Rate the dress
comments 35

Rate the Dress: 1870s Summer Frills

This week’s Rate the Dress goes from fish to flora, with a cornflower bedecked 1870s concoction. And concoction is really the only way to describe it…

Last Week: a 1920s day dress with ‘scale’ scallops

Last week’s dress was quite popular, other than a small group that expressed strong dislike. More than 3/4 of the ratings were 8-9, which is extremely, and unusually, consistent. Very few perfect scores though: most of you weren’t quite on-board with the ‘fish tum’.

The Total: 7.3 out of 10

Despite the strong showing of ratings 8 & up, the small core who really didn’t like the dress pulled the overall score down. The ratings have been creeping up over the last few weeks, but it’s been slow, and still not impressive. Maybe this week will break the 8 barrier? Or drop us down again?

This week: an 1870s day dress in summer florals

Today’s pick is an excellent example of an early 1870s crinoline-to-bustle era transitional garment.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The sweet floral pattern and the frills are typical of the romantic 18th century inspired styles in vogue at the time.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

This dress shows its rococo roots in the deep sleeve ruffles, based on 18th century engageants, the bodice ruffles, which evoke a fichu, the square neckline, and the bustled skirts. While these touches are subtle compared to some examples, the influence is clear.

Dress,ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The popularity of 18th century historicism in 1850s-1870s dress was partly influenced by the French Second Empire’s attempt to align itself with the ancien regime, and Empress Eugénie’s fascination with Marie Antoinette.  She had her rooms decorated in the style of Marie Antoinette, dressed as the doomed queen for fancy dress balls and official portraits, and inspired Worth to incorporate elements of 18th century fashion into his dress designs.

Although the Second Empire collapsed in 1870s, sending Eugénie fleeing to England, she continued to be a fashion icon, and the House of Worth continued to use extensive historical motifs in their garments: and where Worth led, the fashion world followed.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

While the maker of this dress is unknown, it’s definitely a luxurious garment. The delicate white fabric would have marked easily, and been difficult, if not impossible to wash. While lace was becoming more affordable as more and more techniques to make it by machine were developed, it was still an expensive trim, and it has been used lavishly on this dress.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

The whole effect is of sweetness, delicacy and light. The wearer would have appeared as lovely and cool and fragile as the flowers strewn across her gown.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/96434
Dress, ca. 1872, French, a) cotton, porcelain; b) cotton, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2003, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003.426a, b

What do you think? Do you like this post-Second Empire confection, and find its pink florals and ruffles charming?

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.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. 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!)

35 Comments

  1. Heather M says

    I love it. It looks cool, and floaty and frothy and light. A total girly girl dress. I love the lace, the flowers, it just totally appeals to me. Yes, I’d wear it. 10/10

  2. It is pretty. It is sweet. It’s hard to complain about ruffles and semi-sheer white fabric and pink carnations, trimmed with white lace.

    It is an excellent dress of its type, though I would never wear it myself. I’m not a ruffles-and-pink flowers kind of girl, and never have been. My first really dressy dress as a child was black velvet, with a big white sailor collar.

    I suppose I should give it a 10 for being a fine example of its type, even though I rather detest the type it’s an example of, but I can’t bring myself to do so.

    8 out of 10

  3. Ellen says

    9.5

    I love it! I want to put on a straw hat with pink trim and a pink parasol and stroll around gardens in it. I think the overall shape is very elegant and airy while still feeling sophisticated. The bodice is beautiful and combines some many pretty details seamlessly, and in ways that flatter the wearer’s shape. The only thing I dislike is the “boxy” shape that the front makes from overskirt. But since I can’t think of how I’d fix it, it’s only a minus 0.5. I’m not a huge print person, but this just works. I really want to recreate this!

  4. Debbie Farthing says

    Lovely with an air of lightness and grace. The fabric is beautiful but a bit too flowery for my taste.
    9/10

  5. 10/10!!!! I LOVE this dress!!! It would be so comfortable to wear during hot summer months. It has little pink flowers (my favorite color). If I could score it higher I would!!!! One of my favorite Rate the Dress dresses!!!!

  6. Tracy Ragland says

    I wouldn’t want to wear it myself. I much prefer less “girlish” fabrics. But it’s made beautifully and tastefully. 10/10

  7. Lynne says

    It’s very pretty. Manages to be simple yet lavish. I like seeing the carnations/pinks/gillyflowers featuring in a floral fabric. They don’t often get a look in. Just the sight of so many evokes that clean, clove scent of the flowers – perfect on hot summer days.
    The skirt is beautiful, the sleeves are pleasing, just something gives me pause about the bodice. It looks more solid and busty than such a delicate fabric seems to call for.

    8 out of 10.

  8. Debora says

    So charming! A sweet delicate “flower” of a dress! The neckline is very flattering especially in the “sloped shoulder” period. My personal complaint about it would be the sleeve ruffles, only because I would have a hard time keeping them out of whatever was served for luncheon… but that is just me. I’m sure that whomever was fortunate enough to wear this little confection could keep her sleeve ruffles under control.
    I rate it a 10!

  9. J W says

    Long time lurker, first time poster, as they say. I liked this dress so much that it brought me out of the woodwork. It looks like fancy china, and I love that. It’s also extremely hot where I live right now, which is fueling my appreciation for this dress’s light, cool air—especially in a period that I tend to think of as characterizes by heavy and bulky styles. It’s maybe a little bit obvious—nothing that makes me say “wow, I never would’ve realized a dress could even do that,” which is what I’d require for a 10/10—but what it does, it does absolutely perfectly.
    (Also, the fact that it would suit my own figure probably skews my rating up a bit; it’s hard to avoid thinking in terms of my own experience!)
    9/10

  10. Rachel says

    It’s just so pretty and sweet and delicate. I adore it. I’m not a fan of the shoulder ruffle, but I can appreciated that they add to the illusion of floaty lightness.

