Rate the dress
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Rate the dress: Red bow redux

Last week we took a break from Rate the Dress to take a look at suffragist fashion in New Zealand.

The last Rate the Dress was an embroidered 1880s dress which received two main reactions: love, because it looked like a film costume in all the right ways, and ‘nice, but somehow not exciting’.  Still, it came in at 8.6 out of 10, so the fans were in the majority!

I posted an 1880s House of Worth dress in pale stone with red bows 7 weeks ago, and it didn’t do particularly well.  So I was fascinated when I found this 1880s dress from the MFA Boston with the same general design scheme:

It’s so similar, but in cotton rather than heavy silk, with soft ruffles and scallops rather than crisp pleats, and as a day dress rather than a reception gown, the overall effect is quite different.

Is it different enough to get a significantly improved (or reduced!) rating?  Would you like it more or less if I hadn’t pointed out the similarities to the other one?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(obviously it could have used a good steaming, as always try not to take presentation too much into account with your rating!)



  1. I’m afraid it’s still a no. I find the basic dress lovely, but the bows make me think that someone was madly decorating the house for Christmas and mistook the wearer for something to be decorated.

    All three -shape, size and color – of the bows I find distracting, but I admit that I can’t think what I would suggest in their stead.

  2. SueAnne says

    I went back to the previous bow dress for comparison, and I think I liked it better. For some reason, silly looking bows seemed more fitting for a reception gown than day wear, possibly because I prefer practicality over dazzle. I gave the other one an eight, but I think this one gets a 7/10. This dress was too plain on its own, but red bows don’t seem to be the answer.

  3. Trying not to let unsteamed cotton interfere with my rating….

    The good news for this gown is that the vivid red bows are symmetrically placed.

    The bad news is that there still isn’t a coherent ornamentation scheme. We have the pretty, unobjectionable but staid lace trim around the neckline, bodice front, and hanging cuffs. Then there’s the blood-red bows dotted around the waist and down the rear of the skirt, and a single, thin red line (embroidery? ribbon?) about 12 inches above the hemline. What’s up with that?

    The cut of the dress, especially the bodice, is nice so 6.5 out of 10. I won’t give a dress with such a disjointed ornamentation scheme more than that.

  4. Bows are annoying as is the red ” line” above the lace near bottom of skirt. It would be “acceptable” with out those.
    As is 6/10

  5. So, I generally love the cream-dark red colour scheme. But those bows at the front waist are just awkward. Generally, it would be preferable if the bows had a function, you know… But then there is the bow at the neck, that’s kind of pretty again. It could be demure in the front, party in the back… So, I guess 8/10.

  6. The colour scheme is pretty and I like the basic dress very much, but those bows look like an afterthought, as though the original owner was ‘updating’ the dress in line with a current trend. That’s no bad thing, but they don’t really fit with the rest of the gown (at least in my eyes!) 7/10

  7. Stéphanie says

    Blech. The dress is lovely and I don’t mind the bows, but together they look like a themed department store Christmas tree. 3/10

  8. This one (aside from the wrinkles) avoids my major problem with the other one, which is the mismatch in textures, but the bows look limp and eh and the narrow stripe across the bottom that doesn’t match anything else in width or style seems a bit random. I give it a 7.

  9. Buttercup says

    Nope, I’m not feeling any love for this dress at all. The hideous fabric, blah colour, Christmas tree bows (really?) and that pointless red line that circumnavigates the bottom of this frothy confection. I doubt if even Pollyanna could find something nice to say about it. 1/10

  10. Tracy Ragland says

    I’m not loving this. The bows and red piping on the skirt distract from the lovely lace and delicate fabric. It looks like a bad Christmas craft store project.

  11. Hearthrose says

    The fabric of the dress is so light and airy, and the fabric of the bows is so heavy, they don’t match. I rather like the color combination, if the bows were 1/10th the size with a bit more red trim here and there, it would get more enthusiasm.

    As is, the bows seem like a heavy afterthought. Did we take a summer frock and put winter bows on for Christmas? Christmas in NZ, which in the summer? It just doesn’t work for me.


  12. Catherine says

    I really like the basic dress, with the scallops and the shape. I think the bows on the wrists are actually cute and the ones on the bustle are inoffensive, though I would have chosen a colour that matched the scallops rather than contrasting. The others are over the top (do i spy a bow on the back of the neck?) and distracting.

    8/10 because I love scallops

  13. Emelie says

    The bows clearly do not fit the dress as is, but without them it would look empty and sad. Now it looks as if someone’s three-year-old was set on decorating it. The positioning of the bows is just awkward, and even with a overall more red theme to the dress, which would make them not stand out as red sores, they would still be awkward. I don’t honestly see an easy way to fix it.


  14. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I actually think it’s even worse. At least the Worth had some randomness which kept it interesting. These bows almost look like fringe, they’re so regimented and precisely placed, and the ecru lace just looks grubby and dirty next to the white cotton.

    Plus, was it REALLY necessary to put almost all the red bows around the waist just so we’re seeing lots of red around that particular area of an otherwise white/dress dress? Very, very questionable taste level there.

    So, basically, we’re looking at a tasteless, unsubtle, badly conceived, dubiously executed, uninspired looking dress that looks like it’s supposed to be the Before look for some 1880s sanitary product commercial, if they had such things then. I’m not even sure that steaming would make it look any better.

    1/10. I don’t often give ratings that low, but this dress is disastrous on so many levels.

  15. nanny norfolk says

    Horrible bows. The dress without them would have been a suitable summer dress. I wonder if the lace was actually cream or maybe a faded red, it’s a funny coloured cream.
    It would have probably been creased then, after all some poor servant would have had to iron it with a flat iron. No non iron fabrics then! Cotton creases easily.

  16. I loved the other one, but this one is kinda meh. While the overall dress is sweet, those bows just attack your eyes from all that sweetness and light. … and no good metaphors from 8am me, so I’ll just rate it and be done.

    6/10 for a lovely dress that would be better with 2 mins of seam ripper love

  17. I love the dress, the fabric, lace, cut, draping, just not those red bows, or the red (it looks purple on my monitor) line near the hem. What a shame, because it really is a beautiful dress. Without documentation we won’t know, but let’s pretend that the red bows were added for some kind of special luncheon: Valentines, Independence Day, a birthday; then I can accept the silliness of them. 6/10 for me.

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