20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Adrian in real life

Last week half of you thought the 1913 blue and green ensemble was absolutely perfect, but the other half all had some complaint – you didn’t like the beading, or the mix of symmetry and asymmetry, or the beige lace, or the flower, or…  So picky!  Or so discerning!  Despite the tiny bits you didn’t like, it rated a very solid 8.8 out of 10

This week we are staying in the 20th century, but returning to stripes.  Adrian is most famous as a movie costumer: he dressed Garbo as Camille (not that you liked that much – it rated a 4 out of 10), and Shearer as Marie Antoinette, as well as Judy Garland as Dorothy.  He also did modern dresses in films, and in 1941 he launched his own fashion house, so ordinary women could dress like movie stars.

Dress, Gilbert Adrian, ca 1944, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Or not.  This 1944 frock with its puffed sleeves and peasant influence is more girly sweet than Hollywood glamour, but there is a place for girly sweet – if it’s done well.

What do you think?  Is this a good example of mid 40s fashion and peasant inspired fashions?  Or should Adrian have stuck to historical dramas and screen sirens?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Ingrid says

    I think it’s awfull! The women in the 40s dressed with taste and showed sillhouette, war and rations be damned!
    This dress looks like a low budget version of a dress Laura Ingells would have worn, if this is meant to be than I wash my hands of peasant influenced dresses.
    The only saving grace is the colour choice, so I rate it with a solid 3!

  2. Courtney F. says

    I can’t help it; I have a soft spot for girly frocks. This one especially, since it reminds me of the completely gratuitous “fashion show” sequence in the 1939 film “The Women,” one of my favorite movies. 7 out of 10: cute, fun, but no idea where or why you’d wear it.

  3. I’ve never cared for conflicting stripes, or floppy pockets on skirts. Otherwise, I like it, though I’d like it better with a solid white top and no patch pocket. An 8.

  4. This is the perfect example of the way popular ideas about a historical period – for example, the 40s – and the reality about that period’s actual clothing can diverge tremendously. I associate sugary sweetness like this with the 50s. Even though I know there was a lot of prettiness and frills in the 40s, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

    I’m giving it a 6.5, because I’m digging the stripes, and I can picture the wearer’s boyfriend assuring her that he’ll be back from the Asian front in no time.

    • Elise says

      I felt similarly–it looks like something from the 50s. But still ugly. I agree with Mrs C: EWWWWWW! 3/10 3 points for the stripe matching because it’s above my skill.

      Hey–maybe the Dreamstress should rework some of these awful dresses! Or is this one beyond hope?

  5. Stella says

    There may be a place for girly sweet, but it isn’t in my wardrobe. It reminds me of some of the clothes I got made to wear as a kid. Yuck, yuck, shudder. o/10 from me.

  6. Daniel says

    I REALLY love the stripes on the cummerbund and the graphic quality of the red and white stripes. I’m not sold on the ruffles on this particular dress. Adrian has done much better, but Victor Stiebel, master of the stripe, he ain’t.

    It kind of reminds me of a dress Katharine Hepburn wears in The Philadelphia Story and I think it’d look really good in the right film of the period, but not sure it works quite. I say 6/10 as this is not up to Adrian’s usual standard, although it is still a cute dress.

  7. Don’t like it. I don’t think it is one thing in particular, but the combination of the stripes, the poof sleeves, the trim around the neck. This is an instance where the whole is most decidedly NOT greater than the sum of its parts.


  8. Elizabeth says

    Overall I think its terrible…EWWWW! I DO like the skirt, but the top is awful! I’m giving it a 5, only because I like the skirt, otherwise it’d get a 1.

  9. BeckaJo says

    I love the dress; I have a huge weakness for stripes like that, and I really like the waist – the bias is adorable. I can never wear anything even similar in style (my figure and personality are all wrong for girly sweet) but I do love it. For me it’s a 9/10, losing the one point for the silliness with the trim around the shoulder yoke.

    My partner rates it 6/10 – for a doll, saying that it’s too silly for a person. For a person, she’d rate it negative 5.

    • I love the multiple ratings! What does your partner think of a doll-like person? I know doll like people!

      • BeckaJo says

        She says that it would depend on the doll-like person – a particularly sophisticated one might carry it off, but if they were the wholesome good country girl type, it would be overly sweet. Which is odd, but I can kind of see her point – too much sugar can be overwhelming!

        • Hehe! Sounds just like my kind of person – sugar with bite! My favourite chocolates and candies involve a touch of chilli powder, and that is just the right kind of person to pull this off.

