19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: blue plaid in 1878

Last week’s 186os child’s party frock created the usual divisions I’ve come to expect with historical children’s clothes: some of you liked it for a child, many of you thought it would be much better on an adult, many of you wanted it for yourself, and a few of you questioned if it was appropriate for a child.  But overall, you liked it, and it rated an 8.6 out of 10.  I agree, but only if you take off that hideous overskirt.  With the overskirt my vote is only 4 out of 10!

For this week’s rate the dress my jumping off point is last week’s poll which asked you what your favourite fabric colour was.  An overwhelmingly large percentage of you said blue (25 out of 52, compared to 11 out of 52, for green, the next runner up).  Now I want to know if this abstract liking of blue fabric translates into liking an actual garment, or at least helps you to like it more.

So I present this  blue trimmed  blue tartan princess dress from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  According to the LACMA it is a young woman’s dress, which I presume means they think it was worn by a teenager.  Or maybe it’s just very small in size, even for a Victorian dress.

Young woman's dress, 1878, probably English, LACMA

Other than the novelty of the possible age of the wearer, the dress is classic late 1870s: slim lines, slightly bustled train, and details and pleats galore.  Do you like it?  Would you like it less if it were red tartan?

Rate the dress on a scale of 1 to 10



  1. I like the cut and styling, but the plaid is a litttttle over the top for me. I think this is a “the dress is weaering her” unless you’ve got a big personality squeezed in there.

    I give it a 5

  2. I like the shape, the details, pretty much everything–except that the tartain is making my eyes bleed. Those bright lines of–what? peach?salmon?bright tomato?–stand out like neon glowsticks. A 5, because this could have been a lovely dress in a subdued print, a staid solid, or an audacious bright color–but not the Plaid Scotland Rejected.

    Oh, and please ditch the knee-height bow. Thanks.

    • Haha! ‘The Plaid Scotland Rejected’… My sentiments exactly.

      Fabulous Shape and details, BOO on the fabric choice!


  3. KC says

    LOVE IT!


    Yes, the color blue always makes me like the article of clothing better. Provided the piece of clothing isn’t HORRIBLY ugly. Hehe.

    That looks like a dress Ilse Burnley would wear! Something beautiful, but not many people could get away with it.

    I would wear that dress myself today! Blue is my favorite color, and one of the colors I look best in, and I love plaid.

    I love it!!!!! LOVE IT!!! 😀

    • Frecklehead says

      Oh my word, I though Ilse Burnley when I saw this! You read the Emily Books! So happy right now 🙂

      I can see a redhead wearing this. 😛

      I love the fabric, it’s so wild and unique…. but not a fan of the dress itself.

      4/10 for the whole thing as it stands.

  4. Elise says

    What an awful, dowdy thing! The bow as no reference and I hate it. I hate the whole thing–except for the blue.

  5. Stella says

    I’d like it more if it wasn’t in plaid, but even so I don’t think it’s a particularly inspired piece of 1870s fashion. That bow at the front does nasty things to the proportions and makes it look stumpy. 3/10 from me.

  6. And that is how you ruin the color blue. Ugh. It looks like a mess of rejected Christmas wrapping paper. If it were in red it would be a giant mess of leftover Christmas wrapping paper. Of course, then the bow might make more sense.

    To be fair, I don’t *hate* the plaid, but I despise it in such a large quantity. The blue color at the center of the large squares is very pretty though. If the dress were a solid blue color it would be getting a much higher score. Points taken off for the bow, and I am not super in love with the ruffles on the bustle area, but I don’t mind them on the bottom of the skirt. Pretty much it is only getting points for the train and the color blue.


  7. ZipZip says

    Oh dear. Plaid gone wild. Is the model wearing a window blind atop her bottom?
    Late 1870s dresses can be elegant froth, but this one feels like it’s in more 1860s colors. If the lace collar or jabot and lace cuffs that likely might have been worn with this dress were added, they might soften the harsh lines, but as it stands, too loud for me, thank you. 4 out of 10.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  8. That fabric would make a great tablecloth, but as a dress it fails gloriously. I like the cuffs and the pleated trim along the hem, but don’t care for it at the bustle. It’s a rather dowdy, fusty piece of clothing.


