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Rate the Dress: A lady in red, Worth style

Last week I showed you a mid 18th c dress in yellow floral brocade with a link to a very interesting story (which, interestingly, not a one of you commented on!).  You generally found the dress extremely nice, with a few reservations in regards to the petticoat trim, but only one of you loved it enough to give it a 10, so rated it an 8.4 out of 5.  I wonder if the duke’s banyan would have done better!

For this week’s Rate the Dress I’m staying with the 18th c and 18th c inspired theme, with a Charles Worth reception dress that is a prime example of the way 18th c fashions influenced 1880s styles, so much so that we often don’t notice the influence, because it became part of the standard 1880s dress vernacular.

This ensemble, either in deep, rich wine reds, or classic tomato reds, depending on which picture you believe, features lace cuffs on the elbow-length sleeves that are a very obvious nod to 18th c engageantes.  Further lace and beaded or metallic lace trim spilling down the front bodice invokes a stomacher.   The echoing line of trim on the skirt is a purely Victorian flourish, but the bustled overskirt and pleated underskirt are distinctly reminiscent of a mantua.

What do you think? Will this bit of Victorian borrowing do better than Lanvins from a fortnight ago, and the duchess from last week?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

34 Comments

  1. Tracy Ragland says

    I absolutely love this dress! It is embellished tastefully and the color is scrumptious! 10/10

  2. Ari says

    10/10 I always love Worth. I think the second set of photos might be slightly over-exposed to bring out the texture, but I’m no photography expert.

  3. I have some reservations about the deep vee of heavy trim on the front of the skirt, but otherwise I think this is exquisite–dramatic and tasteful at the same time. A 9 out of 10.

  4. Heather says

    I love this! The way the v of trim on the skirt ethos the v of the bodice is very fetching. NGL though, between the historicism and the red, this reads a bit like something that a vampire born in the 18th century would wear in the 1880s. 10/10

  5. Lynne says

    I prefer the richer red of the second lot of photos to the wine, and the V on the front of the skirt does not please me. But the back is really beautiful, and the bodice and sleeves are very pleasing. I also really like the little ruffles underneath the train.

    8 out of 10.

  6. Buttercup says

    Simply beautiful. So elegant and refined. It is just lovely.

  7. Gillian says

    This is perfection and I want it. (I hope it’s really that deeper wine-red, as that goes better with my complexion, but both are lovely!) 10/10. Anything that gets an involuntary and audible gasp on first viewing deserves that 😉

  8. Charlotte says

    Worth is worth a 10/10! I think I’ve only ever seen one Worth dress I didn’t adore…

  9. Rachel says

    This is lovely. The shape is lovely. Either color is lovely. The bodice is lovely. The skirt is lovely. The train is lovely.

    There’s something disappointingly stiff and unimaginative about the skirt decoration.

    Still, it’s simple, striking, and gorgeous.

    9/10

  10. Laurie says

    Beautiful. Was it dyed red with vermillion or acid dye at that date?

  11. Stunning colors and beautifully constructed, but I must concur with the majority that the “V” trim on the skirt does not please. It almost give the impression that the seamstress had a lot left over and just wanted to get rid of it .

    Still, 8 of 10.

  12. MayravB says

    The shape is beautiful! I love LOVE the two Vs of trim; it’s so bold! I love the dark red with the hardness of the trim and then the lacy bits. Rather evil looking, in a cool villainous way. I have to say that dark red damask always reads as upholstery fabric to me, but the dress just wouldn’t be as striking in a different colour. 9.5/10

  13. Julia Ergane says

    This is definitely influenced by late 17th through 18th century design. I love it, especially the colour. 10/10 for me

  14. Catherine says

    This is fabulous – in either colour! I think that what really needs to happen for it to be perfect, for me, is to add a bit more fullness to the skirt at front. It’s looking really flat, and I don’t think that’s all the fault of the V, but not quite flat enough for it to look like a design feature.
    8.5/10

  15. I have no problem with the V at the front the skirt, it gives the eye something to hold onto and it beats a big expanse of nothing or some droopy ruffle. Funnily enough I really and truly prefer the tomato color version and hope it’s the real one because it is a 10 and the wine-colored one is not.

    That might be part of the presentation and the photography – the tomato gown’s silk is reflecting the light beautifully and the dummy has personality and a good hairstyle while the wine one’s silk looks dull and the dress hangs limp on a glorified clothing hanger. Anyway, 10 out of 10.

  16. Kristine says

    This is the third in a row from the MFA collection! I wish the routinely did more costuming exhibitions, I think it would be wonderful to see in person. I like the references to older fashion, the lace at the elbow is elegant and draws the eye to the waist which is also highlighted by the trim. The lace on the collar frames the face nicely as well. The trim on the skirt adds to the whole silhouette, making her hips look lusciously wide but making a long lean line at the same time. I’m going through a very feminine gender conforming phase right now and finding this exaggerated femininity very attractive. However, the black trim on the skirt is also a bit heavy to my eye, and the train seems like just a bit too much to drag around behind her, even on short walks for a carriage to a dinner table. 8/10 for me.

