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Rate the Dress: the ’20s are back

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society

It’s the 20s again, and 1920s & 30s frocks are always what I think of when I imagine the perfect New Years outfit.* So this week’s Rate the Dress is a 20s dress for a festive event.

Last Week: an 1840s dress in striped silk

Last week’s rating were all over the place: a big chunk of 9s & 10s from people who loved the piecing and play of stripes; a smattering of middle ratings from those who liked it, but weren’t quite reconciled to the not-perfect pattern matching, the unusually low berthe, and the muted colours; and a few really, really low scores from people who didn’t like anything about it.

The Total: 7.8 out of 10

You can’t please them all!

This week: a 1920s dress

I think of ’20s frocks as the perfect New Year’s attire, but this week’s Rate the Dress is actually a garment for a different kind of ‘new’: a new beginning.

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn,
Chicago Historical Society

It’s a wedding dress, albeit an unusual blue sleeveless example that departs from the more common ’20s wedding dress trend, carried over from the Edwardian era, of a day dress (usually, but not always) in white or another very pale shade.

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society

While coloured wedding dresses weren’t that uncommon in the Edwardian era and ’20s, evening dresses for wedding wear were. It’s possible that this dress may originally have had a matching jacket, which would have taken it from evening into formal day wear, but as it is it’s a distinctly avant garde example of a wedding dress.

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society

The dress combines elements inspired by Medieval illuminated manuscripts, and Near Eastern architecture and tilework.

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society

The blue evokes the colours of Moroccan tiles and the traditional hue of the Virgin Mary’s clothes. The beading and embroidery combine the arches and delicate latticework of Persia and the former Ottoman Empire with the more representational flowers and acanthus leaf scrolls of illuminated manuscripts.

Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society
Wedding dress, 1927. Silk crepe, glass beads, metallic thread embroidery. Maker unknown. Gift of Robert C. Woolard. 1991.408a, Sponsored by Laura Barnett Sawchyn, Chicago Historical Society

What do you think? Do you like this slightly unexpected wedding dress, as a wedding dress, or a New Years frock? (still one hour to midnight in Hawai’i as I hit publish on this!)

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!)

* Although pyjamas are what I usually end up wearing. I’m not really a New Years person!

46 Comments

  1. Julia says

    I’ve been working on reading through your blog. Very enjoyable and informative! Now I’m ready to participate in a rate the dress for the first time!
    I actually really like this dress. Usually I’m not a big fan of the 20s silhouette but I find this one quite appealing. The overall colour and the decorations work really well together for me. I find the silhouette to be more of a slim fit look and less of a shapeless tube compared to a lot of 20s dresses.
    On the other hand I don’t love the little shoulder bouquet. It doesn’t quite match the sleek elegant look of the rest of the dress. And as much as I like it, it just DOES NOT say wedding dress to me. It’s chic, it’s elegant, but not weddingish.
    Overall a much higher rating than I’ve ever wanted to give a 20s dress. 8/10

      • Margot says

        Only by your standards and culture and time you live in is this dress not ‘weddingish’

        • Julia says

          Actually I’m used to different than normal wedding dresses. My wedding dress was not what most people would call conventional in the least. It was a long sleeved ankle length princess line dress with a very modest neckline and a fabric belt. And it’s a lovely warm yellow!
          I’m used to unconventional wedding dresses. This one just doesn’t say wedding to me regardless. But I’m definitely biased towards longer wedding dresses 😉

          • Julia says

            It would be interesting to see it with all of the bridal accessories too.

  2. nofixedstars says

    i think it’s lovely! the blue colour is a nice shade, neither twee nor strident; the embroidery and subtle beadwork are beautiful. i am less enthusiastic about the split panel in front—i would prefer it to be more of a typical tabard design, but it’s not really bothersome. i do wish the curators had put a slip under it (although i understand why they choose not to do so)…when i see 20s dresses displayed without a coordinating under-dress/slip, i always feel we aren’t getting a true view of them. my least favourite element of the dress is the fabric flower corsage at the shoulder, which seems slightly unrelated to the rest of the ornamentation. but it’s not a deal-breaker. overall, a very pretty dress, and a nice choice of “something blue” for a wedding day. 9/10 points!

  3. Even though it’s not a color that looks good on me, I think it’s lovely, but agree with nofixedstars that the corsage on the shoulder is somewhat jarring. The embroidery is exquisite, and the benefit of the 20s simplicity is how well it creates a frame for such complex embroidery.
    9 of 10

  4. I wouldn’t be seen dead in it -the style and colour are anathema to me. BUT, I LOVE it. The embroidery and beadwork is a delight and inspires me, the cut I think is sophisticated and clever, and super stylish. I’d love to have seen what she wore on her head for this. Quite a trail blazer! the corsage on the shoulder makes me think it probably didn’t have a jacket. Speaking of which, I imagine this scene in my head – daughter insisting on this gloriously fashion forward wedding dress, mother despairing of her not not wearing something more modest or pretty, a final plea to at least add some floral element and the corsage added as a sop to parental angst. It’s plausible, goodness knows I’ve witnessed enough stand offs between mother and daughter over wedding day attire!
    9/10 BOGIP

  5. Emma says

    When it comes to 20s clothing & the lowered waist line I often find it really good or really bad. This is definitely a good example. I really like the shape and embroidery though if I was wearing it I would have to snip off the flowery corsage.
    9/10

  6. Kathy Hanyok says

    YES! I love the 20″s. The only time I wish I didn’t have hips and breasts. Not my color but I don’t mind.10! Happy New Year!

