Miscellenia, Rate the dress
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Rate the Dress: Blue Flowers & Big Skirts

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

Your opinion on last week’s dress very much depended on whether it was seen from the front of the back. This week I present another dress that is quite different depending on the angle you see it from. How will it fare in comparison to last week’s pick?

Last Week: a summer 1940 evening dress by Schiaparelli

The verdict on last week’s dress was pretty clear for most of you: fabulous back, boring front. A few people disagreed, and thought the dress would have been overdone with a more elaborate front, and was perfection as it was.

And a couple of you went looking and found the matching jacket that could be worn over the dress. I’d deliberately left it off, because the dress was clearly designed to be worn with or without the jacket, and I thought it would be interesting to see your reaction to Schiaparelli’s cutting, without the more obvious flourishes of the jacket.

The Total: 7.5 out of 10

A slight improvement on last week, but still rather disappointing.

This week: an early 1860s dress in blue floral silk

I’ve passed this dress by as a Rate the Dress option for months, because it looked too simple: very basic 1860s shape, with only interest coming from the double-floral overprinted fabric, in the extremely fashionable blue and black combination of the early 1860s.

But then I looked closer, and saw the trim on the sleeves:

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

And the back view:

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

The dress is a classic transition between the slightly smaller skirts and more restrained trim of the late 1850s, and the large ellipse hoops and bold trim of the mid 1860s.

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

It’s even possible that the sleeve and back trim, and the sash pieces, with their elaborate passementerie trim, now faded from black to dark brown, were added to the dress a few years after it was made, to update the style to the current trends.

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

The collection record shows the dress is in three parts, which may mean that the sash pieces are fully separate.

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

The bodice fit of the dress on the mannequin is, admittedly, not ideal, but an exhibition photo shows a better bodice fit (and a significantly inferior hoop fit, but you can’t have everything…):

Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c
Dress, ca. 1863, French, silk, Purchase, Judith and Ira Sommer Gift, 1999, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999.123a–c

What do you think?

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!)

26 Comments

  1. I really like this dress. I think the simplicity of the silhouette works very well with the luxurious looking fabric and trim. It really shows both off well. 10/10

  2. It’s enchanting. From the front, it is adorned just enough. But dont think the sashes are needed and they dont bring anything to the party. Since they are detachable, I’ll ignore them and give it a…

    10/10

  3. Nannynorfolk says

    The front is lovely and so much work went into this. It must have been dyed with indigo as only natural dyes were used then so may have been a darker blue originally so would have been stunning. But as I don’t think the sashes are necessary I give it 9/10

  4. Michelle Patton says

    This dress is beautiful from every angle. I love when there is detail to the back of a dress to give it interest. I give it a fabulous 10!

  5. The fabric is pretty; I like the floral motifs and the color. I don’t care for the long sash ends in the back, and it needs a nice white collar and engeageants, but it’s a nice handwork on the trim. Not exciting, but attractive and modest.

    7.5 out of 10.

  6. Lillianne says

    This blue is my husband’s favourite colour so I am smiling imagining myself twirling in front of him wearing this dress. I think I am feeling so romantic because it is our tenth anniversary tomorrow! 10/10

  7. Lee M. says

    I like this dress. It’s so much more detailed on closer look than I initially thought. I love the blue and the embroidery is wonderful. I can just imagine the woman it was made for likely took delight in showing it off to her girlfriends, as they undoubtedly would have been envious. I give it a 10 / 10.

  8. kathy loomis says

    Get rid of that awful swallowtail sash!!! All the trim is beautiful but seems to fight with the beautiful print fabric. 8.5/10

  9. Christina Kinsey says

    Actually, I like the sash with the intricate trim. In the original black I think it would have set off that beautiful silk even better. The dress is gorgeous, and if I were slim enough to wear it I would. The colour and pattern are beautiful bright but not gaudy and the overprinting adds the finishing touch
    I give it 10 as I just love it

  10. The back sashes are terrible but other than that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this dress and the fabric is very pretty. Despite that I don’t really like it that much. It’s nice but not terribly interesting somehow.

    7/10

  11. Great looking dress! The trimmed sash does seem like a later attempt to update the style, but seems less artful than the sleeve details. I like the effect, but would expect even larger, more in proportion tails. Gorgeous fabric! 9/10

  12. Catherine says

    I like the fabric and the silhouette. The details to the back don’t add anything for me but that’s fashion for you. I always enjoy detailed embroidery. It’s nice but I haven’t fallen in love.
    7/10

  13. Elaine says

    Pretty fabric. Otherwise this looks about like every other Victorian dress of this era – a dress that overwhelms the wearer. 4/10

  14. Kathy Hanyok says

    The first thing I noticed is that it does not fit the mannequin. Then I saw the tails. But the beauty of the fabric redeems all!
    10

  15. There’s something about the sashes that make me think an animal trophy (pronghorn deer antlers, maybe?), and maybe that’s why I have an instantaneous “nope” reaction to them.
    I appreciate the simplicity of the shape and even though blue is not a color I favor, I can still appreciate the elegance of it. The passementerie I find somewhat offputting, but again can appreciate the skill involved and how it must have been to the taste of the times.
    8 of 10

  16. Olivia Sanders says

    I love the elegance of this dress. I can imagine being a fine lady and delicately fainting onto a couch while wearing this . It wouldn’t stand out, but then the wearer might not want to. A nope on the sash tails, though. 9/10

  17. I think the dress is lovely, but the sash bothers me. It may be the light, it may be uneven fading, but it looks like a slightly different shade than the rest of the dress. And the sash really does seem unnecessary – the rest of the trim is enough.

    9/10

  18. Melissa says

    This is just stunning. I don’t love the sash but I don’t hate it either. 10/10!

  19. Oh dear. Scarlett, desperate to update last season’s dress, and with no time to run to the milliner’s, glanced wildly about the room. Her eyes lit up as they fell on the table runner….

    In all other respects, this dress is lovely. I like the trim on the sleeves, the single, subtle motif at the back waist, and those intricate (couched?) buttons that almost look like they contain human hair. But that sash – no.

    The construction is fascinating – the two-piece sleeves, the mysterious crease above the hem (interlining or horsehair showing through?), the beautifully small and subtle dust ruffle, the double-darted bodice front. Those darts end very high – were they meant to curve over the bust, or would a corset have pushed the bust high enough to clear them? Or would there have been a bertha covering them?

    Side note – this dress cries out for black silk lace mitts.

    Anyhoo, one point off for the dreadful sash. 9.

  20. dropping stitches says

    Scarlett O’hara style. The fabric is beautiful. That blue silk! The embroidery and the black overlay are lovely and dramatic without distracting from the pretty blue. The trim and the sash in back look out of place, and would even if they were black and noy faded. They just don’t match the look. I like this without all that jazz, mostly for the pretty silk.

    7.5/10

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    The color is good, the styling unobjectionable … but that 2-tailed sash erupting from her midriff is awkward.

    It’s a meh

    7

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