Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Late Elizabethan pastels

Last week I showed you a very bright blue plaid dress, and despite the fact that so many of you said you liked blue, most of you did not like this blue, especially not in a plaid!  Rowenna even called it “The Plaid Scotland Rejected.”  A few of you were more favorable though, and felt you could pull it off.  It averaged out with a marginal rating of 5.4 out of 10.

This week, let’s take a deep, calming breath, and tone things down a little with a 1605 portrait of Anne of Denmark.

Well, kinda tone things down.  This is early 17th century fashion we are talking about after all, and while the wife of James I of England is clad in muted whites and pinks, there is nothing toned down and muted about her silhouette.

Anne’s hair is piled high, and her famously beautiful neck and bust are framed by a fine lace collar and pink trim.  Blue and pink ribbon rosettes on her bodice further lead the eye up to her best asset (her neck!  Get your mind out of the gutter!), and a sash of pearls shows off her wealth.  Her bodice is heavily brocaded or embroidered, but her skirt is more restrained – well, at least the fabric is.  The skirt silhouette is quite extreme, as the Elizabethan ruff appears to have moved down to her hips.

Portrait of Anne of Denmark; ca. 1605, attributed to John de Critz, National Maritime Museum, London

What do you think?  Is Anne pretty in pink and white?  Or is it still too much?  Or should an out-there silhouette have an out-there colour scheme to go with it?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. “The skirt silhouette is quite extreme, as the Elizabethan ruff appears to have moved down to her hips.”
    😀 Spot on!

    I don’t know; I’m afraid I’ve just lost my ability to rate. I wrote a detailled critique and then I realised that I actually, against my better judgment, love it. *sigh* I still don’t love her hair, though.

    You see, I’m not a great fan of the royal and aristocratic fashion of this era (middle-class and lower is a whole different matter) – it seems to me many of my historical fashion pet peeves concentrated there. I’m not a fan of over the top… which makes me wonder what will MrsC think of this dress. 😉

    And there are many over the top details on this dress. The aforementioned hip ruff. And hair. And the rosettes at the sleeve heads – they seem so cramped. And the pearl sash. (Pearl sash? SERIOUSLY?!)

    All the rest of the gown is pretty though, and I think the colour scheme suits her quite well. And the pink lace! I’d never thought I’d approve of pink lace, but it works miracles in this otherwise rather prim silhouette.
    It’s just that there are too many overwhelming not-pretty things for me…

    7. Something to balance out my tear-apart critique and my irrational falling in love with this dress.

    • Elise says

      What would a middle class person wear, during this time? I know what they would have worn earlier, and later, but now? Did you know that I was surprised when I first saw a portrait of her? I didn’t think that a woman would still wear that wheel dress. Poor her. Good thing that she looks very pretty in pink and blue! 80s suit with pink collar, indeed!

      • Well, the biggest problem is that I’m not 100% sure, it’s really not my era. 🙂 But it was certainly much more down-to-earth. And it depends on the country, too… I think what people wore in England was quite different from what they wore in my country (Bohemia/Moravia at that time).

  2. Mercy says

    Can I go for 6.5? Appropriate to the time, and not irritating. That said I am not sure the trim really goes? It looks (to a modern eye) just a smidge like a radiation warning sign- and doesn’t fit with the dress. Otherwise I like it, but would not be able to fit my fat a**e in it, sadly.

  3. Generally, I don’t like the Elizabethan style. BUT, this one, I love. 9/10, becasue I still think the skirt is rather boxy.

  4. I think it’s a pretty determined attempt to make something pretty out of a fashion that was all about power. I LOVE the ‘do, and she reminds me of our Clare only not as gorgeous. So I can imagine it real on Clare and it seems better real.
    I am with Hana on the whole loving it but wanting to pick holes about it anyway. The opposite of last week where I loved everything about the dress but the dress itself. Something about the whole stiffness of these dresses working in their logical context, whereas this one has a softness about it that doesn’t match the fashion – that “pretty out of power” thing. Like a 1980’s power suit in pink with a lace collar, strange contradictions that unsettle the senses. The painter has captured the softness of the silk skirt so well.
    I give it the benefit of the doubt with a 7.5. A dress that transcends the sum of its parts is a greater success than one that is not equal to them!

  5. Stella says

    Late Elizabethan silhouettes don’t really float my boat, but I kind of like this one. 7/10 from me.

  6. Caroline says

    What is it with this dress?
    I also thought “oh great” when I heard Elizabethan but I find myself quite enchanted with this dress! Every time I look at it I sway between those things that bug me, and “but it’s so pretty!” Well, why not! I’ll give it a 7.5.

    By the way I love the Doctor Who themed poll! I’m still deciding if I really like the new season though.

  7. I LOVE THIS GOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    It’s like everything I love about late Elizabethan period and everything I love about 18th c. all smooshed into one and I LOVES IT!

