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Rate the Dress: Big Skirts, Bold Hues

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

I know that boring colour to bold colour isn’t the most novel or inventive reason to choose a Rate the Dress, but Rate the Dress doesn’t always have to break the mould: sometimes it’s just about picking an interesting dress. Hopefully my choice this week at least fits that category! As to beauty, that’s up to you.

Last Week: an 1805 dress of uncertain colour

Last week’s Rate the Dress really was the opposite of the dress of the week before: muted hues, simple trimmings, a very different silhouette – and where the bustle dress of all-the-stuff elicited a lengthy and detailed conversation, the restrained Regency frock garnered half the amount of comments. And the rating spread was inverted: most ratings were right in the middle, with only a few on the extremities.

The Total: 6.7 out of 10

Last fortnight’s dress was one to love or loathe, last week’s frock did not inspire, but did not offend – and came out with the better rating. But some of us will still adore (or hate) one or the other, no matter the rating!

This week: an 1860s day dress in raspberry pink

After a extremely decorated and extremely restrained dress, I thought I’d go for something that’s both simple, but undeniably bold:

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

This late 1860s day dress makes full use of the bold colours which became fashionable in the wake of the discovery of aniline dyes, pairing a bright raspberry pink with wine red, and setting it off with crisp white.

Day dress, 1867, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

The effect is a play on complement and contrast.

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

The embellishments also play with polarities: big bold designs, which are made up of delicate details up close.

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

From a distance the appliquéd lines are bold and simple. Each line placement is meticulously thought out. They hide the seams on the front of the skirt, echo the folds in the back and highlight the new elliptical skirt shape.

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

On closer inspection, the lines are made of layers of different colours and fabric, picked out with the tiniest seed beads.

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

Even the front buttons have bead embellishments:

Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7
Day dress, 1867, Marie and Josephine Virfolet, New York City, Ribbed silk, silk satin, glass seed beads, Albany Institute of History & Art, 1972.95.7

What do you think? Does this dress provide equal visual rewards from a distance, and in intimate proximity?

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

45 Comments

  1. I like this much better than the previous two, but I’m unsure how to rate it.

    Let me start with my pluses: I love the trim on the bodice–unlike many dresses of this period, it emphasizes straight lines instead of lines out to the shoulder that tend to widen the look of the bodice. The trimming style is beautifully restrained; the use of the seed beads as accents is very clever. I love the use of a flower/rosette at the back instead of a bow. The side view is marvelous, with the side trimming on the skirt giving a kind of ripple effect.

    The minuses: I’m conflicted about whether I like the fuchsia and red color scheme; I’d probably prefer this dress if it were in shades of green and/or blue. I dislike the loops that the trimming forms on the skirt at the bottom, in the front; they look garish to me somehow.

    Overall, this doesn’t meet my standard for a 10 (the dress must be beautiful in and of itself and make the wearer look more beautiful). But it is striking and would compliment the right woman.

    8.5 out of 10.

  2. Malin says

    Pretty! Bold colours certainly, but the simple symmetrical lines of the trim tones it down just enough. 8/10.

  3. Rowena says

    I really like the colour, the use of contrast, the bold lines. I couldn’t improve on the skirt or the back bodice. But something about the crowded vertical lines of the front bodice is too severe for me. The rest of the dress is a dramatist going to a party, and trying to marry that with your schoolteacher doesn’t make sense to me. I think I’d like it better even if the fastening was less visible. As it is –
    7/10

  4. Debbie Farthing says

    I love this dress. The fabrics have been matched beautifully to highlight the main color and bring attention to the trim. The level of workmanship is so high on this – it’s glorious!
    10/10

  5. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    PERFECT! I LOVE it. Its so graphic and bold and dramatic and I love, love the colours and the pop of the white and the silhouette and the sweep and proportions. I can’t give this anything less than a 10/10.

  6. Melissa says

    Gosh I love everything about this. All the little details like the seed beads and the polka dot buttons are wonderful. Great color, bold lines, beautifully trimmed. I want it! 10/10.

  7. Rebecca says

    Love it times a million!! Gorgeous colors, love the silhouette and trimming.

