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Rate the Dress: a dress fit for a duchess?

You didn’t quite warm up to last week’s blonde silk Lanvin frock, declaring it underdeveloped in design an execution, and it came in at a paltry 5.9 out of 10 – quite poor for Lanvin!

Since not-quite-yellow designer wasn’t your thing, this week I present a properly yellow frock, purportedly from the wardrobe of a duchess.

This robe a la francaise of brocaded silk is came from the wardrobe of ‘Lydia Catharine, Duchess of Chandos (m. 1736)’, the third wife of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos.

The gown shows evidence of re-styling common in mid-18th c gowns, as fabric was so valuable that even the wealthiest women often had their frocks re-made to match the current fashions. Lydia died in 1750, so the re-style would have been done by the next owner of the dress.

I’m being fanciful here, but I’d like to believe the next owner might have been the 2nd wife of Henry, the 2nd Duke of Chandos.   Anne (d. 1759), a former chambermaid married Henry in 1744 (coincidentally, only 4 months after the death of the 1st Duke, who might conceivably have objected to his son and heir marrying a maid).  The story of the 2nd Dukes marriage to Anne, if it is to be believed, is quite unusual, and either horribly creepy or quite romantic, depending on how you look at it.

As the Gentleman’s Magazine retold the story a century later in 1832:

The Duke of Chandos, while staying at a small country inn, saw the ostler beating his wife in a most cruel manner; he interfered and literally bought her for half a crown. She was a young and pretty woman; the Duke had her educated; and on the husband’s death he married her.

Oh my, the 18th century, when you could save a woman from an abusive relationship by buying her!  The mind boggles…

It’s equally possible that the next owner was someone entirely random, as the 1st Duke died with enormous debts, and Lydia sold off huge amounts of furniture, artwork, and personal effects to pay for them.

Interestingly, we have single images of three different presentations of the gown, on three different mannequins, with two choices of stomacher to match, to guide our rating.

The gown is generally quite typical of its time, but has some interesting twists – like the curl of the trim which frames the skirt opening, which was part of the inspiration for the trim of my pet-en-l’aire.

What do you think?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

28 Comments

  1. Beautiful interplay of color and design motif. 9 of 10

    What I really covet is the ducal banyan, however. Would so wear that with a black turtleneck and pants

  2. MayravB says

    I quite like it! The colour and print are beautiful. I like it’s lack of flounces and ruffles; it makes the dress look…I don’t know, easier to look at than a lot of 18th century confections. I just am not a fan of the trim. Around the edges of the skirt I don’t mind it, but I find it distracting on the under-skirt. A bit snakes-in-the-garden, which I don’t like. And I find it pulls my eyes down to her skirt instead of up towards her face. But that colour! And the lace at the sleeves! And the green stomacher!

    8/10

  3. Correction: *The evidence of re-styling is common in mid-17th c gowns* I believe you mean 18th century. 🙂

    The gown: I love the gown. The cut is lovely and flattering (except the stomacher which I’m sure is a recreation based on the various pictures). The self trim shows that quite a bit of fabric was used to make the gown and nothing went to waste. The slight hint of a train would make it impossible to wear outside. 🙂

    9/10

  4. This I like, even though yellow is not my color. Though I prefer the green stomacher the dress is shown with in the first photograph, both work well. And though I’m not fond of the meandering fabric trim favored in gowns of this period, the fact that it’s done in self fabric prevents it from looking tacky and excessive. A 9.5 from me.

  5. Rachel says

    I quite like her gentleman friend’s cap and robe combo.

    As for her dress, it’s lovely, and I like that style generally, but this example doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The swirly trim on the skirt feels confused and unnecessary. I like the print/color scheme, but the dress as a whole doesn’t feel very dynamic.

    7/10, which is what I think I gave last week’s. Of the two, this is the more appealing dress, but for me it isn’t as interesting.

  6. I absolutely love this dress. The yellow is fabulous, the fabric is gorgeous, and the proportions are all spot on. It’s simply perfect, and yet, there isn’t anything really striking or out of the ordinary to give it that little extra zing and chutzpah – it’s simply a very lovely example of a quite generic style of robe a la francaise. Oh yes, it’s not dynamic, I just glimpsed what Rachel said above. So it’s a very safe 8/10. Lovable, admirable, just yummy, but at the end of the day, needs a bit more oomph.

  7. Emilia says

    Absolutely stunning. I’m not the biggest fan of yellow, but the versalitity of this dress is delightful and different stomachers give it totally different feels, which is fantastic. 9/10.