    • KC says

      You sound like me when I really love a gown. 😀

      I give it an 8.

      I don’t know what to think of those little swirly things. They look like…. well, I’m not really sure that I know what they look like. They don’t look like rosettes, though.

      I like the colors and the ruff. I also like imagining things being perched on the boxy part at the hips. Like cats. Or a tea set. I don’t know why, but I keep thinking of it like that.

      I wouldn’t where it myself, though. People would be too tempted into thinking that I was part of a table. At least my family would.

  8. Judi says

    It does what it is supposed to do–showing off wealth–but it falls short on design. I do like the pink lace and the brocade/embroidery, but not the rosettes or the wheel skirt. 6.5

  9. For me this one is a meh. There is nothing I really love or hate about it. I mean, I don’t really like the skirt ruff or all of the rosettes all over, but I don’t really hate them. They are just there. I don’t know, this dress doesn’t really do anything for me at all. It’s just a 17th century dress. I suppose I like the lace collar, but that is about all.


  10. ladyjanewriter says

    I give it a 6.

    I think at the time it was more in the fashion of the day, but it’s overkill, and the ribbon rosettes are just too dark – very jarring to the eye. I think it’s because of the ribbon (?) or damask patterned bodice and sleeves of the outfit – just too much repetition of pattern. I think if it had been a quiet robin’s egg blue in a jaquard or brocade, it would have been more balanced. But balanced wasn’t the point in this era – very much a “More is More” kinda time!

    However, the diadem is really lovely. The diadem is at least a 9.

  11. One of the nicer dresses I’ve seen of this period. (Often the neckline is so low as to be ugly.) I don’t care for the ribbon roses but the overall result is attractive. 7 of 10.

    • KC says

      Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention how I didn’t like how we get to see the “gutter” as the Dreamstress called it.

  12. Libby says

    Although I think rosettes are the ugliest trim possible, I quite like the rest of this dress. I think the skirt is lovely, so is the pearl sash.

  13. OK, so Elizabethan/early 17th century fashion always puts me in mind of one of those cakes with the dolls stuck in them–you know what I mean? Tiny stiff waists and oddly disproportionate skirts, arms held at weird angles to avoid getting smeared with frosting. I digress. But–to gauge it for what it is, and against how well it’s worn, I’m pretty favorable toward this particular example. The colors are understated and work very well with Ms. Anne’s complexion. I like how the details work together and don’t compete with one another–the pearls, rosettes, and pastel brocade all coordinate beautifully. I’m even a little swoonworthy over the lace-covered pink cuffs. In total, a 7.

    • KC says

      OH MY GOSH, I was thinking about that. You know, the doll in a cake part.

      I really should read all the comments before I post my own.

  14. Yech. It’s the sleeves that bring it down. Make ’em out of a plainer fabric like the skirt, and take those ridiculous pinwheels off her shoulders. 2.5/10.

  15. Daniel says

    She is a dead ringer for the current Princess Anne, right down to the hairdo.

    As for the dress – gosh – it actually looks like something Dior might have designed in the 1950s for an Elizabethan-era stage costume. It’s certainly in his favourite colour combination of soft grey and rose pink, which gives it a surprisingly contemporary/modern flavour for its period. Somehow it’s a lot more muted and toned down than I’d expect for an early 17th century portrait, which throws me off – it almost seems more 18th century in its aesthetic. Interesting.

    So yes. Rating? Gonna go for the safe “I like it but not LOVE it” rating of 7.5/10

  16. The pinwheels don’t disturb me too badly, but I’m not a huge fan of the color combo. Though there are some lovely dresses made in pastel, especially later into the 18th-19th C, I am not sure about it on this outfit. (I’m seeing it in a navy blue and gold? Something a bit richer, at any rate.) And the Elizabethan ruff moved down to the hips, as you so aptly noted? Aaagh what were they thinking?! (For sure the doll in the cake Rowenna, haha!) The pink trim on the collar and sleeves is nice though, and I think I would like the bodice’s striped fabric to make something out of myself 😀
    All in all, I don’t like it so very much, but don’t hate it either. 4/10

  17. BeckaJo says

    I had to think seriously about this one. On reflection, I’m giving it an 8 for style, a 3 for suitability, averaging out to a 5.5.

    I feel like the dress was *so* fashionable it was actually ahead of the trends, and therefore kind of awkward. Sort of like wearing the exact thing that’s on the runway in an everyday context. It looks a bit…ridiculous, even assuming everyone else was dressed similarly. However, the fabric looks lovely, and it’s still good work.

    But just in general, I think it looks terrible on the wearer – not suited at all! She’s terribly washed out (not just pale, but kind of sickly looking.) And the proportions are all wrong. It’s quite awkward and I don’t see her personality at all.

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