as an allegory of…something.  Her vivid teal-y blue and golden orange colour scheme met with general approval, as did the overall silhouette, balancing out the lower ratings from those of you who felt she was a little too generic mid-17th century, and her allegory a little too obvious, giving her a rating of a perfect 8 out of 10.

It’s been said more than once in the comments on Rate the Dress that ‘Worth can do no wrong’ or ‘It’s a Worth – automatic 10’.  The is, I think, utter rubbish.  Every designer has a bad day, or a client who insists on design features the designer isn’t thrilled about.  And the House of Worth was pumping out so many frocks in the last quarter of the 19th century that they had to have the occasional not-quite on to it garment.

On the other hand, past ratings make it very clear that the design works of Jean-Phillipe Worth aren’t quite as warmly received as that of his father.  You seem to feel that he may have inherited the business, but he didn’t inherit the genius.

So, as you have guessed, today’s Rate the Dress is a Worth, but it is a Jean-Phillipe Worth, rather than a Charles Worth.  How will it be rated?

This evening dress features lush feather patterned brocade in blush pink, accented with blonde lace and a blonde satin sash and bows from picot edged ribbon.

While it was undoubtedly still extremely expensive, the small, overall pattern of the lace indicates it was probably machine made.

The back of the dress features an elaborate butterfly bustle, giving the rear view as much visual interest as the front.

So what do you think?  Is this frock proof of the unsurpassed design genius of the House of Worth, whether it was père or fils?  Or is this one a Worth miss worth missing?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

37 Comments

  1. Ehhh. Overall I find it visually confusing. I’m not fond of the color combination, and the ornamentation seems haphazardly applied. Although I’m not fond of bustles as a concept, the butterfly one is a nice example. 6 of 10

  2. Pleasant enough (the pinkish-goldish color scheme works better than I would have expected) but the dress is very conventional. A 7.

  3. Elise says

    Things I like:
    1) How the skirt references a split skirt, and the pieces pulled back so some lace.
    2) The color scheme
    3) The interesting bustle
    4) The bodice…for the most part.

    Things I dislike:
    1) The awkward and poorly placed lace swag in the front
    2) The back of the dress doesn’t match the front
    3) The deployment of the ribbon-ed sleeves acting like plate armor around a joint (the 1920s tea-dress had a much more fun way of showing an elbow through a gap of lace)
    4) A general sense of tension without intelligence.

    I’m not the largest fan of Worth, pere, either, but this is not much fun. Or relentlessly pretty, or even aggressively monied and elegant, like the father’s often were.

    3/10

  4. I try to make an effort to judge things based on the aesthetics of their era…but I can’t think that this dress was ever considered lovely. It’s a study in contradictions – the lace drape contradicts the stiff pleats, and the various trimmings make it impossible to appreciate the fabric. I’d give it a 4/10.

  5. Judi says

    I’ll say 7 of 10, for many of the same reasons others have said. I actually like the back much better than the front. The color combination is very sedate, and I think would be hard for many women to carry off without looking a bit peaked. But there are times when sedate is appropriate, and perhaps the person it was designed for had the perfect complexion to compliment the colors (florid, perhaps?)

  6. Lynne says

    I’m with the ‘meh’ group, too. I’m sure I could have found something more exciting for my money if I’d been living at the time. Elise sums it up beautifully.

    Looks as if it is trying to be Greek. Needs a bail-out.

    5 out of 10.

    • Elise says

      ….shucks.Awwww….shucks. Thanks for the shout-out.

      Poor Greece. And poor dress.

  7. I certainly wouldn’t wear it! However the butterfly bustle is really swell (like if Charles James did bustles) and I personally like the sleeve details. But the color combo is underwhelming and the giant swath of lace seems like an afterthought somehow. 6/10 I think.

  8. I agree that Charles Worth was a master. Difficult for anyone to follow in his footsteps. I would give this dress a 5 out of 10.

  9. overall, this dress is quite interesting, and i suspect the client had a bit to do with the design. I think the swag of lace across the front of the skirt has been added because the customer had bought/been given it and wanted to show it off – it really looks like it has perhaps slipped from the waist, til you look closer at how it has been attached and realise it is deliberate.
    I really think the contrast between the colours of the lace and the satin is not strong enough to favour either fabric – the strong blonde colour of the lace would be better contrasted over cream, or perhaps the lace should be paler and the pink of the dress darker? hard to know…
    The bustle, though from the back it is quite nice, from the side looks ‘added’ as an afterthought, and the ribbon bow directly above it is a bit skimpy in comparison. if the design is lush, make it truly lush!!
    I would give it a 6/10 for effort, but a 4/10 for result.

