Rate the Dress: red velvet spencer

Last week I showed you a very fashion forward lady of 1914, to mixed reviews.  Some of you simply didn’t like the period, others simply didn’t like the way the ensemble wouldn’t suit most figures, and most of you weren’t too keen on the hat.  But lots of you did like it: thought it elegant, avant gard, and just ‘zingy’ enough to be interesting.  It rated a 7.4 out of 10 (it would have been a higher score if the two people who said they loved it, with exclamation points, had rated it!)

As the next HSF challenge that I’m supposed to write a (well overdue) inspiration post for is the HSF Choice Gentlemen challenge, I thought showing you a bit of menswear-inspired fashion was appropriate.

As soon as I selected this item I also realised that it is exactly the 1810s version of the 1910s suit I showed you last week: luxurious, slightly quirky, both very practical and very unpractical, very feminine with a nod to menswear, and possibly, just a tiny bit silly.

Spencer, Underbodice and Skirt- ca. 1815, Spencer and skirt cut velvet with piping and wrapped buttons in hussar style, silk satin underbodice.  KCI AC3145 80-5-36AC

Spencer, Underbodice and Skirt- ca. 1815, Spencer and skirt cut velvet with piping and wrapped buttons in hussar style, silk satin underbodice. KCI AC3145 80-5-36AC

Last week’s offering was luxurious in being a couture item, this one is made from a most luxurious fabric: silk velvet cut in a chequered pattern.  Both share quirky buttoning detailing, and other whimsical trim. With the high, lifted bust of the spencer jacket, and the hip-emphasising skirt of the suit, both outfits make their wearers femininity abundantly clear, yet both are styles taken from men’s fashions.  Spencers were meant to be practical garments, as were suits, but in delicate silk velvet and hobbled hems, neither garment quite lives up to its promise of ease of wear.  And with layered peplums, fan hats, and little sticky-out spencer ‘tails’, both might cop a share of ridicule.

What do you think of this weeks outfit?  Better or worse than last weeks?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Rate the Dress: Charles Worth in 1897

Last week I showed you a striped 1860s number, and pointed out that the stripes weren’t aligned as we would expect them to be.  Oh foolish me!  Having had it pointed out, you all obsessed about the stripe placement, and were rather harsh on the poor gown (I know there was a tiny mis-match as well, but other than that, I actually though the unusual stripe action on the chevrons made the gown far more interesting and dynamic than a ‘normal’ stripe placement).  Beyond the stripes, some of you decried it as quite dull and blah.  Poor frock!  Some did love it though so it managed a 7.4 out of 10.

I’m quite obsessed with the late 1890s at the moment: the stiff, A-line skirts, the focus on menswear inspired tailoring, the pleating, the peculiar puffed sleeves.

This House of Worth evening gown from ca. 1897 is the perfect summation of the whole look.  The skirt, with its heavy folds and widening gores.  The juxtaposition of the über-feminine pink floral warp-patterned silk with a strong, tailored silhouette.

Evening dress House of Worth ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress House of Worth ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

The bodice which manages to be inspired both by men’s jackets and waistcoats, and 18th century stomachers and redingotes.  The sleeves: ruched below, surmounted by faux-renaissance puffs, with bands of lace forming slashings.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

And finally, the skirt pleats, perfectly framing repeats of the floral pattern.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

It’s quite a dress: feminine, masculine, multi-period historical, both ornate and paradoxically severe.

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

Evening dress, House of Worth, ca. 1897, silk & linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.638.a.b

What do you think of it?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

Rate the Dress: Walking in Stripes in the late 1860s

Last week I showed you a Regency era fashion plate that featured a decidedly interesting evening dress.  Opinions on the dress were decidedly divided: you either thought it was fabulous (with small caveats about the peplum and bodice trim), or hated it.  And you either thought it would be even more fabulous on a body, or far less fabulous!  So most scores were either well below 5, or well above 5, resulting in a rating of 7.4 out of 10.  Wackiness and all, I guess more of you liked it than not!

This week’s Rate the Dress in a little toned down compared to last week, but it does carry on the peplum theme.

This striped walking ensemble features a fitted bodice, a bustled skirt, and a separate belt with false peplum.

The dressmaker has made full use of the stripes: arranging them vertically, horizontally, and on the bias.  But the striped usage isn’t always what we’d expect: note how the bias chevrons down the front don’t form further ‘V’ shapes, but crook at angles across the point.  And the peplum stripes run parallel to the front edge, rather than angling away and enhancing the effect of the skirt flare away from the waist.

What do you think?  Would a lady strolling down the sidewalk in this ensemble present a picture of scintillating interest as the stripes shifted and moved?  Is the potentially overpowering pattern and trim balanced by the subtle colours (in a generally unsubtle era)?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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