    8.5 out of 10

  11. dropping stitches says

    The florals, the softness, the amount of flounce and floof — super feminine dream dress!

    10/10

  12. Christina Kinsey says

    It looks beautiful and shows that fashion of the period wasn’t all hot and heavy. I can imagine it being worn by a young woman, though I must admit to seeing myself in a dress made of that fabric. Alas , black satin would have been more age appropriate for me!!!!! I am not the greatest fan of raised waistlines but apart from that, it is gorgeous so a 9.5

  13. Alcira says

    10

    I absolutely love this dress, the delicate and almost translucent floral fabric, the delicate trim and really just the overall look of the dress. Just divine!

  14. Crumpled Rag says

    It looks very light and pretty, perfect for a summer party!!
    I’m not a great wearer of pink myself, but I think for the right occasion I could be persuaded to wear this one.
    The ruffles, buttons and lace are all in proportion which is the downfall of many other dresses.
    10

  15. Linda (ACraftyScrivener) says

    Super pretty, though as other’s have mentioned, not for me!

    Being so airy and cool looking, it made me wonder – I am assuming that short sleeves were not an option in this time period?

    9/10

  16. Nannynorfolk says

    Like everyone else says it is a sweet dress, yes, a young ladies dress. Reminds me of some Laura Ashley prints. Not ever in my life was I a frilly print type of person, so not my scene but I can imagine this on a young girly girl with a parasol on a picnic. It must have had a lot of compliments when it was worn.
    9/10
    .

  17. Kay Dodge says

    I love everything about this dress! It’s light, airy, sweet and totally retro for its time period. I love the sweet little flowers and delicate lace trim. With an appropriate hat or bonnet I could see myself wearing this for a stroll through the park on a sunny day!Definitely a favorite!
    10/10

  18. Utterly lovely, like wearing could lit by sunrise.
    It makes me wish that I had the fine-boned physique that this dress would suit best.

    10 of 10

  19. Utterly lovely, like wearing could lit by sunrise.
    It makes me wish that I had the fine-boned physique that this dress would suit best.

    10 of 10

  20. Melissa says

    I love everything about this! It’s ethereal and beautiful and I think I would feel like an angel wearing it. 10/10.

  21. Meira Bear says

    I love it! It’s so frothy and pretty. I’d never wear it, but I’d look enviously at who ever was! Though not in this heat. When it’s 30+ and humid, I’m glad to be wearing shorts.

  22. Jules says

    Erm…it’s a bit saccharine for my tastes, and I feel like the ditsy print swallows up all of the details that would otherwise render it stunning and obviously expeeeensive. #wasteoflace

    Witholding my slightly scathing rating so as not to mess up that run of nines and tens you have going up there…

  23. Olivia Sanders says

    I am in love with this dress! It exudes sweetness and innocence. If I could wear it, I would. I’m not partial to square necklines, but on this dress it is gorgeous! A beautiful example of the era.

    10/10

  24. A summertime “confection”; yes indeed — and I can see the young lady at an afternoon gathering, sipping ice cream from one of those odd Victorian spoon-straws, and then leaving her dish suddenly when she is asked by a young man to play croquet.

    1870-72 is one of my favorite time periods, and this dress has all the fluff I love, in cake icing colors, perfect for young ones. For years in which waists were raised, this dress appears to have a waistline even more raised than normal — almost to 1820s levels, so the proportions are almost Barbie-ish. To make the overskirt front softer and to enhance the waist and perhaps draw the eye away from the bust, which I think is the least successful part, I’d have cut the overskirt in the middle, edged it with a ruffle and pulled it back a bit to each side a la an 18th century open gown, so the front took on an X shape from shoulder to thigh. Our girl would positively flutter. You know, even with that lace tucker near the neckline, I wonder if for daytime the space was filled in with a puffed gauze dickey — nuts, there is another name for for such accessories: they abound in fashion magazines.
    9 of 10 for the bit of heaviness in the front

  25. Veronica says

    Hmmm … I think most other commenters have said it all! Overall I’m not as enthusiastic as others, and I agree that it’s a bit busy, so I’ll be dragging the rating down a tiny bit …
    7

  26. It’s gorgeous, a bit too sweet for my taste, so I’ll knock it down a half-point for that, but otherwise, quite pretty.

    9.5

  27. Sue says

    Takes me right back to the 70s and Gunne Sax dresses! I love the floral fabric, the dainty lace trim, the floaty, frothy delicacy of the whole. The fabric would be all wrong for a bustled dress, but is perfect for this transitional style.

    Something about the bodice, however, seems not quite right, though I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps the proportions? Nevertheless, this dress is Practically Perfect in Every Way.

    9

  28. Lazy Gardens says

    I’m in total sugar shock! It’s squee-inducing kawaii, chulita, délicieuse and a bunch more adjectives.

    It’s nicely balanced – yards of lace trim, but a trim that is in scale with the flowers. Lots of for volume, but It’s floofy self-ruffles and not heavy because of the light fabric.

    Garden party! Give it a white hat with pink ribbons and carnations and a pink fan.

    10

  29. Emma says

    I love it! It’s pretty and sweet, almost to the point of being saccharine but I love it all the same.

    10/10

  30. I love everything about this, and would wear it in a heartbeat! The frothy delicacy of it really appeals to me, and I love the neckline.
    10/10

  31. Amanda says

    Loooove it, tempted to try and find a thin cotton that would work for making a similar dress.

    10/10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *