Rate the dress
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Rate the Dress: a field of flowers, 1920s style

Last week I showed you a walking dress in blue cotton, with red accessories and a little twist of the exotic.  While many agreed that the moire yoke was out of place (and then again, some of you loved it), and quite a few of you weren’t sure about the red accessories (but, of course, some of you thought they made it!), the overall reaction was positive but not gushing, scoring the dress a very respectable 8.9 out of 10.

It’s really starting to feel like summer here, so I’m suddenly fixated on light silks, high hems, and florals, hence today’s Rate the Dress pick.

This dress features the very simple silhouette of the early-mid 1920s.  It would be an extremely boring frock, if not for the visual interest of the whimsical embroideries of typical summer flowers: red poppies, blue cornflowers, white daisies, and golden wheat or grass sheaves.

The embroideries are framed with scalloped hems and sleeves, anchoring the patterns with four rows of borderings.

Just for this Rate the Dress, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, and give our frock an accessory, because look at this:

Hat, 1920-25, probably French, straw and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.45.114.4

Hat, 1920-25, probably French, straw and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.45.114.4

What do you think?  Is the dress a good balance of simplicity and pattern?  Do the embroideries and scallops provide the right amount of detail?  And would the hat be just the thing to wear with it, or is it too much?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

43 Comments

  1. I like the hat, a lot, and I see how it goes with the dress. 9 of 10 for the hat, only.

    Unfortunately, I don’t feel as much love for the dress, and this time, it’s the color. The flower embroidery is lovely–not too little, nor too much. The scalloped hems are cute. The shape is simple, but properly fitted to the woman, it would be very flattering, and it would flatter on a number of different figure types. But that particular beige just looks muddy and boring to me. If the silk had been a different neutral color, I might give this dress a 10; as it is, I will grudgingly give it a 7.

  2. I actually like the color as a backdrop to highlight the embroidery (which is remarkable), and I love the scalloped edging.

    The hat adds a wonderfully Phryne Fisher flair.

    9 of 10

  3. Julia Ergane says

    That is just the most gorgeous hat!!!!! It’s absolutely perfect. On my monitor the background looks light grey, which I like very much. Again, I just love those embroidered flowers — slightly bateau neck — the scalloped hem (my mother made me a scalloped hemmed dress when I was in 1st grade, I still remember it). For me this is a perfect afternoon frock, rating 10/10

  4. For the period the dress gets an 8/10. I’m not a huge fan of the 1920s silhouette over all, though. But that hat is perfection itself!

  5. Oh clever! I loved the embroidery but was having a huge Meh about the overall dress because it reminded me of the 1980s does 1920s sack look. It seems unfair to judge a dress for abominations made 60 years later, but nevertheless… and then the Hat!! The hat suddenly made it all work! With the hat it is pure Hitum, delicious.
    So, a 9.5 from me. I can’t entirely condone that odd Rachelle powder shade, but other than that is it yummy.
    Oh and the scallops, with their subtle shading of colours. Yum.

  6. Oh no. Horrid seam at the waist cutting into that fabulous embroidery. THAT BLASTED WAIST SEAM. I can’t articulate how much I HATE HATE HATE that waist seam. Absolutely inexcusable travesty given what it does to the dress. It makes me steam at the ears with absolute fury and want to drag whoever did that out there and beat them with a wet fish for doing something so insensitive and unconsidered.

    The hat is the perfect match. I would love the dress for its gorgeous embroidery and I think the bonkers hat is the perfect match. Not sold on the colour of the dress, but the embroidery is so beautiful and so clear and vibrant against it that I forgive it its beigeness.

    BUT THAT SEAM.

    THAT BLASTED SEAM.

    THAT FRICKEN FRACKEN FROCKING FROGGING FURBELOWING SEAM.

    With a sash so I can’t see the seam, it’s gorgeous and an easy 10/10.