    10/10

  8. I love the color and trimmings on this dress. The trim is gorgeous not only from a distance, but up close too. I’m not a fan of the elliptical shape, but that’s what the style was. Overall I give this dress a 10

  9. Masterful craftsmanship and exquisite use of color. I too like the substitution of flower for bow. I actually like the contrast of the severity of the trimming lines with the exuberance of the colors

    10 of 10

  10. nofixedstars says

    i really do like this one—almost in spite of myself. i like the colour; it’s bold but sophisticated, and the use of tonal accent colour adds to that effect. the trim is graphic and striking, but also sensibly deployed and not really over the-top. the buttons are adorable, as is the flower at back waist. they could easily have been twee, but the strong colour and bold linear decoration seem to mitigate that. this frock has both verve and restraint. not my favourite period of dress style, but a fun and attractive example of its kind. i can’t help trying to fill in the missing details; i see it with a small white lace tucker at the neck, white gloves, boots in pale kid or dyed to match, a pale bonnet with magenta roses, and perhaps small pearl earrings… as always, i would LOVE to know more about the woman who wore it. clearly she was no shrinking violet, and whatever occasion this dress was made for, clearly she wished to be noticed at it. this ensemble would stand out even amongst other bright-hued outfits, whether at an indoor reception or other event, or at a garden party. picture a lady in this dress against a backdrop of green lawns and floral borders, or against a wall papered/painted in rich emerald, deep blue, or golden yellow…there would be no ignoring her, yet nothing about the dress is vulgar or in bad taste. (unless it be the fact that anyone in pastels or drabs would become nigh-invisible near her?)

    attention getting done right. 9/10 for me.

  11. Karen says

    Solid 9. Maybe backing off from a 10 because the bold lines plus bold colour make it a bit too much of a statement… but individually everything is perfect, the colour combinations, the design, the drape. It just adds up to a LOT when you put it together.

  12. Elaine says

    This is a gorgeous dress. I love the color and the various other colors in the trim. Generally I dislike those huge skirts in the back, but this one has won me over. Like others, I really like the flower at the waist, as well as the way the surplus fabric is draped and pleated into the waist. Very graceful. There is quite a lot of trim on the bodice, but I don’t think too much. The trim on the skirt is beautifully balanced. 9.5 / 10

  13. This is my favorite dress so far this year what’s not to like about it it’s pink and then it’s pink and then again it’s pink and the simplicity of the shape of the dress really helps the embellishments to stand out and did I mention it’s pink I am giving this a 10 out of 10 only because I can’t give it a bazillion out of 10 I love this dress!

  14. This is my favorite dress so far this year what’s not to like about it it’s pink and then it’s pink and then again it’s pink and the simplicity of the shape of the dress really helps the embellishments to stand out and did I mention it’s pink I am giving this a 10 out of 10 only because I can’t give it a bazillion out of 10 I love this dress!

  15. Pal K says

    For starters: update the style and I would wear it now.
    In fact, I am pinning it to an inspiration board
    I particularly like the abundant yet restrained use of beads (which could translate into french knots), the applique that covers up the seamlines, the way the applique is manipulated around curves (that tiny bit of mitering at the neckline), and that the appliques remind me a little of Celtic knot work

    10/10

  16. Pal K says

    For starters: update the style and I would wear it now.
    In fact, I am pinning it to an inspiration board
    I particularly like the abundant yet restrained use of beads (which could translate into french knots), the applique that covers up the seamlines, the way the applique is manipulated around curves (that tiny bit of mitering at the neckline), and that the appliques remind me a little of Celtic knot work

    10/10

  17. Chris says

    I am normally not a fan of pink. But I love this dress! The Lines, the use of different Tones.

    9.5/10

  18. Johanna says

    Yes, please! with a cherry on top. This is the first gown in a long time that really hit me in the gut. It’s pure perfection. The embellishments reminds me of a Russian folklore or Viking romanticism. It has beads! I love pearls and beads, and this restrained way is the perfect way to use them. The only minor thing I didn’t like were the beads on the buttons, I think I would have preferrred plain buttons. That’s such a small nitpick that it doesn’t detract from the score though. It’s a perfect 10/10.

  19. It’s fair fabulous. The clever use of colour and texture and layer in the trim shows a hand that knows there’s more to this game than just getting all geometric. It is that little bit more subtly 3-D and lovely.
    I can’t imagine anyone actually wearing it, possibly one of those dark haired, blue eyed beauties, but I love it as a thing in its own right. It’s graceful, architectural, elegant and bold.
    9/10

  20. Crumpled Rag says

    I’m not a huge fan of pink, but I like the overall concept of this dress. I just wish the lines down the front of the bodice that appear at first glance to continue down the skirt, actually did so. Th colours sort of swap over and the trims don’t match. Either make completely something different or make it match…..

    View from a distance 9/10 (The overwhelming colour loses a point)
    Close-up 6/10, lack of attention to detail.

    That breaks all the rules about only one score, so overall 7.5/10.

  21. I want it!

    It’s gorgeous, and the colors are so bright and playful and I love the design of the trim. It’s not too fussy, but lots of fun.