  17. The beading is a bit exaggeratedly anatomical, isn’t it? Add to this drapery which looks a bit “skirt caught up in drawers” in behind and this becomes a bit Dignity and Impudence.

    To be honest, I think this has the same issue as last week’s dress in that it is really nice and lovely, but it doesn’t have the requisite oomph/zing – even if people are undoubtedly going “WORTH OMG WORTH OMG WORTH AMAZING ELEVENTY TEN OUT OF ELEVETY TEN TO GRYFFINDOR COS ITS WORTH” I’m going to give it 7/10 which is a bit less than I gave last week’s dress because, well…. there are unfortunately cheeky (HA! Unintentional pun!) implications from back view and even worse implications from front view with all the well, dark, hairy-looking, fringey beading. Sorry not sorry.

    One just hopes the original wearer wasn’t called Fanny, because then one might suspect she annoyed Worth and he designed this dress especially for her. I shall now thereafter think of this as Worth’s Fanny Dress.

    • Kathryn says

      Hahahahah! This comment is everything! The V trim down the front quite literally spells it out for us doesn’t it?

      The dress can have an 8/10 from me (for the bright red version, which is just a fantastic colour) but your comment, Daniel, gets an eleventy ten.

      • Kathryn says

        And I won’t comment on the wine-coloured photograph, because all I can ever think of when I see that shade of red/burgundy is my Grandma’s 1989 Crown Victoria.

  18. I love it precisely because it is so 18th century. I’m not at all fond of Victorian fashion, but the lace details, the beautiful fabric (I love the rich tomato red much more than the dull wine, so I hope that’s the true colour) and the stomacher-shaped bodice are what make this dress beautiful to me. I don’t like the V-shaped trim on the skirt although I do see what it was meant to do- emphasize the shape of the bodice. Over all it’s a very elegant and beautiful dress, so a 9/10!

  19. The dress is lovely. From the color (either color way is nice, so it doesn’t matter to me which one is correct), to the lace, it is a beautiful dress. The one thing that bothers me about the design is the heavy metallic lace V down the front. I know it echoes the line of the bodice, but I think that could have been managed in a more delicate way. The metallic lace just looks clunky on the skirt unfortunately.

    7 out of 10

  20. It’s beautiful in the back. Stunning! But turned to face one it’s really off-putting. Leave the front alone, free of the beaded trim, with its lovely lace and scallops and scrummy redness. 8/10 would’ve gained my full favour had it been without trim. I still love Worth, my king.

  21. Emma says

    I really dislike the trim. It’s way too heavy and makes everything look unbalanced. I’m unsure what is going on with the front of the skirt (why is there a triangle shape for the trim to sit on?) but I don’t like that either. I’m also not fond of the very pointed bodice or the two shades of red (either alone would be fine but not together).

    I love the lace, the shape of the neckline, the sleeves, the bustling at the back and the layers of fabric and lace peeking out under the fabric of the train. I also really like the colours (although not together).

    Unfortunately, despite all the things I like about it, the trim is the first thing I see when I look at it and that takes off points 5/10

  22. I like this dress! i love the front view more… the back looks wedgie-like to me, that’s quite unfortunate. I preder the wine colour more than the tomato, but its probably just my dislike of super bright red. The embellishments aren’t too much, and the cuffs and neckline are super pretty and feminine and flattering and the silhouette is gorgeous too! I give it 8/10

  23. Grace Darling says

    Something about the trim would make me nervous to be around machinery
    with moving parts….

    Big yuk! 3/10

  24. Lori Watk says

    I’m sorry to say that there are dresses made by Worth that are delicious and others I go UGGGGHHHH! So that being said, I really hope its the Wine-Red color rather then that tomato red.
    I adore the lace on the sleeves and the collar but not the beading/lace down the front.
    I’d love to give it a 9 but I simply can’t in all fairness, I have to give it an 8. I like most of it, just not all of it.

  25. ProfessorBats says

    As usual, the gown betrays Worth’s history and ties with fabric manufacture: the fabrics are droolworthy in themselves. I’m always so impressed when I get to touch a fragment of antique silk ribbon or fabric (I would not dare touch a full extant piece like this without gloves, fear not!). I truly believe we don’t make this quality anymore, even in couture. Sad.

    Anyhow, the dress. I do like the beading on the front. I feel like much of the resistance to it may lie in our modern esthetics. This is the 1880s playing at being 18th c, and a profusion of beads and other heavy trims was de rigueur. The back is so elegant. The front is bold and has personality, especially matching the bolder vibrant red. The trim helps elongate the wearer’s figure. It would also have balanced the skirt, all that bustled brocade at the back is bound to be heavy. Skirts that pull to the back and uncomfortable, and the front hem wants to pull up and out: not good. The beaded trim would keep the front close to the figure and balance the weight. I may have preferred the beading without the thin stringy fringe. No fringe, just bead fringe, or perhaps a silky chenille fringe? My only other minor problem is the beading on the bodice, I feel like it ends very abruptly at nipple height (this lady was very naughty indeed). It may have worked better for me if it tapered out along the fancy scallop neckline.

    9.5/10

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