  8. I love it, yellow is not my colour, but with the green stomacher it breaks the colour nicely and lifts it to the next level. 9.5/10, would have been 10 if they’d all been shown with the green.

  9. Lynne says

    9 out of 10.

    I really love the colour and the fabric, and the shape is pleasing and proper. I just wish they hadn’t used quite so much of the trim on the front part of the skirt.

  10. Elina G says

    Good enough for a duchess and good enough for me! 10 points.

  11. Lene says

    What dress? Are we supposed to rate the dress? Can’t keep my eyes off of his tea cosy hat, but I would totally rate that one 🙂

    What did me in with regards to the dress, is the squiggly thingamajig center front bottom of the skirt, it looks like a half melted bakery sign (In Denmark, every bakery has one of those hanging over the door)

  12. Etta says

    Lovely, but a little off- the fabric is amazing. 8/10, but the duke gets 10/10!

  13. It’s nice but not amazing. Even in its best presentation (the first picture) it’s not making me swoon. The banyan is amazing. The dress is an 8/10.

  14. It’s a very lovely dress, but something is just missing… it feels a bit flat especially with the yellow stomacher. The green one makes it pop, to use scientific terms but like Daniel said it needs some oomph…I give it a 7.5/10
    (It’s my first time replying to one of your posts, but I’m coming out of lurkdom to let you know you have a huge fan in South Africa :)!

  15. I love the use of yellow in the 18thc (although many shades are dodgy on me, more’s the pity), and the fabric here is delicious. I’m not unreservedly in love with the petticoat trim placement so it gets a point off for that. 9/10

  16. Catherine says

    It’s a gorgeous dress. I feel it really does need a darker stomacher, to move the eyes up towards the face, and I agree with many of the others here in saying that the trim on the petticoat throws me for a bit of a loop, but it’s an interesting and unusual style of trim, so points for that.
    9/10

  17. Karin says

    Personally I couldn’t wear yellow but this dress is very beautiful. The print of the fabric and the simplicity of style is fantastic. I’d give it a 9.

  18. apricots says

    I like the way the bodice comes down into the skirt, but I’m not convinced about the snake pattern on it. 6.5/10.

    Meanwhile, I love that the Duke has apparently matched his robes to the wall panelling. Perfect for hide and seek?

  19. I think I’ll be more on the naysaying side, though still with a decent score… It just doesn’t strike me in any particular way, aside from being decent. 7/10

  20. Julia Ergane says

    This dress is very beautiful. I especially like view 1 (the green stomacher); however, the yellow is also nice. I love the petticoat!!!!! It looks as if is has 2 layers. Yellow is not my favourite colour; but, this looks to be a very clear yellow { not mustardy }. I will rate this dress at 9.5/10

  21. It’s interesting to see it displayed in three different ways. Personally, I would give it a 8.5 out of 10. The color is so very popular in the 18th century, so it’s stylish in its own time, and I think it is tastefully trimmed. Overall, I like it but don’t love it.

    Best,
    Quinn

  22. I like 18th century, and I like yellow, so I’m giving it 9/10.

    The striped banyan, however, gets the full 10/10 from me.

  23. Lori Watk says

    I’m going to quote a bit because a lot of you put it better then I could, so thanks for that and sorry if I offend anyone by quoting them. I glad I didn’t rate last weeks because that would have gotten a 2 at most. So onto the quotes:
    I like it’s lack of flounces and ruffles, so true so very true.
    Cyranetta – Love the idea of the black pants and turtle neck, I can so see that and I bet it would be lovely. The rate went up a few points just for that look and it replaces the drop in rating because of the yellow color. So it worked in the dress’ favor.
    A bit snakes-in-the-garden, which I don’t like. — Thank you, I could not figure out a way to say it until I read your comments.
    Like some have said “I like the green stomacher best.” But I do like the yellow details on the yellow stomacher but not the color.
    I’m not a yellow person, I can’t wear yellow, or red or orange and green is my favorite color I’m going to give it a fairly higher score then I normally would simply because I adore almost everything the duke is wearing, except the striped robe looking thing. Everything else of his I’d wear myself. So the Duke has saved this, I’d give the duke 8 out of 10 and I’m going to give the dress a 7.5.
    Nice to be back. Hope you enjoy your visit with your family in Hawaii.

  24. India says

    Yup – snakes-in-the-garden sums it up. I do like almost everything else about the dressed except perhaps the colour although the green stomacher does wonders for it. Can’t get past those snakes though. 5/10
    ps. Love the banyan though.

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