  9. Libby says

    I definitely like it on the mannequin, but it might look weird on a person: 8/10

  10. I like this dress. I’m very picky about plaids yet this one is harmonized by the lovely dark blue pleats & accents.

  11. I really like the fabric. I really like the dress, well that is I like lements of it. I have always had a weak spot for folded back skirt details. I adore the buttons all the way down the front.
    I even like the fringing.
    What I don’t like is all of it on the same dress. I would say this is a classic case of “Curate’s Egg” -good in parts, but not equal to the sum of said parts. 4/10.

    • Mrs C, I’m pretty sure that is extremely fine pleating, rather than fringing, if that makes any difference to your opinion.

      • No but I do love the fine pleating. Must wear my glasses more!

  12. Daniel says

    I had a duvet cover like that in my Halls of Residence when I was a student. (My own, not University issue.) I do love a bit of plaid/tartan and I think I like the dress a lot because it’s so brash, but I think the frills/bows don’t really go with the tartan. It’s a lovely dress and I do love a bit of knife-pleated faff, but not sure about the big bow and I’m not sold on the frills on the back either.

    I think I’d love it more if it were red, actually, just because of the monumental chutzpah a red tartan dress like this would have, but I probably wouldn’t care for the design overall. So I suppose I’d say it’s a 4/10 personally speaking, as I’m really conflicted – I love bits and really don’t get others, but having said that, it’s still a great example of what it is.

  13. Love the blue colour, but find the rest hideous, I’m sorry to say. Too much of too much. 🙂

  14. The blue pleated ruffles are the saving grace of this dress indeed… otherwise it looks like a bland, overwhelmingly plaid dress with decorations just thrown on in order to make it look less bland…
    Although I suspect from the back it might look more interesting. I’m simply not a fan of button-down dresses. Especially not in plaid.

  15. I just don’t know what to say. I’ve been sitting here for quite some time, trying to come up with a rating/comment. I can’t. wow.

  16. Ah, I secretly love all-over tartan, although I’m aware that my view isn’t necessarily shared by everyone. If I were a ‘young woman’ in the 1870s, I would love wearing this dress, but be worried that everyone else thought it was the vilest thing they’d ever seen. And although I have a design for a full-length red tartan dress that I do think would work, I don’t think this one would work in red. I’d give it a 7.

  17. I love plaid, but this is… um… wow! I feel like a draped overskirt would have improved it quite a lot, breaking up the horizontal lines running from the neck to the floor. Fun fringe around the bottom (minus the bow D:)–for once, more trim would have toned a dress down! The trimming seems to sit low on the bustle though, like it’s falling off, and I’m not so sure about the train. So the back as a whole I am not a fan of. I do really like the solid (silk?) cuffs though!
    All in all, a little loud and oddly designed, but is overall still not too bad… 6/10
    And yes… I would like it less if it were red tartan. That would probably be even more shocking!

    P. S. Does this remind anyone else of the 1870s blue version of Fanny Thornton’s magnificently blinding plaid day dress from the BBC North & South (ep. 1, I believe)? Now THAT is a loud plaid dress I would wear with pride 😀

  18. BeckaJo says

    I’m going to buck the negative trend and say that this dress made me squeal a little when I saw it. It reminds me of “Little Town on the Prarie” – where Laura Ingalls and her mother are making a dress for Mary to wear when she went to college. I think this dress is almost exactly what they might have made! I appreciate the use of tartan and the neat ruffles, as well as the lovely curve to the sleeves.

    So I’m going to say it’s another 10/10. Lovely!

  19. Jay says

    I would wear this but would swap the dark blue and Tartan around so only small amount of Tartan detailing. Only because the amount of Tartan needed to cover a six foot woman might be a touch too much.

  20. Mrs. Victoria Trunke says

    I love this dress I AM a redhead and HOW I DO LOVE BLUE PLAID.. I would wear this with out hesitation… in a heartbeat.. lovely dress would not change a thing….as an 1878 re enactor , I am always looking for unique outfits…lots do Civil War , I do post .. a happier and more prosperous time for me anyway…..=-)

  21. michelle says

    would give my left arm [ need my right for sewing] for 5 yards of this fabric

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