    But seeing that waist seam? FIVE OUT OF TEN. That’s how much I hate that seam and the mismatch and the absolute criminality of whoever thought it was a good idea.

    Oh, OK. Splitting the difference. 7.5/10. A 10/10 ruined by incompetent, shoddy cutting/dressmaking – I assume someone did a cack-handed alteration because I can’t imagine anyone going to all that trouble with all that embroidery only to ruin it like that at the last minute.

  7. Emilia says

    I’m so meh about this. It’s charming. The hat is adorable. But it strikes me as so twee, it’s something they’d stick Lady Edith in to make sure we know she isn’t as glamorous or desirable as Lady Mary on Downton Abbey. It’s a 6 for me. Props to the embroidery, but the twee-ness kills it.

  8. re: MrsC’s comment. I disagree about the effect of the hat on the dress. While I see how the hat’s feathers coordinate with the dress’s poppies, I think the hat would overwhelm this dress, though I agree the hat is splendid in itself.

  9. holly says

    remove the clunky scalloped hem and it would be a 10. The hat is a gorgeous bonus, so points back on.

    7/10

  10. I’m not the hugest fan of the 1920’s, but this is a dress that I would totally wear with a red belt or sash to balance out the intense red of the hat. Oh that hat. It’s simply divine! I give the ensemble a 9/10

  11. OOOH!!! This very much wouldn’t flatter me but it would be brilliant with a sash that matched the ribbon on the hat!

  12. I am not a fan of the shape of the twenties. That being said the embroidery is lovely. The scallops add interesting detail while remaining simple. The hat would match very well except for the color. I think the straw tone would stand out against the more gray tone of the dress. As someone else said the stitch line from a seam or tuck through the center is disturbing. The dress would be nearly perfect with a red or deep burnt orange sash or belt. As it is, 7/10.

  13. Rachel says

    I love the dress. The large fluid designs make it lush and vibrant while still keeping the look uncluttered and elegant. I’d love it even more with a slightly brighter base color, but as it is, I still love it.

    The hat’s a little scraggly with age, but I think that in its time, it would’ve looked great with the dress. It’s splashy and bright without looking silly.

    Overall, the look is light, bright, and summery, but it still looks adult and sophisticated. So I think this is my highest score yet.

    9.5/10

  14. HoiLei says

    I imagine a garden party, with all the attendees wearing beige, taupe, and cream. Everything is lovely, subdued and boring. Then into the room walks this dress. The gentle thinking of crystal stops, everyone inhales deeply, and the party becomes fun!

    8 out of ten. 🙂

  15. I like the 20’s styles most of all styles and this dress is a keeper. I like the length of the sleeves – modern womens clothing tends to have sleeves that are too short – especially for anyone over the age of difficult arms. I also rejoice in that hat – 10/10 for me.

  16. Barbara Stevens says

    Love the dress – but agree with Daniel about the waist seam. I can’t see the purpose of it. I don’t think it’s a tuck because the pattern of the flowers doesn’t follow through. I guess there’s a lost sash or cummerbund out there somewhere, lonely and forgotten.
    The hat is great – and what the dress needs to lift it. So it’s a 10 for the hat and a 9 for the dress – that waist seam loses it the final point.
    And it would take a lot from Lady Mary to outshine Lady Edith in that dress (with sash) and hat.

  17. Lynne says

    Gorgeous fabric, lovely edging to the scallops. And the hat is absolutely perfect.

    If only we could undo that ghastly waist tuck. The dress would look even better a couple of inches longer, too.

    7.5 out of 10.

  18. Grace Darling says

    That is a frock that the Exquisitely Talented Rose F. Kretsinger of the
    Emporia Kansas quiltmakers would have turned to a design for
    one of her floral medallion quilts.

    Very elegant duo.

    10/10

  19. Love it! The embroidery is very pretty and I like the scalloped hems which give it a bit of flair. When you have such a basic dress you need a fab fabric. I actually like the hat with this dress. I think this dress would look a bit silly walking around with no hat. And if you are going to wear a hat, it might as well be fabulous!