  22. Stéphanie says

    What a gorgeous dress! My first thought was: “I would wear this.” Which is unusual for me. I love the raspberry colour and the wine and white in the trim. I think that the beads add decisive punctuation that french knots or other small white trim bumps would not. I love the symmetry of the trimming and think that the lines around the shoulders and neck are very flattering. The posey on the back of the belt just makes me smile. It is perfectly proportioned and just the right kind of surprise.
    10/10

  23. Kathy Hanyok says

    As a seamstress I always consider the for thought and time it must take to create such a gown. The math involved is staggering. And the beautiful color is only a plus. 9/10

  24. Paula Perry says

    I love the bold use of color. It actually reminds me of the “Cowboy” shirts I made in the 1950-1960’s.I don’t think the beads add much and the beads on the buttons actually detract.

    I would love to know about the lady who actually wore this.

    8.5/10

  25. I haven’t seen this dress before, but I wish I had! I love it! The color is a perfect bold pink that befits my grown up self. I love the detail of the beads, especially on the buttons! The trim is perfectly placed to show off the new silhouette. And of course the color is showing off the new dyes, too. I would absolutely wear this now and in 1867. 10/10.

    Best,
    Quinn

  26. The 1860s have never been my favourite era, but I do love the colours and the inventive trim.

    8/10

  27. Gee whiz, what a sophisticated, tailored, beautiful gown. The colors are gorgeous together, the trim so well thought out, and the entire thing well beautifully made. The fabrics have lasted well!

    My nit-pick? I’d not have put beads on the buttons and would have made them smaller. They are competing with the vertical trim.

    9.5 of 10

  28. ElOmbu says

    I also don’t like this period much, but this is just a beautiful, balanced dress. It’s odd to use the word “restrained” when looking at something that is fuschia, but it feels like the right word to use. It fact, it really does look like the fuchsia flower with the main pink, and red and white accents. It has embellishment, but it still looks clean and fresh.
    9/10.

  29. dropping stitches says

    The dress itself is almost simple. Really allows the color and the trim details to pop out and make the dress into fashion. I really like this one. The floral detail in the back is charming. The color combo is not my first choice, but it is very eye-catching!

    8/10

  30. Julia says

    I feel like I like this dress in spite of myself.
    I’m not a huge pink fan but this dress just works. The colours are work nicely together. I really like the contrast the cream trim gives and I love the red too.
    I’m also not a polka dot fan but there’s something about the buttons that I find a bit whimsical. The seed beads are subtle.
    The trim is quite nice too. I like the stripes down the sleeves, the v’s on the back of the skirt, the stripes down the bodice and especially the one playful yet elegant flower at the back. It reminds me of stained glass.
    The only thing I don’t really like is the swoop the trim takes at the bottom front of the skirt but at the same time straight lines all the way down wouldn’t have worked very well.
    So somehow it’s not my favourite but I still like it pretty well. 8.5/10

  31. Trish says

    I love this. It is not an era I am especially interested in, but I can appreciate the structure and use of color and trim. I will have to make a version of this someday. 10/10

  32. Emma Louise says

    I too love this dress. I love the colours. I love that the pattern is striking from afar and intricate upon closer inspection. I love the perfectly proportioned flower at the back. I would love to wear this dress!

    10/10

  33. Just love this! Silhouette is very striking, and I didn’t think I would love this raspberry pink, but I do. Trim is beautiful and I love the little beads!

  34. Charming! Seems ahead of its time somehow with the strong lines. It almost has a masculine flavor, as someone above mentioned the bodice feels cowboy-esque. But then again, it’s PINK! Great contrast. 🙂
    I am curious about the hoop/bustle. It almost seems like it “starts” too low, if that makes any sense. Do you think she is wearing the correct undergarments? Then again, what do I know!?
    9.5. (1/2 point deducted for the flower slapped on the back)

  35. Kathy Gressieux says

    This is my first visit to your site and I’m instantly addicted! I’m a long time lover of fabrics, sewing and historical fashion trends. My dream job would be a textile conservator… This dress is a beautiful example of a civil war era daydress. I love the color, the attention to detail particularly the way the “V” motif serves to elongate the form in the posterior view. I feel that the trim along the bodice is a gorgeous highlight making the curvilinear trim at the front hem unnecessary and overdone. I would love to withhold a “rating” until I’ve seen multiple examples and read remarks to add something of substance to your page. Beautiful dress with lavish ornamentation.

  36. Disie says

    Beautiful in every way. The workmanship is outstanding. The embellishment is beautifully balanced and the use of layers of fabrics to create it is so so clever. And the colour scheme I just love, love, love. The dress is stunning from every angle. The dress reflects post Civil War exuberance too – it is exactly the sort of thing Scarlett O’Hara wore after she married Rhett Butler and he was indulging her! Always loved those costumes in the second half of Gone With The Wind. I can so visualise Vivien Leigh wearing this, topped off with a perky hat!

    10/10

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