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Rate the Dress: pleats, bows & lots of sparkles

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

I started the Rate the Dress party-frock-a-thon with an orange dress, and it felt right to finish it up with the same colour.  It’s not usually a favourite colour, but the first one was a smashing success.  Can this week’s pick rival it?

Last week: a House of Worth Robe à transformation in red velvet

Red velvet was always going to be pretty popular, and the ratings and comments did not disappoint.  There was a veritable sea of “ooooh” and swooning (and two outlying ‘nopes’).

There was a bit of a divide in those who preferred the draped bodice, and thought the evening bodice looked like a forced exercise in using the lace, and those who thought the day bodice was unrelieved or contrived, and the evening bodice incredibly clever and spectacular.

I’m one who didn’t love the evening bodice at first glance, but the more I looked at it up close, the more it grew on me.  There were some incredibly clever features that were really struggling to show in the photos.  I think it would have been very striking on a real person, but wasn’t shown to its full effect on the mannequin.

The Total: 9.3 out of 10

Oooh, still can’t quite beat that first orange dress, or the 1860s ballgown!  But anything over 9 is killing it in RTD!

This week:

I always associate New Years with the 1920s and 30s, so found a frock from the era to ring in the New Year of Rate the Dress with.

It’s amazing to think that this week’s frock, with its simple silhouette, scant 2 metre fabric usage, and hem that sits just below the knee, is just a generation removed from last week’s red velvet ensemble.

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Last week’s frock was for playing the gracious hostess at a holiday gala – mingling and chatting, perhaps performing an operatic carol or two.  This week’s frock is for her daughter to kick her heels at a New Years eve dance, the pleats swishing, and the extravagant bow swirling about.

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

The pleats are a clever design feature, keeping to the fashionable straight silhouette, while allowing the wearer movement and ease.  In a sketch or poor quality photograph they could easily be mistaken for fringe (which was used on 1920s frocks, though nowhere near as often as its ubiquitous usage in cheap costumes and the popular image of the 1920s would suggest).

Evening Dress, Yteb, silk, sequins & metallic thread, 1926, The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Other than the pleats, the dress uses no straight lines, and it contrasts symmetry and asymmetry at every point to create visual motion, even on a mannequin.  On a moving person the gold lamé of the lower skirt and sequins of the bodice, would shimmer and sparkle with the slightest move, creating the impression that the wearer was perpetually dancing.

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

(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!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

27 Comments

  1. Carol Ortery says

    At first glance I found the bow stuck on the hip clashing and irritating. I love the dress. The beading and sequins are gorgeous and would be sparkling in the lights as she danced. The pleated lamé skirt would flare out and swing. The tails of the bow would be flying. It is a dress made for dancing in. But the bow still is too dark and heavy for the dress. I would like it much better if it also had stripes or swirls of sequins. So because of that plain bow instead of a 10 it is a 9.5.

  2. Emma says

    What a fabulous dress. I don’t like the bow but everything else is just perfect.

    9.5/10

  3. Heather says

    I adore 1920s evening wear even though it doesn’t look flattering on many body types. I’m in love with the pleated lame skirt. and the beading and sequins on the bodice. I’m not sure I love the bow though, it needs a little something else to match the beauty of the rest of the dress. 9/10

  4. Heather says

    At first look, I thought the bow was a weird shade of red, and didn’t like it all all. But after looking at the other images, and seeing its actual color, it grew on me. It’s an elegant touch to a fun dress. I like this one a lot, it would have stood out in a crowd, and been so much fun to dance in. I like the shoes paired with it in the photos.

  5. Lynne says

    Another absolute gem of a dress! You are testing my discrimination in the upper levels of scoring! It’s like marking essays – you really want to read them all before you award any marks, or you find you’ve raved about perfection, and then someone does even better.

    The colour – wonderful. The embroidery – beautiful. The silver pleating – brilliant! I love several things about it, one being the irregular edge to the pleating, so that it blends up into the embroidery. It has the look of a Roman soldier’s uniform, in a glorious feminine way. It must have been wonderful to dance in, though I bet a few people stood on the end of that bow.

    Love it.

    10 out of 10. Again.

  6. Oh my, the transition from pleats to curves had me right there. I adore such things!I too was not loving the bow but when I mentally removed it, I could see that it needed to go back on again. It is in every way utterly exquisite. Such dresses make me want to recreate them.
    10/10

  7. Stunning! I love the color, the beading, the metal pleats, all of it. Except for the bow on the side, which is too long, too matte in texture, and the wrong shade of orange, in my opinion.

    9 out of 10.

  8. The dress is glorious, and the pleats and embroidery spectacular.

    The bow, however, looks like some sort of exotic bird that came in for a landing, and I wish it would fly off again.

    Still, for the splendor of the rest of it…9 of 10

  9. Nannynorfolk says

    As others have said a lovely dress, but oh that awful bow, reminds me of a over large handkerchief tucked in school knickers . So because of the bow and its irritating effect
    8.5/10

  10. ceci says

    I wonder if the bow is a later substitution for something wonderfully sparkly and sheer? I hope so.

  11. Tegan says

    Unlike a few others, I love even the bow! The pleats are out of this world, and while I dont care about sequins, the bodice certainly is party dress material. But that asymetrical bow is so charming and so au courant for the era. Ive yet to make a gown where the hip sash felt as Right as the extant gowns.