    I don’t mind the waist seam as much as some of you. I think having some kind of a waist definition makes a dress generally more flattering although I would probably opt to wear it with a sash for a bit more effect.

    They only thing that I’m not so sure of is the color of the background. It looks rather beige on my monitor and anything that is rather near a skin tone I tend not to like. Unless you wear a skin toned garment way different from your own skin tone, it can look rather odd.

    Overall, I really do like it! 9/10

  20. I am not generally a fan of 20s fashion. I don’t like dresses that make me look like a rectangle. But I had actually previously pinned this dress because I liked it so much. I love the embroidery. I love the scallops at the hem. I love the simple shape. I love the soft gathers at the hips. Even though some people are complaining about the waist seam I think I like it as it provides a bit of waist definition. And I love that hat! I think it matches perfectly. I would wear the whole ensemble in a heartbeat. And I figure that if I would wear it I should give it a good score. I give it a 9.5 with a half point missing only because I wish the beige background was creamier.

  21. I don’t care for the main color of the dress. It seems a bit drab but the embroidery helps liven it up a bit. The addition of the hat is brilliant and that, in my opinion, bumps it up to a 7/10. (I think I’d add a strand of pearls as well.)

  22. Elise says

    Someone said “charming”, and that’s a fair assessment. I was going to like the dress very much, but then saw the hat, and remembered what I wrote the first time I saw the hat. I remember writing about how I wish that the US celebrated Armistice Day/Veterans Day with poppies, because wearing something red on your chest, as if your own heart is bleeding in solidarity, is an important reminder for peace.

    The day this came out was the 10th anniversary of my friend’s brother’s death in Afghanistan. Can you imagine losing a family member? My own husband is in the military. I thought of a country caught up in grinding years of war, and a whole generation without the concept of peace.

    If I had this dress, I would wear it to shreds as a constant reminder to work for peace, and to be extra kind to those who suffered a loss due to war. I’m giving it a 10/10 because I have no such dress or hat.

    Funny how emotions bring out a different reading (and rating) of an outfit. I’m just sad for my friend.

    • Elise says

      shouldertoshouldercampaign.orgEdited to add that there’s a great American website called Shoulder to Shoulder, which aims to end anti-Muslim rhetoric. http://www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org This dress makes me think of how sad it is when hatred turns to violence and war, and that we now have an opportunity for kindness and peace in the face of growing anti-Muslim bigotry. I wonder if the wearer of this political dress was aware of the sad things of her day: the Armenian Genocide, the violence of the Bolshevik Revolution, and of course the senseless death of so many young people in WWI.

    • Elise says

      msf.orgIf you are interested in donating to an agency that delivers aid to those who have grown up around war, I cannot recommend enough Doctors Without Borders. (http://www.msf.org/) We hear in the news about disabled veterans, and veterans so sad that they commit suicide. We must also remember the children in Iraq and Afghanistan (among others) who have never known a country at peace.

  23. I don’t like how the embroidery is used like it’s print fabric. The pattern kind of matches but not enough to actually draw attention to make it look specifically embroidered. (Or actually embroidered at all. The mediocre match-up at the seam makes it look like a naive print.)

    And if you see it as a print dress, it looks like you could find in a contemporary (if slightly upscale) shop. And that usually brings the points down but…

    It’s a 20s dress with poppies in a gray field. It’s a mourning dress, it’s a visual representation of Fields of Flanders.

    In Flanders fields the poppies grow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    It got something that very few RTDs ever have, it has depth. It’s a bit morbid, it’s very sad and it absolutely inaccessible to us what it meant to wear this dress and to go into public places wearing this dress in the early 1920s.

    Whoever designed this dress, was a poet. 10 out of 10.

