20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Worth Jr in the afternoon

Last week you heathens didn’t like the rosettes on Anne of Denmark’s pastel frock.  You compared them to radiation warning symbols and, despite the number of people who irrationally liked the dress in spite of itself (me included), it only rated a 6.6 out of 10.  Poor Anne.  What is it with you guys and bows!?!

This week I’m going to challenge you by combining something you usually loathe (bows), and something you usually love (Worth).  Previous Worth Rate the Dress’ have elicited the comments ‘Worth can do no wrong’ and “I’m going to marry Worth and have his children.”

Afternoon dress, Jean-Phillipe Worth for the House of Worth, 1905-1908, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ve thrown in another twist with this dress though.  It may be a Worth, but it’s not a Charles Frederick Worth, because the business had passed to his son.  So does your opinion that Worth is always fabulous apply to Jean-Phillipe Worth as well?

And does it apply to an ecru lace dress with an orange sash with a rosette and black bows down the front?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. Courtney F. says

    Ecru Lace Dress: thumbs up.

    Orange Sash: thumbs up.

    Black Bows: what the stinkin’ heck?!

    It’s as if there was an automatic bow-application machine in the Worth sewing room that went berserk and started firing ribbony projectiles at innocent bystanders.

    • Courtney F. says

      …That translates to a 5. 10 for the dress and sash. 1 for the weird bows.

  2. Elise says

    Oh! I can just imagine the asymmetrical hat arranged ‘just so’. I love black and ecru, and this is interesting! 8/10

    • Elise says

      I still like it! Ok, so I read the comments, and you are right that it’s off and not pretty. But I still like it. So now, I imagine the angriest of teenagers acquiescing to go into mourning or something black in the ugliest way possible. You know, like teenagers. Although in secret, I’m hoping for an awesome black and orange reference in the back. Dunno. Score officially lowered: 5/10

      Hey! Can we have an ugly dress/beautiful comment competition? I loved–loved loved reading!

  3. All I can think is “Nightmare Before Christmas.” Or like, someone was getting married and then someone died, so they did a quick fix to go from wedding to funeral super fast. I do like the lace, and for some reason I even like the orange bow at the waist. But not together. I can’t even comment on the black bows.


  4. Natalie says

    I may be the minority here because I usually love anything with bows on it. I say usually because until I saw this dress I didn’t think I could ever dislike bows.

    I think this dress is really ugly! 0 out of 10.

  5. My first, gut reaction to the black bows–they remind me of an oversized army of ants crawling in a neat line up her dress. Rip ’em off, however, and you have a striking and interesting gown! The ecru lace is lovely, and the orange rosette and sash provides enough zip to carry the otherwise bland color. So–a 5, because as it stands it’s pretty awful, but easily rectified.

  6. KC says

    Radiation warning symbols! That is exactly what I thought….. I just couldn’t place my finger on it at the time of my comment.


    I hate it!

    1/10 (Or 0..)

    • KC says

      The only thing I like about the dress is the bow. But even that adds to the ugliness!

      But seriously….. balloon animals on a puke-covered dress. With a birthday present bow to tie it all together. That is what I think of it!

  7. It looks very much like the kind of dress you throw together with a number of other people in an hour on holiday camps, made out of colored tissue paper and assorted odds and ends…
    In other words, something like 2. Mostly because the lace dress underneath the bows is actually rather nice.

  8. I would love the dress, if it just had the yellow sash. But those black bows???? It’s really weird. I do like the general shape though.


  9. Riza says

    I absolutely love this dress! Yes, it is over the top and yes, I could never wear it but it is awesome! I give this dress an 8 out of 10 because anything Worth even Jean-Phillipe Worth is the absolute best!

  10. Stella says

    To me, the bows look like an accident with some ink. But just taking the bows off wouldn’t fix this for me. Yes, the lace is beautiful, yes the cut is elegant, but ecru is such a boring colour! 5/10.

  11. Ahem.

    Dear Workroom,

    If it is obvious that a small furry animal has tipped the inkwell over, amused itself in the subsequent puddle, then taken a stroll across the sketches for the new season, it does not mean that you have to include the results in the finished garment.

    J.P. Worth

    • Joie de Vivre says

      Sarah, this is possibly the best comment ever!

      Out of the best comment stream ever. Puke. Balloon animals. Made at a camp out of tissue paper. Wedding to funeral conversion. Beserk automatic bow machine. Honestly, you guys rock.

      Also, this dress is wrong in all of the ways just mentioned and I couldn’t possibly deride it better. 1.

    • Madame Ornata says

      Oh Sarah you are as usual priceless and treasured!

