Sometimes choosing garments for Rate the Dress is really hard, and I pick dud after uninteresting dud. Sometimes I find it so easy to find interesting frocks – whether fabulously interesting, or awfully interesting. Let’s see if this week’s chiné a la branche themed pick can continue the streak of compelling dresses.
Not everyone loved last week’s pick, but it definitely seemed to have struck a chord with a goodly percentage of the readership. Only one score was less than an 8, and a whopping 54% of the votes were perfect 10s.
The Total: 9.2 out of 10
This week: a ca. 1820 dress re-made from 18th century chiné a la branche*
Since green was so popular last week, I thought I’d keep with the green theme. I’ve also stuck with the idea of a dress that is both visually cooling, and warm and cozy.
*wondering what chiné a la branche is? Read my terminology post on it and find out!
This ca. 1820 dinner dress has been re-made from an earlier late 18th century dress. The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds not just this dress, but an earlier bodice, and even earlier sleeves. This suggests that the fabric had been unpicked and re-made numerous times. It’s an excellent indication of the quality of the chiné a la branche silk, and of how valuable fabric was in the 18th and early 19th century.
The dresses hues are quite spring-like, which might seem incongruous with the long sleeves and padded hem of the dress. The hem is a functional feature. It holds out the skirt’s fullness, and providing structure while keeping the skirts away from the wearer’s legs. The long sleeves probably had more to do with societal rules around when arms could be covered then a specific desire to add significant warmth.
The fabric’s colours, with the soft sage green ground, and pink and grey accents, are very late rococo in feel. The vertical stripes, and subdued patterning, bridge the design gap between the froth of rococo and a more orderly neoclassical style. The final iteration of the fabric, with its full skirts, shell trimmed hem, and elaborate sleeve and neckline detailing, is very Romantic era in its design sensibilities.
Even as the dress looks towards the romantic era, it balances order and extravagance. The shell effect at the hem are soft and naturalistic, the bodice trim more orderly and geometric.
What do you think? Does this dress successfully bridge the three design eras is owes its aesthetic to? Does it balance romance and orderliness, spring and winter, restraint and extravagance?