    • Elise says

      Thank you so much for talking about the WWI aspect. I hit it a little bit on my post, but I think I’m still a little too emotional to write eloquently, or to think of anyone other than myself. This dress really must have been a STATEMENT to everyone in the early 20s, and people may have reacted to it then, as I reacted to it, now. More so.

    • And then, some of us think of Miss Mapp going about in her outfit trimmed with appliqué chintz poppies….

      • Elise says

        You are wonderful. I did come back here to see if there were other comments on the dress after the political and historical turn. And you are wonderful.

  24. I actually like the dress. To a certain extent. I would probably add a red sash, and definitely the hat, and then I would like it a lot! The embroidery makes it more than simple, but still delightfully pleasing to the eye.
    8 out of 10

  25. I’m going to be honest here, at first glance I was not fond of it. I love every aspect of it individually (the embroidery, the shape, surprisingly even the main color!), but when put together it takes a little while to get used to. The longer I look at it though, the more I seem to like it.
    After really looking at it, I’ve decided this is the kind of dress that would look better on a human than on a mannequin. The stark white from the mannequin affects the look of the main color of the dress, and that’s throwing me off a bit. If put on a real, live person, I think it would be quite pretty. I believe a blue hat in the color of the cornflowers would be a better choice, but I do like the red hat!
    I also think that the idea of it as a visual representation of the Field of Flounders adds to the dress’ growing appeal. From a 1920’s standpoint I believe the statement it would have been astonishing, and from a modern view I find it poetic and touching.
    All of this in mind, I believe I’d have to give this dress a 7.5/10.

  26. Love the dress without explanation, it’s not too overdone but has exquisite details. The multicolor scallops are divine. Reading all these comments makes it even better- I love the extra depth that the poetry gives to this. Fashion history is social history, sometimes in a language we no longer speak. Thanks for translating!!

    10/10

  27. I rarely like 1920s fashion the silhouette always seems really dowdy to me. That said I do like the embroidery and fabric of this dress. I don’t like the hat. 4/10 because the fabric could be fantastic – as anything else!

  28. 9/10, I’m slightly bothered by the background colour, because it seems a tad too greyish, but otherwise I love its vibrant simplicity. It’s the sort of dress that would immediately lift my mood by several degrees if I encountered it in the street!

  29. I like the flowers, but not the background colour or the scalloped hem (I don’t mind the scalloped sleeves, but the hem is a bit too much). 6/10

  30. Lucille says

    The concept of the dress has merit- the embroidery looks just like a field of wildflowers. But that ground color- it simply throws me off.

    In moss green? Lovely!

    In black? Lovely!

    In cream or white? Lovely!

    In vaguely brownish gray? Bleh.

    And I do agree about the seam- beautiful, beautiful embroidery SHOULD NEVER BE TREATED LIKE A PRINT! And it may even be hand embroidery. That took a year to make. Cut up like a common print.

    But since the embroidery is amazing, and the hat is flamboyantly fabulous, 6/10.

    3.5 points off for the ground color, 1.5 off for the seam (because someone had to point it out for me to notice it, so it can’t be quite so bad of an eyesore) and 1 point added for the hat.

  31. Lyn Swan says

    I know that this RTD is history as we are already on to another. I missed the past two and am just now catching up. That said…I love this dress as it is indeed something that I would wear. I am one of those odd people who like taupe, it is my favorite neutral. I love embroidery, and love poppies. I didn’t even notice the seam at the waist until reading Daniel’s post. Honestly, thought that it was a two piece outfit with a skirt and overblouse which would explain the slightly off non-matching. Points have been tallied so this is moot, but I would have give it a 9/10.

  32. bovine queen says

    Wow. R is brilliant! Of course this is a WWI comment….(I LOVED the dress and hat before I read her comment, but she instilled the MEANING in the dress!). I am so glad I visit this site….

    ….makes a drab and morose pre-Christmas day in the Midwest much better!

  33. bovine queen says

    ooops, forgot to rate this…10 out of 10 for me!

    and thank you Marlena Jane for an insightful and lovely response.

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