    • Perfectly put! I had a vague idea of something like that, but did not catch the idea. You did, and put it into a letter at that. 😀

      Dreamstress, I think you really, really have to write that “best comments” post now. 😉 Pictures included.

  12. The bows are a red herring (black herrings?). Taken away, there is still something clumsy about the cut of this dress that I like not. It seems very heavey (yup, no spelling error) through the top of the bodice, putting it out of balance. I know the whole pigeon monobosom thing can be quite matronly but in this case it is EXTREMELY matronly. So, I don’t like the dress itself.
    I also dislike the bows. Sorry but if you’re going to do that you need some kind of other black reference to tie it in. Bows are after all about tying things. Bows like that I don’t object to per se – on a taffeta dress of more refined cut maybe, they could be quite spectacular. But not on fussy, heavy, dull lace.
    So my rating is about a 1. And that is because 0 is not a number!

    • I agree- maybe it’s just a bad mannequin, but the boobs seem really low and the sleeves are a strange shape. Love the orange sash though.

      As for the bows, they may as well have sewed them on by running the completed dress through the sewing machine all layers together, because I would be just as likely to wear it.


    • Can we also charitably believe that poor JP would turn in his grave if he knew that THAT DAMNED DRESS was in a museum with his name on it, when he really wanted to burn it and the mad client he made it for! I’ve had a few of those!

  13. Barf. Charles Frederick we love. Jean-Phillipe, no. He was good, but he just wasn’t his pa. I give it a 2

  14. Madame Ornata says

    Ugh what a horror! The dress itself is frumpy, an awful shape and dull, dull, dull. I like bows where appropriate, but this is not the right dress for these. The belt is really cute, but in no way matches or clashes in balance with this crazy colour palette. If I let my mind fly and do an image association I see a melting wax clown on a very dreary overcast day. Scary and yet boring OMG is that even possible?
    1/10 for the belt and I am a total Edwardian-loving, Worth girl.

    • KC says

      There’s my clown who blew up the balloon animals all over the dress!

      • Madame Ornata says

        I like that they do look like popped ballons or dead bats and a pumpkin belt – spooky clown ghost on halloween – crazy! Bad crazy!!

  15. Daniel says

    Okay, this is just bad.

    Couldn’t have put it better than Sarah did with her “If it is obvious that a small furry animal has tipped the inkwell over, amused itself in the subsequent puddle, then taken a stroll across the sketches for the new season, it does not mean that you have to include the results in the finished garment.” line.

    I’ve seen plenty of Jean-Philippe Worths I love, but that dress is just bad on so many levels. It’s not that it is actively bad apart from the massive misjudgement of what can only be called Rorscachettes. It’s a bland, uninterestingly cut dress in what’s probably a really beautifully patterned textile, albeit badly used and in an unfortunate colour.

    Actually, I’d respect this dress as a cream lace dress with a lovely belt, without the black bows. The bows just look like schoolboys petulantly flicked ink pellets at their tutor and hit the Headmaster’s wife just as she walked in.

    Or the wearer was a very, very, very bad girl and Santa gave her a dress trimmed with lumps of coal.

    It’s worse than bad, it’s dull with its badness. But because there’s a respectable, albeit not terribly accomplished or interesting, actually quite mediocre, dress behind those shrivelled, blackened hearts of the Black Widow’s many husbands…

    (OK, it is way too easy to riff on the subject of those bows.)

    …I’ll give it a generous 2 out of 10. Would have been 4 without the bows.

    • Daniel says

      Incidentally… is that FRINGE on those bows?

      Because y’know, like ink blots or dried embalmed hearts aren’t bad enough, it has to look like they’re dripping down the dress too.


      • Not quite fringe, it looks like beaded tassels. If you click on the image it will take you through to the Met website and then you can use their zoom to inspect the bows close up. The dress description says it is wool, silk, and rhinestones, so perhaps the tassels are actually strings of rhinestones

          • Ahem, maximalism is not about frenzied detail at all costs, it is about masterfully managing a number of elements to successfuly work together. Anyone can make a PLAIN thing work 😛 Nothing can make this sad dress work!

          • Madame Ornata says

            Yes. I couldn’t have defended/explained the maximalist philosophy better MrsC! Purposeful thoughtful blingery.

  16. Lace can make up for a multitude of bad, including strange color choice of belt and black bows.
    8 of 10.

    Replace the belt with something more like blue or even dusty rose and I would have liked it better.

