Latest Posts

Rate the Dress: 1821 Red & Green Zig-Zags

It’s Rate the Dress day again! Every week I feature a historical garment – whether an extant original, or an artistic depiction, and you have your say about its aesthetic merits within the context of its time. This week’s pick is a seasonally inspired 1820s dress with red & green zig-zags.

Last week: ca. 1910s purple polka dots

Last week’s purple polka dotted frock was an interesting one.  Nobody loved it enough to give it a 10/10, and a few of you really didn’t like it, but most of the ratings were pretty positive.

I have a love/hate relationship with the purple number.  Or, more accurately, a hate/love relationship.  My initial reaction was “Gah, it’s hideous!”  The more I looked at it, the more I found elements that I ought to love, or that were beautifully done.  There is so much there that is good, and yet somehow, for me, it just doesn’t work.

The Total: 7 out of 10.

That’s the lowest we’ve had in a while, and pretty bad for the perennially popular 1910s.

This week: a ca. 1821 afternoon dress:

To celebrate the holidays I’ve chosen a red-& green dress:

The most obvious and striking feature of this early 1820s dress is the red & green zig-zagged fabric.  The fabric takes advantage of advances in printing, bleaching and dyeing technology that revolutionised early 19th century fabrics.  The print is created with engraved metal roll-printing; an invention which allowed relatively detailed prints to be created reasonably cheaply, bringing previously prohibitively expensive printed fabrics, if not to the masses, at least to a wider expanse of the general public.

The impact of engraved roll printing was made even more pronounced by improved dyeing and bleaching techniques which allowed prints with multiple contrasting colours to be printed directly next to each other on the fabric at a relatively reasonable price-point.

So this fabric, while perhaps a bit fuddy-duddy to modern eyes, would have been quite new and exciting in the 1820s, justifying the extensive use of it for almost every aspect of the dress.

Note the use of contrasting stripe placement on the pereline body and collar, and the bias-cut of all the major bodice pieces.  The bodice is trimmed with double rows of self-fabric piping, and stripes created by gathering stripes of fabric cut along the green stripes.  The bodice stripes highlight the lowered waist of the 1820s, and the curvier, more waist-focused, silhouette.

The same stripes trim the tops of the double layer of skirt ruffles.  The ruffles utilise an interesting change in stripe placement from the top to the bottom ruffle, creating visual movement at the hem of the dress, emphasising the softer, fuller skirts of 1820s fashion.

The only non-fabric trim element is the narrow wool braid that edges the pelerine and the cuffs of the dress.

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Tell us what you think!  Do the zig-zags, and the way they have been used, add a bit of festive fun to this afternoon frock, or is this example of an 1820s dress a bit of a dud?



(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!  Thanks in advance!)




Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

Review: American Duchess “Moliere” Edwardian Pumps

My much-anticipated American Duchess Moliere shoes have come in, and I have given them a thorough look-over, and a proper wearing.   (Plus a bit of petting and cooing over them).  Now I can give you an equally proper review!

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

My feet:

You might find it helpful to know all about my feet, so you can take that on board when I discuss the Moliere’s fit:

Because there are slight variations in size and shape between brands:

  • 65% of my shoes are a size 39 (which is between a US/NZ 8 – 8.5)
  • 20% are a US/NZ 8.5 (these are predominantly summer shoes, because my feet swell when its hot)
  • 10% are a US/NZ 8
  • 5% are a 38

I have very high arches and insteps, and ballerina toes* (my first three toes are exactly the same length).  I’m a true B width, with an even width from heel to front.  Overall, I have a very standard foot shape.

In general, it is extremely easy for me to find shoes that fit perfectly.  I can wear almost anything from a European shoe company, and most American shoe brands.  The only problems I ever have with fit are across my instep: some shoes are just designed for flatter feet, and cut across the top of mine.

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

The Look:

As always with American Duchess, the materials and craftmanship in the shoe are top-notch.  The ivory colour is almost more of a bone.  It’s a really beautiful neutral for pairing with a whole range of stockings and garments.  I love the bone: so much more versatile than white.

The new 2.5″ French heels are phenomenal.  They really capture the look of the 1910s-early 20s heel silhouette, while still being sturdy and comfortable enough for modern tastes.  I’m totally in love with them on the Molieres and I can’t wait to see what other shoe designs they get used on!

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

They heels are very easy to walk in.  I wandered all around the Native Botanical Gardens at Otari Wiltons Bush, over a variety of terrain, and found them very comfortable.

The only drawback looks-wise to my Molieres were some slight flaws.  There were two tiny places on the tongue of one of my shoes where the leather had been nicked, and then shaved and filled to repair it.  This causes a bit of wrinkling, and the colour is ever so slightly different as it goes over the textural changes.

