Rate the dress
comments 27

Rate the Dress: a 1920s mermaid

Since very patterned fabric and trim was divisive last week, this week I’ve gone for a very plain fabric, with no trim whatsoevery. But it’s definitely not boring a boring dress: whatever else it might be, all in one colour and trimless as it is, it’s distinctive.

Last Week: an 1850s chiné a la branche day dress

There was a decided fork in the ratings branch(e) when it came to judging last week’s chiné crinoline. Either you liked the fabric, or you didn’t. And either you were sure the trim must have been symmetrical, or couldn’t forgive that it wasn’t.

The Total: 7.1 out of 10

Well, it’s an improvement on the week before – more jam with pips than vegemite in the universally appealing scale!

This week: a 1920s day dress with ‘scale’ scallops

Since last week’s fabric was so divisive, and trim was so divisive, this week I present a dress that’s completely devoid of trim, and in a very simple, restful eu de nil silk chiffon.

Afternoon dress, 1926, silk, The Goldstein Museum of Design

The dresses main design feature is layered scallops, which create a fishscale effect running down the front of the dress, and around the hem. They emphasise the drop waist and vertical elements so characteristic of fashions of the era.

Afternoon dress, 1926, silk, The Goldstein Museum of Design
Afternoon dress, 1926, silk, The Goldstein Museum of Design

The high neckline and long sleeves are typical of day dresses of the 20s, but the sleeveless underdress, revealing arms and upper chest under sheer sleeves, add a hint of sass, and make this a more formal day dress. It would be suitable for wearing to the races, or to a wedding, paired, of course, with the perfect hat, rather than for a day of shopping.

Afternoon dress, 1926, silk, The Goldstein Museum of Design

It’s very Little Mermaid (quite appropriate this week), but in the straight lines of the 1920s.

What do you think? If you wanted to channel your inner Marina or Ariel in 1926, would this be your pick for oceanic elegance?

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!)


  1. The pale sage green is very restrained and classic; it’s not my color, but it is a good color for a “mermaid” dress.

    Overall, I’m inclined to like the “scales” and the sheer sleeves, but I’m not quite sure about the buttoned-up collar; a round neck or crewneck might have been better. I approve the cheekiness of the design, for a day dress.

    7.5 out of 10

  2. Linda (ACraftyScrivener) says

    I my opinion you can’t go wrong with green – but the bodice inset is a bit too like an actual fish shape rather than inspired by a fish for me to love it. I appreciate the sass of th overlay for the times, however and maybe she was attending a wedding for a couple who fell in love while hunting/fishing!


  3. I find this unusually lovely. The scale effect is defined enough that it doesn’t require outlining, and the several layers contribute an almost ombré effect that works well with the scales, as does the subtle sage color.

    9 of 10

  4. It’s lovely and the level of skill in making those light but structured, perfectly shaped scallops in a bitch of a fabric like silk chiffon blows my mind!.
    I am in love wiht the gloriously graceful waist detail, it is the perfect foil to the scallops.
    The button collar detail seems a bit twee but think that says more about what 20s fashion was really like compared to the Downton Abbey etc costuming we’re exposed to.

  5. Christina Kinsey says

    The 20s really isn’t my era, but l do admire the simplicity of the design and the scallops /scales on the bodice and skirt. I think it’s that detail that really makes the dress something special
    Even though l wouldn’t wear it, I would still give it an 8. 5 because of the design

  6. Krista says

    This is a 9 for me. Those scallops are so lovely. The color is not my favorite, but it works.

  7. Emma says

    I think I’d quite like it if the scallops were only around the wrists and hem of the skirt. As it is I find it kind of costumy and over-done.


    • Alyssa says

      Except for the fish scales on stomach, it’s a nice dress

  8. I like everything about this dress, except for the “fishbelly” look in the middle.(made me think of a pregnant mermaid) I have been learning more about fashion trends of the ’20’s lately and really appreciate the embellishment and the overall shape and the color. 8/10.

  9. Debora J King says

    Lovely! So very 20s. The scallops are beautifully executed. The color of the dress is outstanding (on the right skin tone!) particularly for a “mermaid” dress. The one down side to it for me is the midriff scallops… love them on the skirt… but the tummy? hmmmm. I know the body type of the day was board straight and thin but even so, this give a bit of a bulge.


  10. Tracy Ragland says

    I really like it! It’s playful…just right for summer. The quiet green silk is lovely as are the sheer sleeves over the slip dress. My only problem is the belt fastening the bodice together. It’s too linear and takes away from the curves throughout the rest of the dress. 8.5/10

  11. Debbie Farthing says

    Lovely color and such skill in executing the scallops.

