Historical Sew Fortnightly

Rate the Dress: green on green on green in the 1860s

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Please feel free to not like today’s selection, or any other garment that I present, but make sure that expressing your dislike doesn’t become an excuse to insult other people.  You can tear it to shreds sartorially speaking, but please take care that your comments do not attack any of the other commenters, and do not cast aspersions on any group that may choose such garments.  It’s fine to not like something, but make sure that you respect other people’s choice to feel differently.

We’ve had some very amusing take-downs of garments over the years, and that’s not an issue (and even better, hilarious – the “I’m pretty sure that Worth’s cat stepped in a puddle of ink and walked across this sketch and then the seamstresses did their best to interpret those splodges as an actual design” is still my favourite), but lately there have been a lot of “Ugh, what sort of colour-blind cretin would like that?” comments (which you haven’t seen, because I’ve deleted them), and that is NOT OK.

Right.  Last week.  Yellow Liberty of London Aesthetic gown.  Divisive.  Some lovers: warm yellow, relaxed, cosy.  All very good!  Some not-so-sure-ers: too-plain T-shirt-y interior, weird collar.  Some total dislike-ers: the 1960s & 70s ruined these colours and silhouettes for us forever.  Funny how something that happened later can totally change how you perceive the original, isn’t it?

Despite the all-over-the-place scores, the outfit still managed a respectable 7.4 out of 10.  Not too bad!

For this week’s Rate the Dress we’re going from yellow to green, and from counter-culture to conventional.

This 1860s day dress from the Musées départementaux de la Haute-Saône has some age damage, and definitely hasn’t been displayed to its best advantage, but please look past those in your judgement, and consider the garment as it would have been on a woman 148 years ago.

This day dress features the typical silhouette and ornamentations of the late 1860s, worked in green silk with a tone-on-tone floral pattern, with trims of plain or moire silk in the same apple-green shade, as well as in a darker pine green, with darker green buttons to match, and lace collars and cuffs.

The dress is just beginning to foreshadow the back-heavy silhouette of the 1870s, but the trimmings of the dress are very much moving away from the simpler lines of the 1860s to the elaborate decorations that would be paired with the 1870s bustle.

In an earlier 1860s dress the dagged crenelated trim would probably have been flat surface trim on the expanse of skirt: here it is a separate ruffle, adding three dimensional interest to the design.  The side bow in the same plain or moire silk as the band holding on the ruffle is another element that moves away from the strict symmetry of mid-decade styles.

While the dress, with its wide crinoline, constricting bodice, and lavish use of fabric, is impractical from a modern standpoint, its lack of train indicates that it was actually meant to be a reasonably practical dress.  You can imagine it worn with a hat (perhaps one of the new tilted bonnets) and a parasol, out for a stroll along the promenade.

What do you think?  Will you like all-green better than all-yellow?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


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