  10. Hearthrose says

    So gorgeous my eyes hurt. 10.

    I love the lace, the way the lace was used, the way the lace swooshes over the front of the skirt in a sash, I love the neckline, I love the sleeves.

    -swoon-

    Put me down as a firm lover of Worth.

  11. I love the sleeves. I love the bustle. I love the lace swag on the skirt. The ribbon at the waist looks like the wrong color but I will give it the benefit of the doubt as far as fading goes. Not feelin’ the love for the bodice. The corsetty tube thing over the lace looks stiff and lumpy and I imagine even with a corset on, I’d be itching to get out of that thing.
    My feeling is dad hit it out of the ball park 95% of the time and son 75%. This wasn’t one of the 75%. 5/10

  12. I really love this dress, the bodice with the lace at top, the intricate sleeves, and the bustle. I had to get used to the colors a bit, but there’s a picture at the Met website of the bodice construction where you can see that the silk was actually a bit darker and ‘pinker’ originally. It gives just a bit more difference with the lace. The only thing I dislike about this dress is the feather pattern on the silk. 9 out of 10

  13. Meh. I feel that he has not managed to combine al the disparate elements of this design cohesively. A true maximalist can keep adding elements and have it work. This one feels like it has curdled – like adding your eggs too quickly to your butter and sugar. Or mayo, if you’re not a baker.
    5. I like the various bits but I feel the overall impression is curate’s egg – good in parts.

  14. It’s not a dress I love, but pretty and pleasant enough. I find the sleeves and the bustle the most interesting parts. Wanda/Dawn summed it up well – this isn’t a 75 per cent-er. 7/10

  15. OK, cast stones at me or crucify me, but i love this dress from the day I saw it on pinterest 🙂 The delicate material which was probably only woven for Worth (now that puts our big monogrammed or signed popular street fashion accessories and clothes into a new angle, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you love a dress only to be told by the fabric it’s a professional haute couture – without screaming the designer’s name???) And if the lace is “modern” machine made, it’s probably still the most luxorious one, carefully darned and with the finest motifs, it was still very expensive and the most lavish of the time. The bodice’s structure does worth to be praised too 😀 In brief, whatever Worth did during the bustle era, I’m a fool for it – would I wear it? Absolutely! 😀 10/10

    • Elise says

      No stones cast! Different tastes create a mosaic opinions!

  16. I quite like it too. It has an interesting aesthetic influence going on from the front – even though it is corseted and boned and structured, the front has a certain graceful flow and drape and quietness about it that I respond to. I love the satin gleam and glow on the sleeves and from the back, I think the bustle is fabulous and different and almost deconstructed in a way – it’s like the designer took the massive Centaur style bustle and punched it REALLY HARD in the bum and revealed a really interesting effect which is almost electric and traditional – you can ALMOST see the actual bustle evolution happening before your eyes, like the dress was captured mid-flux and I love that. I also think the fabric is fab. Only thing I don’t like as much is the gathered lace upper bodice/yoke in the back and I’m not altogether sure about the cream sash/satin trimmings which are obviously intended to match the lace but don’t quite sync with the pink. And it is quite muted and doesn’t really knock it 100% out of the ballpark so it’s a 7.5/10.

  17. I love Worth, and maybe I like the son even better than the father… This dress certainly isn’t his best work, but I love the sleeves and the lace draping on the skirt, it has a sort of Greek influence. But I don’t like the bodice and I don’t care for bustles at all. The fabric is beautiful though, and the colour scheme is nice and soft, and the gold makes it luxurious. I think it would’ve looked quite lovely when worn then. A 6,5.

  18. I think I love it? When I saw the front I was sent! But then I saw the back and was reminded somewhat of a settee with plenty of cushions. If it had less bustle I, indeed, would wear it. I love the color, the textiles used and I love the way it was draped. It has a near look of some of the worth’ I’ve seen so perhaps he was trying a little too hard on this one. 8 out of 10 because I think the brocade doesn’t work for the bustle.
    -Krystle 1930slife.blogspot.com

  19. Ari says

    I love it! The colors would look terrible on me but they work well together and presumably with the client. 9.5 out of 10 only lowered by that silly square neckline.