  12. Sam Sam says

    Love it, it’s a lovely example of a 20’s smart day dress. I can just see it with a cream stockings and shoes, a cloche hat and a long string of pearls.

    My only reservation is also the round shape on the stomach but it does narrow the hips which is what they were trying to do in the 20’s


  13. Lynne says

    I love so much about this dress – colour, fabric, effort gone into those scallops, the sheer elegance of the garment. I just can’t unsee the pregnant fish effect that the dropped waist belt holder gives. I can see why the upper part was curved down, but it does give fish tum. If they had made that belt holder straight-cut, then it would emphasize the continuation of that lovely scalloped panel. Maybe.

    8 out of 10. Because I love in despite fish tum.

  14. Kathy Hanyok says

    I love the color and the intricacy of the scales. I think if the overbodice came down straight and open everyone would forget about fish bellies. Don’t care for the buttoned up collar, but the color makes me forget what I don’t like (would like to paint my living room this green).

  15. Heather says

    I want to love this, but I just can’t. I love the dress from the waist down, but there’s something very disconcerting to me about the way the scallop pattern lies over the stomach. If the scallops were only at the wrists and on the skirt it would be wonderful, but as is, I just can’t give it more than a 5/10.

  16. Johanne says

    Harriet Vane would have worn this dress happily. Even with the fish-scallop waist and graceless mannequin, it shows as a beautifully made, restrained dress. There is artistry here. Thank you for posting it.


  17. Meredith Bubner says

    I worked for a few years in the wardrobe of the Crawford Productions TV series Catson’s Law, set in Melbourne in the 1920s, with some of the characters in high society. I didn’t design dresses, but this would have been perfect for Felicity, the Toorak society trophy wife. We wouldn’t have made this dress, as there is so much work involved in the scalloping. So from someone who has seen 100s of 1920s frocks, this is a superb garment, Felicity or another rich character would have looked stunning in it. 10

  18. Melissa says

    7 out of 10. I love the color and the scallops on the skirt and sleeves, but that scalloped section in the center of the dress makes me think of one of those anatomy dolls showing off intestines!

  19. dropping stitches says

    The shape is very 1920’s. The color is an accurate representation of underwater translucent green. The scallops are cute, but too directly a fish scale reference. It reminds me of the movie, The Shape of Water. The main character was a timid woman living in a drab world who comes alive when she meets a sea creature/merman. I can see her wearing this to their rendezvous.


  20. Sixer says

    You see fish, but I can’t stop seeing . . . . dragon! Which does make it seem even more cos-play-ish, but oh well. A half dragon, trying to hide their true nature from the world and failing miserably. The stomach cut out is well executed but not especially attractive – maybe it’s just a tad too big? However, I firmly believe that it wouldn’t look quite so odd on an actual person. In fact, the whole dress is crying out for a real person to wear it, hat and all. It’s just this side of odd, but it looks so fun to wear, if you could only find the right event.

    So, high marks for sheer impish creativity, and low ones for practicality.


  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Love the color, the “1920s Ladies who Lunch” styling, and the sheer and not-sheer parts. And the precision of the scallops in a tricky fabric.

    BUT that waistline wrap bugs me. Every other edge is scalloped, it changes to straight edges going to a pointed overlap. If it had continued the scalloping along the waist wrap, the dress would be a nine. If they had eliminated the wrap and just had an scalloped overlay going straight down from the top 3 scallops like an open jacket it would be a ten.

    But it bothers me enough to deduct 2 points.

  22. Nannynorfolk says

    Just love the grey green colour and the 1920s shape but the fish scales are rather overdone.

  23. Tracy Carey says

    Love everything about this dress. The fish belly doesn’t bother me at all, and the understated color makes that work. I love the demureness of the buttoned up neck with the contrast of the seductiveness of the sheer. 9.5/10

  24. Jules says

    I’m not especially drawn to this one, stylistically speaking (the fish waist thing…), but as a seamstress I’m awed by the execution. And contrary to apparent prevailing opinion, I find the waist band to be a rather clever conception, with just enough contrast/harmony to make it work.


  25. I love the scallops on the skirt, and the little waist detail, but I don’t like the fish scales on the stomach. I haven’t figured out what I’d like instead, because I recognize the bodice wouldn’t look as good completely plain, and it would take away from the waist detail I like.

    But, the execution is amazing with how light it is.


  26. So I love scallops generally, but I just don’t like this, really at all. As a whole, I don’t find the dress attractive. That said, there are a few elements that keep it from being a 0 for me – I like the scallops on the sleeves and at the waistline and the little collar and buttons are cute! Thus, I’ll give it a 2.5. Sorry 1920’s dress, I wish I liked you more!

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.