  10. Tamsin says

    I like the midriff and skirt so I’ll give it a 3/10 but am really not liking the top… i don’t like the trim or the choice of colour, or the neckline.

  11. Jenny Wren says

    I like it, but… when on earth would you wear it? 6/10.

  12. I initially recoiled from this dress. Then I thought about being a woman in 1944. In a way, I can imagine donning a frock like this in 1944 and breathing a tiny sigh of relief. I know not every woman could dress like this in that year, but it would be nice to see it in a magazine and daydream a little. A little bit of over the top frivolity? Understandable…

    That said, I still don’t much care for it.

    4 of 10

  13. Libby says

    Wow this is ugly! It’s like a hoedown gone wrong. As I was reading the post, I only saw the top part of the dress and thought it was knee length. I might have been able to accept that, but this is just way too many stripes. I do have one good thing to say: I think this would make your waist look tiny, and that’s always a plus. 3/10

  14. Eeeuuugh….Adrian! I think you’re holding back on the “ordinary woman” because your film gowns are usually much better than this! I feel like it’s just so awkward–and when the heck would you wear this thing? It looks too girlish and casual for evening–yet the length wouldn’t work for a day dress. Perhaps a very young woman’s first evening event or something–but she’d look like Little Bo Peep glammed it up a bit for the night.

    I give it a 4.

    But–reworked as a sweet little day dress? You’d ratchet it up quite a bit!

  15. if you unpicked the red skirt part from the bodice, I would wear them both separately. The red with a plainer white blouse, (but that looks more like the turn of the century….?) or the blouse with a plainer solid navy skirt. (like a sailor-ey dress.)

    But together they are just weird. So 5/10 for nice fabric and shape, but poorly matched up.

  16. Joie de Vivre says

    I kinda like it. I LOVE the waistband, I like the stripey skirt, I like the peasant blouse slihouette. Not thrilled with the length of the skirt in that fabric, or the trim on the bodice, and the stripes on the bodice I could take or leave, and not a fan of the high scoop neck. And is that my personal hate a saggy pocket on it? Hmm, I actually dislike more bits of then I like when I think about it – yet my overall reaction is more of happiness than revulsion. So a 6, because of all the bits I don’t like – yet it has to rate higher than 5 because it does make me smile. But this is based entirely on personal preference and emotive response, not any historical knowledge or commentary on whether it is a good or poor example of its peers, its era-appropriateness or anything else critical or academic so feel free to weight accordingly!

    • Personal preference and emotive response is the best way to rate a dress – that’s how we buy clothes!

  17. I think this dress is awful, it reminds me of those razzle dazzle camouflaged ships in WW I that Eloise Taylor spoke about at the Costume and Textile Symposium, conflicting curves and stripes with no flow or appreciation for the body underneath. I don’t even know how to rate it cos I want to give it a 0, well that’s it then


  18. Hayley says

    When I saw this dress, I instantly thought “Little House on the Prairie” – I can imagine an episode of this being shot in the ’60s and the wardrobe manager thinking this would be a fine dress for Mary to wear.

    I love the skirt, awesome lines there! But despise the bodice. 4/10

  19. KC says

    When I first saw it, I thought “That’s just wrong”. And then it grew on me. I don’t think it would look nice on me at all, but I can think of several girls it would look nice on. 6/10

  20. I guess it’s a 5 from me: I like it some, and I dislike it some, and 5 is a nice in between. I don’t like it enough for a 6, I’m afraid.
    And I totally agree with you on that chocolate-with-chilli kind of person who could pull it off. Wearing red shoes, most probably. (Yes, I’ve seen Chocolat… although I’m not sure Vianne in particular would wear it.)

  21. Kim says

    There must be a mistake with the date – 1944 when rationing was on-going in America and this looks to be a full length full circle dress in cotton? I like the chevron effect with the strips on the waistband. That is a clever detail.
    Hate the pocket. It just hangs waiting to be caught on something and ripping the skirt.
    The material for the bodice – is that a white on white stripe? or is that a light color with a white stripe? NO, when enlarged its a baby blue on white – The trim appears to be a crocheted edge of white, red and blue – someone bought this and wore this in public at least once???
    Give it a 4.

  22. Zach says

    Everytime I look at it, I’m repulsed even more. I really just hate it! If you took the second strip of ruffles or whatever that is from the top, just leaving the one lining the neck, separated the top from the hideous belt and skirt, it would be alright with another skirt. If the skirt (sans belt and pocket) were separated from the outifit, it may be okay as well. It’s just a huge mess all together!

    Three out of ten.

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