  20. Julia Ergane says

    Uh! No, thank you. He must have had some bad absinthe to put blonde lace with that light rose silk. The only thing I like about the dress is the back, which ups the final rating along with the rose silk fabric. Final rating: 5/10

  21. Love the subtle “underwear as outwear” aesthetic of the front bodice, and love the sculptural bustle. Hate the lace drape across the front. I can see the impulse to pull the lace from the bodice and create a continuation of that theme, but the drape itself turned out awkwardly. Nice try, but not quite there. 7/10

  22. Erin says

    I love it. The sleeves, the bustle (and really, I’m not a fan of bustles) and the kimono-like pleats of fabric down the sides.
    Lovely.
    9.5

  23. Shona says

    I like the colours – but see, I’m a redhead so it would suit me well! And I like most of the design details. Knocking 2 points off because the bustle seems a bit forced. 8/10

  24. Johanne says

    Does anyone else see the Japonisme influence here in the textiles and construction? When I look at the dress, obi sash come to mind. The back equals a 10+, the front lace gathered into the side is perfectly achieved, the bows are overwrought. Remove the sleeve and shoulder bows, and you would have a dress of true elegance made from exquisite material. Conception and execution a bit at war but I love this dress.

    8.5

  25. I’m underwhelmed, and I’m not even sure why. Although when I think about it, for its time, this was pretty out of the ordinary, anticipating the lacy and pastel-y trends that were to come! So I think it should deserve some recognition for that. 7/10?

  26. Amelia Edwards says

    I’ve looked at all the pictures several times and I can’t shake the feeling that something is missing. Overall it’s a nice, stylish dress of the time and if you de-age the color mentally, it would be quite nice. (Even well-preserved textiles do fade and yellow a bit.) But I suspect there was an accessory like a magnificent hat, flowers or maybe a shoulder sash that completed the look.

  27. 10/10

    I absolutely adore everything about this, including the goldish color. Especially the embroidery on the sides. Love it!

  28. mom says

    I love love love this. I’m not a fan of late 19th century “just one more little trimming”-style, but this is beautiful.

  29. I don’t mind it from the front, or from the back, but from the side… Oh dear. I know bustles like that were the fashion, but I’ve seen it done better on other garments. This one just looks clunky and awkward. 5/10

  30. Lene says

    When I first saw this dress, my reaction was: Meh…
    But then I took the time to really look at the details.

    Now I like the sleeves, reaaally like the sleeves. I also fell in love with the back. Both the bustle and the way the bodice and the lace work together.

    What I don’t like is that lace overlay on the skirt front. What’s with that? Sorta halfhearted and not really this or that… And that short overlay of main fabric – looks like an off center apron got mixed in somehow.

    So all in all:
    7/10

  31. HoiLei says

    I like the butterfly bustle, which does indeed (as Johanne says) remind me of a well tied obi. I wonder what kind of interlining or structure was used to support those wings. I also adore the fabric with the feather brocade.

    Unfortunately, I think the abundance of other details detracts from the elegance of the things I like… the lace obscures the brocade; the silly bows on the shoulders detract from the large-scale feathers in the fabric; the bodice has too many pieces. I see a mismatch of scale in the different elements. I think if the dress were made more plainly, letting the main fabric and the structure of the bustle do most of the talking, it would be more appealing to me, but I understand that the fashion of the era would have labeled such a dress as hopelessly unfinished.

    I give it a 4/10 for a great bustle and train, executed with lovely fabric. Unfortunately, the top and front of the dress fail to measure up. It’s not a dress I would want to wear.

  32. letthemeatcake says

    The problem with this dress is that the competition is too tough. I think the 1880s produced some of the most beautiful ball gowns ever and many of them were Worth creations. So this one pales a bit in comparison…but it’s still cute…kind of sunny and sweet. The way the lace is draped over the front of the skirt is rather plain. I’d give it an 8 or 8.5 normally but since this period features so many gorgeous dresses I go down. 7/10

  33. I don’t like bustles, particularly butterfly bustles, well, they’re better than lobster bustles, but since they were in style I can’t deduct for that.

    The first thing that distracted me when I saw this dress was the feathered brocade. The motif is too big. While the fabric is beautiful, I’m not creative enough to figure out how to use it to best effect. The design is too large for the lace, way off balance.

    Somebody goofed up the top edge of the brocaded bodice. It looks like it’s finished with a top stitch. Oh my gosh, that alone cheapens the look of the dress. What a disappointment. It’s hard to believe that the client didn’t point it out when the dress arrived. I wonder how much of the dress was machine sewn? Still, that wouldn’t account for the sloppy finish.

    The sleeves are interesting. I like them. They’re pretty. The fabric provides a kind of lattice work support for the lace and the “v” on the bottom of the sleeves are beautifully done. (see the 2nd photo)

    Are there wide diagonal bands under the draped lace of the skirt? Do those pleats go up the length of the skirt under the bands? I wish there were more detailed photos. It would be interesting to see whats going on there.

    There are nice design elements here, but it doesn’t quite make it. Drat!

    Though it’s out of the question, it would be lovely to see the dress after a good steaming all puffed and prettied.
    Humm, 7/10

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