I think I may have slightly cheated with last week’s 1900s blue silk Rate the Dress. Apparently I described it so thoroughly, and detailed all it’s good points so eloquently, that I convinced some of you to like it even if you might not have otherwise.
I definitely enjoyed writing about the dress, but I wasn’t consciously trying to make you like it. Ironically, I only think it’s OK! It definitely doesn’t make my heart go pitter-patter as a whole. It did make (almost all) of your hearts go pitter-pattern though – or, more accurately, skip a beat. Claire dubbed it the swoon dress!
The total: 9.3 out of 10
This week: a ca. 1845 ball gown
For this week’s rate the dress I’ve chosen a ca 1845 ball gown in classic white.
“Oh no, not another one of those!” might well be your instant reaction. After all, aren’t all 1845 ball gowns much the same? Yes, maybe…
However I think this one has enough interesting design details to merit your consideration. And that’s even without the very unusual inclusion in the skirt embroidery.
(everyone madly scrolls down to see it)
As noted, this is in most ways a classic ca 1845 ball gown. It has a fitted bodice, with front point and pleated bertha assisting the illusion of a tiny waist. The pointed waist is further highlighted by an edging of gold passementerie. Another line of gold passementerie connects the bertha and point, drawing the eye down the the vertical lines of the organza overskirt.
The weight of the gold trim at the waist and down the front of the bodice is balanced by gold fringing and passementerie on the multi-layered cap sleeves, which further draw the eye away from the waist, and add to the impression of a wide bust, and small middle.
The sleeves are decorated with delicate polychrome and gold embroidery, which is echoed in the ruffle that peeks out from the bertha and frames the wearers décolletage and face.
More elaborate variations of the same vining floral embroidery decorate the organza overskirt, framing the front opening, which reveals a hint of the taffeta underskirt.
The dress at this point would still be…
“You know that 1845 ball gown with the gold trim and vining floral embroidery?”
“Which one? I can think of half a dozen that might fit that description”
…were it not for the rather amazing turn the embroidery on the skirt takes.
On either side of the skirt hem the gold border branches out into Arabic script. (as identified by the museum). Why? What does it mean?
I don’t know the answers to either of those questions, but it probably indicates that the fabric for this dress was embroidered in India, by a (almost certainly) Muslim embroiderer, or in the Ottoman Empire, or by an embroider in Italy with familiarity (for whatever reason) with Arabic. The first seems most likely to me, given India’s long history of supplying textiles for the Western market, but Italy’s proximity to the Ottoman Empire, and trade links, do make the other two options possible as well.
I have so many questions about this dress and why it was made based on the fabric. Was the fabric made for the dress, or re-purposed from another item? What does the writing mean? Did the original wearer understand it? What about other people who saw it worn? What did they think
And then I have the usual question which stands completely apart from the Arabic embroidery. What do you think of the dress on a sartorial level? Would it stand out from other gowns at a ball, and enhance the wearers charms? Would you have found it compelling without the unusual addition to the embroidery? Or is it still a boring white ca. 1845 ball gown, just like all the others?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10
(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5. I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it! Thanks in advance!)