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

I was a bit surprised, as AD is usually obsessive about imperfections.    Every other pair I’ve had has been spotless.  I’ve even ordered imperfects from then 2x and haven’t been able to find the flaws that got them discounted.  The flaws on my Moliere are a tiny bit disappointing, but it’s unlikely that anybody is every going to be looking that closely at my shoe, so c’est la vie.

If I was in the US I might have exchanged them, courtesy of AD’s excellent returns policy.  Unfortunately with shipping costs to & from NZ exchanges just aren’t viable.

In any case, no matter how careful I am, I’m bound to get a nick or two in them myself eventually anyway!

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

The Fit:

I dithered and dithered between an 8 & 8.5 with these shoes.  I finally settled on 8.5 because I’m most likely to be wearing ivory shoes with summer outfits.  I wanted to be comfortable if my feet were a little swollen, and because I’d primarily be wearing these with merino knit stockings.

They are definitely a bit big for me.  I can easily fit my whole thumb behind my merino-stockinged foot when wearing them.  This makes them bigger than any of the other 8.5s in my closet.  I can still wear and walk in them comfortably, but I’ll definitely be getting an 8 for future pairs (there will be future pairs!)

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

Part of the reason I have so much room is the width.  They are very generous for a B width (oh ye with wider feet, rejoice!).  This gives my feet room to slide all the way forward to the front of the shoe.  They definitely feel noticeably wider than both my leather & fabric Dunmores (the Dunmores fit me perfectly in an 8.5).  The Dunmores are, of course, a different last to the Moliere shoes, but still helpful for comparison purposes.

The width part is probably going to make LOTS of you super happy, so I can’t fault AD there!  I just have true B width feet, and prefer a snugger fit, particularly in Edwardian shoes.  The whole 1910s shoe asthetic was focused on making your foot look really slender, by elongating the length.

The only tiny thing that is a bit odd about the Moliere’s fit is the height of the sides of the shoe and heel.  It’s just the merest smidge short.

I thought maybe I was just over-analysing them at first, or that they felt odd because of my very high arches, so I had a couple of friends with 8-8.5 feet try them on.  After squeeing over how gorgeous they are, I asked them what they thought about the fit.  All three friends who tried them on independently said they weren’t quite tall enough round the sides and at the back of the heel.  It’s not a lot – less than a cm.  Just enough to make the difference between a shoe you’d be confident dancing in, and one that might slip off, even if it fits snugly otherwise.

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

The Verdict:

Despite a few tiny drawbacks, overall I’m very happy with the Moliere shoes. I will definitely be adding the black Molieres to my collection as soon as I can justify it.

Review: The American Duchess Moliere Shoes

* only I never did ballet so my toes are in very good condition 😉



Rate the Dress: a ca. 1910 dress with purple polka dots

It’s Rate the Dress day again!  Every week I feature a historical garment – whether an extant original, or an artistic depiction, and you have your say about its aesthetic merits within the context of its time.  This week we look at a ca. 1910 dress in lavender purple polka dots.

Last week: 1720s-40s theatrically-embroidered casaquin

For once I was absolutely correct in predicting the reaction to last week’s striking embroidered casaquin.  The white linen and vivid wool embroidered garment flaunted the wearer’s knowledge and sophistication, as well as their ability to afford an incredibly expensive informal garment.

Most of you were major fans, but a few of you weren’t having a bar of it.  I strongly suspect the casaquin was just as divisive when it was originally worn.

The Total: 8.8 out of 10.

Tons of 10s, a few middlings, and one spectacularly bad 2!  And a last-minute comment that was so beautiful that I went and updated the maths, even though I’d already done them, so it could be included in the rating 🙂

This week: ca. 1910 polka dots

This week let’s travel to 1910, and look at a 1909-11 day dress in lavender purple spotted silk with black and ivory accents:

The dark lavender of the dress sits just between the sweet half-tone pastels of the early Edwardian era and the vivid colours fashionable in the 1910s.

The combination of polka dots and stripes is another fashionable twist that I associate with the mid 1910s, but the rest of the dress, with its heavy use of lace in the guimpe, collar and sleeves, and black velvet trim, is quite Edwardian.

The combination of multiple coordinating fabrics, and the amount of detail work in the garment, suggest that this was a fairly expensive garment.  Note that there appears to be more fabric manipulation and detail work on the side of the skirt:

What do you think of this ca 1910 dress?  Do you like this lady in lavender, or do you find the purple polka dots quite pedestrian?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(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!  Thanks in advance!)