19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress – Rose Atherton’s 1845 fantasty

Last week Wallis Simpson’s Yves Saint Laurent frock showed us that while the question of whether you can ever be too rich or too thin is still up for debate, having too many bows will drop your score in ‘Rate the Dress’.  The dress just missed out on a 7 out of 10 – coming in at 6.94 out of 10.

I wonder if knowing that Wallis wore the dress coloured it in your mind, so this week, we look at a frock that doesn’t belong to a particular person. Rose Atherton isn’t a woman – it’s a song about a woman.  In 1845 the songsheet was illustrated by a most interesting sketch of artist A. Newsam’s idea of a ‘Rose Atherton’.

Newman depicts his Rose in a simple dark skirt, and an off-the-shoulder military inspired bodice and an off-the-head straw hat.

You can see a larger, mirror image, of the same drawing here.

I find the mix of mid-Victorian fashion and fantasy fascinating.  But attractive?

That part is up to you to decide.

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. I rather liked it until I noticed the off-the-shoulder part. That looks just plain strange, to me.

    But I like tailored, fitted fashions. So despite the unmilitary low neckline, I’ll give it an 8 out of 10.

  2. Elise says

    The neckline looks so awkward. I can only imagine how sternly you would have to keep your shoulders unmoving. Just think of the difficulty of committing to the military theme, and how oddly the dress would bend if you actually tried to salute in it!

    And I have always hated 1840s hair.

    I give it a 6. Would knowing about the song help the score?

    • I can’t find a recording of the song anywhere on the internet, but if you are interested in the lyrics, or gifted in the musical department, a copy of the sheet music can be found here. Interestingly, it doesn’t even seem to mention a Rose Atherton. It’s all about spring and summer.

  3. Joie de Vivre says

    I think it is fabulous. I love the off-the-shoulder line and the juxtaposition with the military look. Although you can’t see it in the arm that is lowered, it looks like on the arm that is raised that there is a split end of the over-sleeve embellished with more military buttons with the frill sticking out, and I love that too, although on the other arm it looks like a regular sleeve with a giant frill and I am less enamoured of that. Overall wonderful. 9 but that is only because there are things I have liked even more in the past.

    BTW you need another option on your poll this week – all of them! I couldn’t possibly choose so won’t 🙂

  4. I suspect the artist has exaggerated the roundness of her shoulders, as those were fashionable at the time (what other excuse could there be?). I quite like all the different layers of the top and though I wouldn’t wear an off the shoulder dress like this (because these days broad shoulders are more stylish and I haven’t got those), I like the general principles of fitted and interesting bodice with a plain,dark bottom half. I’d give it a 7.5 (see, I’m finally figuring out you have to come up with a number…duh).

  5. Joie de Vivre says

    You know, this makes me think it would be a good basis for a steampunk outift. Ditch the hat and curls for something a bit more post-apocalyptic and edgy like a hairpiece with gearwork, sling some goggles around her neck, haul the skirt up a bit at the front so you can see the kick-butt boots, and replace the sweet smile with a don’t mess with me look and you’ve got it!

    • Amy R says

      I agree. Of course it would cost a small fortune in buttons, but it has the steampunk feel. That hat is worn like an ear covering, odd. I rate it a 5 as a conversion to steampunk.

  6. This fashion is not my favorite however for this dress I like how sharp (unique) the bodice is made with the military aspects. Then it’s soften by the puffy feminine blouse underneath. The hat doesn’t match the ensemble and it looks out of place due the factor that ladies who dressed for evening balls & dinners almost never wore hats.

  7. I see what everyone is saying and agree, but for some reason I just like this dress, I think it must be all the buttons. Everything about this Rose and the way she dressed is so, I can’t think of the word, it is like it is all going to fall off at any moment, and I guess men find that look appealing it captures their eyes, as they hopefully wait to see if everything will fall off. Naughty Rose, I have to give her a 9/10.

  8. It’s ridiculous… the hat looks like an afterthought, and the off-the-shoulder neckline looks as if the artist cut off the shoulders off a much more military-looking jacket. *giggles*
    So if I imagine a different (or differently-sitting) hat and the missing shoulders, it’s quite fantastic, about an 8 for me (I love the Renaissance-looking chemise!). But this way… phew. 4?
    (Jo-Anne got it right. This is a dress constructed by a male artist, who knows nothing about how the clothes work and how the woman wearing it would feel!)

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