  7. Claire Payne says

    Happy new year! What a gorgeous shade of blue. I love this dress – the colour, the naughty back hole and the drape. Not so sure about the embroidery but it is beautifully proportioned.

    8 out of 10

  8. Gailynne says

    I love the 1920s and this dress is gorgeous! As mentioned above, I think this gown is remarkable for its slender silhouette and is a departure from the usual shapeless tube of other 20s gowns. The photos of the embroidery are a little fuzzy and I’d like to see more of the detail of the stitches. It definitely reflects the Egyptomania of the 1920s.

    10/10

  9. I love the color and the simplicity both in the design and how it drapes. The beadwork is just enough and not gobs of it. I would wear this dress now. 10/10!

  10. NTomasheski says

    Beautiful. The color combinations, the simple yet elegant embroidery – and the excellent preservation!
    10/10

  11. The only thing I do not care for in the dress is the peekaboo hole in the back. With that being said, I really like this dress. 10/10

  12. Lillianne says

    I am laughing at everyone hatin’ on the corsage. I like it and know that it is entirely period appropriate, giving that little touch of asymmetry that is characteristic of so many 20’s garments.

    10/10 from me.

    • Gillian Stapleton says

      I’m with you Lillianne! And I like it, from the period appropriate corsage to the ‘medieval’ embroidery.
      10/10

  13. Marjo Wheat says

    Exquisite! I like everything about it; the colour is beautiful, the embroidery is glorious, the style, even the shoulder corsage. 10/10

  14. Tracy Ragland says

    The dress is glorious! I love the color choices, the embroidery pattern, everything! 10/10

  15. Penny Dipalma says

    Exquisite design and beadwork, beautiful color, and understated elegance. Would wear it in a heartbeat!
    I’m wondering if perhaps it might have been the going away dress and not the actual wedding dress?

    • I wondered that too, but going away dresses were travelling outfits, and even with a jacket, this is definitely not a travelling outfit.

  16. Debbie Farthing says

    What a glorious dress! I can see this as a dress for a 2nd wedding. Or maybe it was too beautiful to pass up!

  17. Marina says

    Gorgeous. Absolutely a beautiful example of the time. My grandmother was married in the 1920’s in a t rose-coloured dress. So it’s not far-fetched to have a wedding dress in a colour during this time-period.
    This dress is perfect in every detail. I love the colour and symmetry of the embroidered design and it’s placement. That floral corsage on the shoulder takes this dress out of the ordinary and adds that little extra making it feel, imho, more feminine. I also need to wonder what she wore on her head and if it was a fascinator that provided balance on try the other side and therefore balanced the slight asymmetry of the dress. Wondering if there is a wedding photo of the happy bride in this dress. It’s in such good condition that it looks like the family cherished it.

    10/10

    • Yes, as I’ve pointed out it’s not the colour that makes it so unusual, but the fact that its an evening dress instead of a day dress. Your grandmother’s rose pink wedding dress sounds lovely!

  18. Joyce says

    This era of fashion is so full of artistically creative people. It’s so
    simple yet it’s very attractive.

  19. Disien says

    Happy New Year!! Really appropriate dress choice for the start of the new Roaring Twenties! This dress is exquisite – nothing about it that I don’t like. 10/10

  20. Sara Heck says

    Exquisite! 10/10 For sure! I am curious about possible headpieces that would go with this wonderful creation. Oh, To be 20 again in 2020…I would wear this in a heartbeat!

  21. ElOmbu says

    Fabulous–I love the peacock blue, and that keyhole at the back is the piece de resistance. 9.5/10.

  22. dropping stitches says

    I think it is stunning. The color, the drape, the silk, and the exotic peacock embellishments. Only a very daring bride could wear this, but it was the brave new world of the 20s, so why not? Only thing I don’t love is the way the skirt it is split in the middle.
    9/10

  23. Pinkfouffy says

    Long time reader, first time posting a comment for rate the dress- I think this is exquisite- I love the color, the embroidery and beadwork, and the elegant shape, I agree with many others how this is a more graceful silhouette than the simple tube-like shapes common to the era. I also love the small corsage on the shoulder- it adds a lovely feminine flair and a bit of asymmetry, which makes for a perfect dress to me!
    10 of 10

  24. Simply smashing. I like the shoulder posy too. It would be fun to see this dress in motion, with the panels parting to reveal the flirty underskirt. I love that this was a wedding dress. I see it styled with just a jewelled hair clip and some bracelets – maybe an upper arm bracelet. And matching shoes, with stockings of sheerest blue silk. Delicious!

  25. K Rooney says

    What a spectacular dress! I love the steel blue color and the little corsage with its streamers makes a lovely touch. You wouldn’t need much of a bouquet with this, just a fistful of roses to match the citrine/amber color maybe. I don’t think you’d want more than a single strand of pearls or citrine, maybe a Nancy Cunard amber bangle. Even if the wore a veil to the wedding, I suspect there was a pretty cloche, with a bunch of flowers that match the corsage. I don’t know what the etiquette would have been for later wearings, because I can’t imagine having such a lovely thing to wear only once.

    Easy 10/10.

  26. I adore this too! What a beautiful dress, and I would happily wear that for a wedding today.
    I wonder about the corsage: could it be a pin that was put on once the (suggested) jacket was taken off?
    The embroidery is simply stunning too, what a lovely dress!

  27. Marty chamberlain says

    I love it, you can certainly see an Indian influence in the design to the embroidery.

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