Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Meet me in St Louis (Judy Garland’s party dress)

Last week so many of you loved the unusually cut and coloured 1750s robe a la anglaise that it rated a 9 out of 10.

Some interesting questions were raised about the dress.  Was it displayed on a too-small mannequin?  Was intended to be a pregnancy frock that adapted with the size of the wearer?  Was it made by an amateur dressmaker who couldn’t make it symmetrical?

This week won’t raise any of that sort of questions, because we know a lot about the dress in question.  Remember the party that the Smith’s house in Meet Me In St Louis?

Judy Garland, as the teenage Esther, attempts to romance the neighbor boy while wearing a memorable tassel trimmed ensemble, which may or may not have been blue and yellow, depending on how much you believe the colourist.

UPDATE: Now with a video clip, so you can see the context and rate the dress in motion.  Apologies for the dreadfully un-PC song!

What do you think of 1944 doing 1904?  Does Judy deserve a ribbon for her tassels?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. I love it, everything is so tacky and over the top I don’t know where to look. Please tell me they paid Judy well for wearing more tassels than the curtains and ugly chair 5 for the Giggles at dress and an 8 for the Cute Guy with the Uke.

  2. *shudder* This one is worse than Greta Garbo dressed as a sofa was! A horrible example of period x recreates period y. Mostly I have a lot of sympathy for this phenomenon. But this is just awful. 2.

  3. I love this movie; I love Judy Garland; I love this scene in the movie. And this dress has always cracked me up–it’s so silly that I come back around to liking it. A 7, because it makes me laugh and Judy as Esther manages to carry it well. The collar and pseudo-cravat are actually pretty cute.

    For an outfit I’d grant a full 10 in this movie–the all-white ensembles the whole family wears at the end. So adorable.

  4. Madame Ornata says

    Hmmm yeah, I agree, it’s pretty bad but has some redeeming aspects.
    It makes me giggle too it’s so v awful. It could have a second life as a camel saddle blanket on Lawrence of Arabia.
    4 outta 10

  5. I would give it a 7 or 8 without the tassles. With the tassles, it’s way too over the top! So, with that said, I give it 3.

  6. Dear God, that’s dreadful, no matter what color it is. I’m not familiar with this movie–what is it supposed to be? A bad takeoff on 1860’s fashion? An attempt at Biblical costume (i.e., her character is meant to be understood to be wearing a Biblical costume?)

    Whatever it is, it gets only a 2 from me.

    • Cathy, it’s meant to be a takeoff on turn of the century fashion – the film is about the St Louis World Fair of 1904. I’ll post a video with the scene.

  7. Frecklehead says

    Meh, it’s just bad, lol. Ridiculous compared to the other costumes in the movie, like the ones worn by the extras. Maybe there was a sale on tasseled trim in the L.A. fabric district? 1/10

  8. 1904? I don’t remember there being a fad for flared skirts and tons of tassels in 1904!

    But I’ll take your word that 1904 is the time period in which the movie was set. Thanks for answering my question.

  9. Yes. I also thought it was a take on 1860s, not 1904. When I see it in motion – or rather, Judy Garland in motion in it, it looks a smidge better, but otherwise… eek.

  10. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of the period (the intended one, I mean) and that the hairstyle looks even more hideous in my opinion…

  11. Julia Waite says

    Question – who is responsible for this costume? I can’t believe Edith Head would design something so repugnant…

    • The costume designer was Irene Sharaff. Apparently she “took inspiration for many of the movies costumes right out of the Sears & Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Marshall Fields catalogs from the time period.” Sharaff did lots of other big costume movies as well, including The King and I. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irene_Sharaff

  12. Natalie says

    OMG I have always loved this dress. Isn’t that funny? Everyone seems to dislike it! Oh well. I think it is fun and perfectly suited for a party dress.

  13. Paul Miller says

    I wish there was a word to describe the wretchedness of this betasseled gown. I’m going to try to make one up: [clears throat, searches the heavens beseechingly for inspiration] Shitstantatious? Nope, though it is plainly trying to hard. Craptastic? Eh, done to death. Whaddabout…..pooposterous! That’s it! [3]

  14. I think it looks a bit better in the side view – more like a cape and I like the bluey-grey colour.

    Full frontal though – words can’t really describe the ugliness.

    I’ll give it a 2 because I’m feeling generous today

  15. I like the general style of the dress and the flared skirt; but the tassels put me in mind of a tacky set of 1970s curtains! She looks like she’s trying to rip off Scarlett O’Hara, just in a different color. 😛

    I know someone mentioned something about hating her hairstyle; interesting to note that the hairstyle was actually from the 1940s, when the movie was made.

    Kudos to Judy for (sort of) pulling it off!

  16. Zach says

    I absolutely love this gown–the pictures do not do it justice, though. When seen in the movie, it looks a tad better (perhaps the technicolor of the time). I agree with the hair thing–the first time I saw it in the movie I almost fell over, but after watching over again I have gotten used to it. In the part where Ester and Rose sing “Meet Me in St. Louis” together, her bangs are changed and it makes ALL the difference.

    Ten out of ten!

  17. Melissa says

    I’ve been looking high and low for something similar to the gorgeous red dress Judy wore in this movie for my bridesmaids! Are you able to recreate it?

    • Sorry, unfortunately I’m not able to take any commissions at the moment. Good luck in finding a dressmaker to recreate the frock for you!

  18. I love this film and have always thought the costumes to have been well done for the time, and evocative of the early 1900’s. While some are spot-on and correct, some do have inaccuracies about them here and there, like the cakewalk/party dress. Would I wear such a thing? No, but again – it’s being “overdone” and its overall appearance is evocative of the time period, and Judy’s character to my eye looks good in it. Remember – this is a film, and films and plays have more going for them than just the costumes. Music, dialogue, and “message” are part of the picture too, and these things really do, in some sense, interact with what we “see” and experience.

    Re: the disclaimer in the above article that the cakewalk scene isn’t “PC”. The song “Under the Bamboo Tree” has lyrics which are meant to suggest conversation between black Africans, using broken English. The lyrics are about courtship and love, and one word used, “dusky” , means “dark in color”. This word is little different than the word “swarthy” that few have issue with. The music and lyrics were written by Bob Cole and J. Johnson in 1901 – and both men were African Americans.

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