  17. Valerie says

    Well, one has to either love it or hate it, and I love it. Very daring and different. Worn by a lady who will not be ignored! I love the way the black bows stand out on the ecru and the way the rhinestones make them look drippy. Does look like ink spotches, but very well placed ones. Just lovely and different. The bright orange sash is a nice bolt of color. Love it. Wish there were more views. 8 of 10.

  18. Melissa says

    I love the dress itself, the shape is beautiful and the texture is very interesting. I like the sash, but I think it would be better in a different color; to me taupe and bright orange don’t seem like the best color combination. Another user suggested blue or dusty rose, and I agree.
    But the bows are hideous! Their placement bothers me because I really like symmetry, and together with the sash it makes the thing look like some sort of Halloween craft project.

    6 because the dress is wonderful, but the bows are awful and I don’t like the color combination. It scores that high because I imagine it wouldn’t be hard to remove the bows.

  19. Jane says

    It looks like something out of Corpse Bride. Very detailed and slightly creepy with the bug looking bows. I really love it… aside from the sleeves. So 9/10

  20. Libby says

    I think I might like this dress if I wasn’t so distracted by the hideous bows and belt. I’m hoping that the fabric has faded from white, because it is crazy to think that cream, orange and black would go together – unless it’s Halloween, maybe. 4/10

  21. Before I can read the comments, before I read what you wrote, I have to say it’s a little early for Halloween, isn’t it? Ugh.


  22. Oh, dear God. Bows of the wrongest color (black on beige?) on a lace gown that somehow looks as though it is rotting. A 3, because I’m feeling generous because the sun is shining here. 🙂

  23. The actual dress is pretty interesting. Is that a silk lace overlay appliqued to a wool ground? I want to touch it and see how they got that three-dimensional effect. With a sash made of the same silk, this could be lovely. However, those completely gratuitous black bows and the orange sash take a 10 down to a 1. The only good thing about this dress as it stands is that it will cover the poor woman’s underclothing.
    Wait…maybe a two, as it would also give the other ladies something to talk about behind the wearer’s back.

  24. Not sure what I can add to our comments to the rotten tomatoes being thrown at poor Mr. Worth, fils, except the plea that the tomatoes might miss his head but stick to the dress.

    I am not sure that the dress is fully his fault. The strong contrasts being used make me wonder if the client was of an age to prefer the wild, powerful color mixes of the 1890s, and he, needing cash, was willing to humor her. If I remember correctly, he was normally a master of color.

    That year, fringes were all the rage, but why stick them below bows? How much better the dress would have fared with self-colored fringe along, to play up the three dimensions already created by the lace, and then that pretty bow?

    Very best,
    Natalie in Ky

    • Oops, by that “pretty bow” I meant…the pretty orange sash with its bow…”

    • Daniel says

      “except the plea that the tomatoes might miss his head but stick to the dress.”

      Actually, I think they did. 😉

  25. Jay says

    I was given some hand tatted doily my Great-Grandmother made. Reminds me of the dressing table set in the same colours.
    I’ll give this dress a 6 because of the nice memories.
    But it also makes me think of old rugby socks that need a good soak in some nappysan.

  26. Caroline says

    All I can say is blech! What was that man thinking?????

  27. Daniel says

    I wonder if it is the firing-squad style record-shot photography of the dress that is also making it look unappealing.

    It actually almost looks quite nice in this alternative shot, and it makes me wonder if the dress is mounted slightly skewed, as with the bows apparently going down the centre front (instead of off centre) it balances out a bit better.

    http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/the_costume_institute/dress_afternoon_house_of_worth/objectview_altviewenlarge.aspx?page=1&sort=6&sortdir=asc&keyword=Worth 1905&fp=1&dd1=8&dd2=0&vw=0&collID=8&OID=80095721&vT=1&iID=2&iPage=1&hi=0&ov=0

    It even looks quite cute in black-and-white photos:

    http://www.metmuseum.org/works_of_art/collection_database/the_costume_institute/dress_afternoon_house_of_worth/objectview_altviewenlarge.aspx?page=1&sort=6&sortdir=asc&keyword=Worth 1905&fp=1&dd1=8&dd2=0&vw=0&collID=8&oID=80095721&vT=1&iID=3&iPage(14)&hi=0&ov=0

    Having seen those photos now, I don’t know. I like the dress a lot more now I’ve seen it mounted on a full figure, at a more flattering angle, with better lighting. But we’re not judging it based on those pictures, so my earlier rating stands. (but if I had to judge it from the additional pictures, I’d say it was more a 7.5. Nice dress, but not exciting enough to rate higher.)

  28. Zach says

    Four out of ten. If only those bows weren’t there!!! Sure it needed something when it was without it, but that looks like it was designed for an Edwardian Clown!

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