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Rate the Dress: a paisley tea gown

Last week’s rate the dress was a probably-by Callot Soeurs gown in what-do-we-call-this-bronze-blush-champagne with intricate embroidery.  A few people weren’t so enthusiastic, but most of you loved the dress – so much so it’s going to get a bit polygamous, because a number of us are in line to marry it.  (me too!).  The final rating was 9.3 out of 10.

I’m currently obsessing over paisley, because I’m giving a talk on Paisley at CoCo, so this week’s Rate the Dress is on-theme.  In fact, it manages to combine paisley with another one of my obsessions: tea gowns.

This tea gown is an example of a mid-century paisley shawl which has been re-made into a fitted garment.  This practice was very common from the late 1870s onwards, as shawls fell out of fashion as bustles came in, but the actual shawl fabric was still valued.

Though paisley shawls of the 1860s were ENORMOUS, they still don’t contain enough fabric to make a full trained tea gown, so the dressmaker has combined the wool shawl with muted lavender taffeta, which forms the front of the gown, and an inset train.

The lavender front of the gown features gathered smocking at the waist and neck, in a nod to the Aesthetic fashions which were so often associated with tea gowns.

So, how does this rate as an example of paisley, re-use and a tea gown?  Does it manage to combine elegance and comfort?  And how do you feel about the match of the lavender and the warmer tones in the shawl?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. MayravB says

    I really like the smocking at the waist and neck! It makes me think of the simple raglan sew-an-elastic-at-the-waist-and-neck dresses that are so popular, but a more elegant finish. I think the re-use of the shawl and combination with new fabric is a really nice idea, and executed well. However. I really don’t like the yellow-green tones in the shawl with the lavender fabric. It looks makes the dress look faintly nauseated to me. And I don’t like the addition of the lace at the back. It makes it look like patch-work.
    8/10 for the main idea, but minus 1.5 for looking like it ate something off and needs to lie down.


  2. Although I love the tones of paisley fabric, I’m not really fond of the gown overall. The lavender doesn’t really seem to me like it coordinates very well but was just snatched off the shelf because there was enough of it, and I really dislike the appearance of the back. The oversize lace motif combined with the inset train (which seems to contrast too much with the main body) makes it look like someone overset a pitcher of lavender cream.

    The smocking to shape the bodice looks skillfully done

    I have to give this a 6.0

  3. Rachel says

    I like dresses where it looks like one dress is emerging out of another – there’s something very interesting about such stark contrast being in one garment.

    The lavender underdress feels very modern, and I like how the folds and the simple waist give it a structure that feels relaxed and natural. The paisley overdress, while a gorgeous ex-shawl, feels stiff and fusty by comparison. The two halves of the dress seem to undercut, rather than enhance, each other.

    The more I look at it, the more it grows on me, and there’s definitely a lot I like. But while it balances formality and casual at-homeness, it doesn’t quite work for me as a whole.


  4. I like the paisley fabric and in theory I like what they’ve done with it, but somehow I’m not totally sold on the final product. The lilac train really doesn’t do it for me; I get that they had a limited amount of shawl to work with, but I really think the train would have been better in paisley. In general I would have been inclined to use a different colour for the lilac parts. Maybe cream or even orange, provided it was the right kind of orange. 7/10

  5. I love this tea gown! It certainly looks comfy and warm, like something to hang out on the sofa in during the winter. And the lavender nicely picks up on the lavender in the patterned area, plus is rather unexpected as a solid color choice on first glance. Yup, I’d wear it. 10/10 as there is nothing I would change.


  6. Lalaith says

    The colours really don’t match. I shall have to give this a 3/10.

  7. Karin says

    I think it looks very comfortable and stylish. Really like the smocking. Great re-use of the shawl! 10/10

  8. Elise says

    I was in line for marriage, first!

    As for this dress, I love the effort, but find the execution wanting. If only the shawl were used in the bodice, then gathered into the train (rather than the purple), similar in style to a late 17th-century mantua!

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