20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Heather’s purple in 1910

Last weeks 1830s dress received surprisingly (at least compared to the popularity of 1830s fashions in the past) good reviews, with the only major complaint among most of you being that the colour was unflattering.  The dress rated a 7.4 out of 10

To counter the claims of unflattering colours, this week I feature a dress that we know was specifically chosen by the wearer because she found the colour flattering.  This summer day dress is from the wardrobe of Miss Heather  Firbank, daughter of a wealthy British MP.  According to her brothers biographer, Heather “had beauty, and she adorned it with exquisite clothes of a heather colour to complement her name”.

Day dress worn by Miss Heather Firbank, circa 1910, V&A

Day Dress, circa 1910, V&A Museum

Day dress, circa 1910, V&A Museum

Day dress, circa 1910, V&A Museum

This palest lavender dress could certainly be described as heather coloured, but is it exquisite?  And is the shade flattering?  Or a little insipid?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. Oo I get to be first! 🙂 The colour on me would be dire, but I know it suits a number of colouring combos very well so let us assume Miss Heather is one of those. LOVE IT. LOVE LOVE LOVE. One of my fave eras of dress anyway, love the tailoring details like the buttons linked over the tucks, the tabs hanging down with the lace strip border thing, love the debutante droop of an S shape, not too pronounced, and LOVE THE HAT. The mannequin needs bigger hair to fill it out underneath but that’s not the outfit’s fault.
    I want to make it!!

  2. I love that so much I might die. 10/10 the color is perfect, and the details are pretty, but not too much, and the silhouette is perfect. The hat is great too 🙂

  3. Stella says

    Gorgeous! I’m giving this one the full 10/10.

  4. Elise says

    What brilliant people with whom I keep online company! I just love the color, and I love the matched detailing from front to back. I love that there is just enough frou on such a simple and elegant silhouette. 10/10. Thanks for a very pretty dress!

  5. Love the color, love the skirt, love the sleeves. Love the lace – just enough to make a statement. BUT I can’t get bast the little poof balls just bellow the chest. I don’t know… something about the placement makes the rest of the top look too plain or droopy or something. I feel like if they weren’t there the plain-ness would be ok, or if there was a little more of the white lace higher up instead of the poof balls, or something. I don’t know. Just sort of bothers me. I like them on the sleeves and the back, just not the front. Alas, for otherwise the dress is divine.


  6. Madame Ornata says

    I love it too. The silhouette is fantastic, the touches of lacy bling pretty and elegant without being too much. Not so keen on that colour (but only on me), like MrsC I am assuming it suited the original wearer. High necks don’t suit me either but it is in perfectly in keeping with the outfit. I’d really like to make this. I’d die for the hat, I have a real bad thing for big hats right now (swoon 10/10)

  7. I think it’s exquisite; only the lack of information about Heather’s coloring makes me reluctant to give it a 10. (A dark-haired woman with a dusky complexion would, indeed, not look so well in it.) 9.5

  8. Ah, the hat. I ignored the hat.

    I don’t care for the hat. I think it’s too dark and drab, and risks overpowering the dress. I would wear something like a pale straw colored or plain white chip, with white and lilac roses and a lilac ribbon, with this dress. The flowers on the hat go well with the dress, but the darkness of the hat is too overwhelming. A 5 for the hat, as shown with the dress above.

  9. Adela says

    The V&M mannequins have such hideous faces. Distracts from every outfit I’ve seen on them. Can’t stand the collar and under boob frogs. Meh 6. I do however wear that colour myself.

    • I completely agree about the V&A mannequins! It’s one of the reasons I draw on their collections so infrequently for my ‘Rate the Dress’.

  10. Kay Morgan says

    Hello, I’ve been admiring The Dreamstress’ blog for some time and it’s only now that I feel I have some tiny contribution to make that I’ve decided to go ahead and comment.

    I was intrigued by the mistery of whether the colour of the dress was flattering to the owner’s complexion so I googled her and found a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery (UK): http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw67896/Heather-Firbank

    In my humble opinion, the colour would suit her very well. I’d personally give the dress a 10/10. Reading the Museum’s description I realized the design is deceivingly simple. I love the embellishments and also how cleverly the pigeon bosom is accentuated without adding bulk. I’ve ignored the hat, as the Museum’s information does not say whether it was part of the original ensemble. From past experience at the Museum itself (before they sadly closed the textiles section to move it to a new location)I’d wager it isn’t.


    • Thank you so much for your contribution! I’m so excited that you found a picture of Heather, and it is fabulous to hear your insight on the V&A, since I have never managed to be there 🙁

    • Valerie says

      Is that fur trim on the dress in the picture? Fir-bank? I like this dress on her, in fact I like it more than the heather dress.

    • Daniel says

      It’s Heather’s hat. The V&A have a large collection of her clothes, including lots of hats and shoes and accessories as well as clothes. These mannequins haven’t been used for nearly 10 years, they were created in the early 1980s and intended to suggest the faces thought most attractive at the period (ie, Edwardian face, 1960s face, Georgian face.) I personally think they’re rather fantastic, love their spectral quality.

      That portrait actually isn’t of Heather Firbank, but is a 1962 photograph by Cecil Beaton of an unknown woman, presumably a model, wearing one of Heather’s dresses. (She was deceased by the time that photo was taken!)

      • Gosh, you are totally right! I can’t believe no-one else noticed that! And it doesn’t even look remotely like a 1910’s image!

  11. At first glance I loved the dress… but that’s because I like the cut/style in general… on closer inspection the neckline is frumpy and would certainly make my double chin look ghastly (yes I know the dress was not made for me – but then how hard is it to judge when we don’t have a photograph of the lady it was made for.) but then I guess we are judging the dress on it’s own… So… I guess I would give it a 7… mostly for the lace bit in front and back and the sleeves with the pouffy button and cording thingies… colour? mmmm ok I guess. Yep it gets a 7 from me.

  12. Susan says

    A 10 of 10 from me. I love how the accents are just that, but don’t detract from the beauty of the dress in anyway. Having said that though, I ADORE the trim!
    As one who finds lavendar to be VERY flattering, I would kill to wear a dress like this!

  13. 5/10

    I hate the bodice. I hate those little puffballs. I hate the collar. When I see the puffballs, with that collar, on that bodice, I think purple clowns.

    But I like the skirt A LOT. And the color is pretty, too.

  14. Judi says

    Love the dress, love the color, hate the little balls. If I were living in 1910 and was gifted this dress, I’d take great pleasure in snipping them all off (they’d make great cat toys!) 9 of 10

  15. Valerie says

    I dislike the neckline and frumpy bustline. I also dislike the skirt front with the strange apron-like decoration (back not so bad). The color is not amazing, but not terrible. No points off for color, but overall 6.5/10

  16. This is a weird dress to me… I like the individual elements a lot (colour combination, the pattern of the lace…), but not together. Just not together. I wish I would, but I don’t. I guess my general dislike for Edwardian fashions is resurfacing again. And the manequin does not help, but I’m quite sure it’s not the manequin. It’s the balls, and the aprony skirt, and the collar (which would be lovely, but somehow does not fit to this dress in my eyes).

  17. Colour is meh, but it probably suited the woman, judging by the picture, so I guess it’s a good choice.
    Don’t like the balls at the bottom of the bust at all (any bosom would look droopy with these!). Don’t like the collar. Not too enthusiastic about the whole dress. 6/10.

  18. Mrs. Victoria Trunke says

    Oh My I love it ….subtle yet powerful… perfect hat..=-)

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