    10/10 for a perfect party dress

  12. Jean says

    I luv everything about it except the bow,a little more glitz would b better

  13. Sam Sam says

    Wow, you’re pulling out some gorgeous dresses here.

    I love the beading and the asymmetrical dropped waist, I also like how the pattern of the beading subtly defines a more natural waist. I also don’t like the rather large, droopy bow though.

    8.5/10

  14. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Another awesome dress! Totally mid 1920s glamour girl, the bees knees and the cat’s pajamas.
    BUT
    Even if the bow and the bodice still matched (I’m assuming they were the same color when the dress was new) it does nothing for the dress hanging there like a limp sort of parasitical life form. Needs to be perkier and with a bit of glitter to work with the dress.

    9.5 (because of the bow)

  15. I like it a lot but also feel the bow is a bit… not gelling right? I’d be afraid to step on it, and as such it’s less organic than a full-on train. I think that’s my problem with it.
    The rest though, imagined with just a tad shorter a bow? Fabulous. Those pleats combine with the sequins beautifully.
    9,5/10

    • P.S. Also, that manequin needs better shoes to go with it. 🙂 (That’s not a disparagement of the manequin, just an attempt to get the full picture.)

  16. Anna says

    Wow. That’s breathtaking. The bow doesn’t really work for me, but the rest is amazing.

    9/10

  17. Lucia Cochrane-Davis says

    Fun, sparkly, and I love the gold pleats. Would have been brilliant for dancing in!
    I hate dropped waists, but I can’t very well take off points for that.
    Slightly dubious about the monstrous bow, though, so 9/10

  18. Crumpled Rag says

    I love the top half of the dress, the orange with the silver decoration is splendid, I think the bow would work better if it had a few sparkles, and was a little shorter, but that would be easy to adjust. The part I don’t like is the silver skirt, although I understand how the creator came to that idea, I don’t think it works in practice, the pleats mean it always looks untidy, unless you are standing completely still. It would probably also look fine whilst actually dancing, but most dancefloors don’t have enough space for it to fly out and show the dual colour to good effect.

    7/10

  19. Rachel says

    As much as I love the mid-20s, sometimes the dresses can end up looking a little routine – oh look, here’s a shimmery metallic overdress, and there’s some spangles, and look we plopped something big and decorative on one shoulder and put something else down on the other hip, voila. For all their variety, they can start to feel as redundant as any Regency frock.

    But not this dress. This dress is dynamite. This dress is everything good about the period. Lose the bow? No, it becomes too tidy. Add a shoulder corsage? Overkill. Lose a single detail of the metallic silver? Never! I also love Lynne’s insight that it has a surprisingly Roman-armor look to it that still completely works (but is a lot more unusual than classical Grecian or stola-like draping).

    10

  20. Melissa says

    I love the combination here. I recognize that others have felt like the large bow needs some embellishment to fit with the rest of the dress, but I suspect that would have weighed down the bow overall, as it appears to be made of silk chiffon, something that would move and drape beautifully with each movement, particularly while dancing. I’ll bet it flies up and out in a most satisfying way while twirling. I’d rate it 9/10 for its edginess and the how everything blends together.

  21. Vancouver Barbara says

    Love the colours, the glitter and the bow. The bow seems necessary. Seems to be a perfect dress for dancing in a hot climate. 10 from me.

  22. Bridget Clancy says

    I’m not always the biggest 1920s fan -sometimes the straight silhouette can look frumpy or austere. This though… oh, yes. The pleated skirt relieves the austerity of straight lines. The jaunty asymmetry of the bow really works here as well. I love the metallic underbodice visible through the sheer orange. The sequin embroidery is ok. Clearly the dress needed some ornamentation there, and the sequins do the job fine. Sadly, metallic bead and sequin embroidery brings up some unfortunate associations of tacky evening gowns from the late 70s and 80s for me. So I am not smitten by the sequins.

    Funnily enough, the color scheme is my least favorite thing about the dress. I almost wonder if the gold is tarnished a bit, since that shade of gold, though lovely, doesn’t go that well with the orange, especially the sheer orange of the bodice. On account of that, I’m giving this dress a 9. I could see a deep blue replacing the orange nicely. Or perhaps turquoise?
    9

  23. Bridget Clancy says

    In defense of the bow: I think the dress really needed something to relieve the straight lines of the silhouette. I think a simple silhouette like this is a case where you can get away with a big bow, and I for one just love the asymmetry it provides here. But then I have also repeatedly defended fringe, pom poms, and the dreaded tassels on RTD’s.

  24. Though I rarely like orange or 1920s dresses, this one isn’t bad. I wish the rest of the dress fabric was the same color as the bow, the contrast looks odd (though the dress may have faded) and I think the brighter bow color is better. And yes, the bow is too big. I personally don’t think it’s tacky like some other comments mentioned (actually a lot of other comments) and don’t even dislike it. I just think it’s a teeny bit too big on the hip, and the tails, while dramatic on a dancing wearer, are long enough to provide a dangerous tripping hazard. I love the golden pleating, except for the color. Someone suggested it may have tarnished, and it does look that way. The grayish tint to the pleats and the sequins makes me itch to brush off what looks like a thick layer of dust!
    Except for the too-large bow, however, most of my gripes with this dress can be blamed on its age (faded bodice fabric, tarnished metallics). There’s a lot I do like about this dress too. Therefore, I rate it a solid…
    8 out of 10

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