19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Regency furbelows

Last week most of you loved the Victoroco (or should that be Rococtorian?) fantasy dress.  There were some slight quibbles about the colour, and the bow on the front bodice, or the skirt draping (btw, as the grand queen of this blog I’ve decided that those of you who suggested it needed to be pulled up on both sides were  wrong.  If you did that it would make her look too much like a porcelain shepherdess, and the fantasy would become cliche and would be utterly ruined), but the dress managed a very impressive 9.5 out of 10.

For all its popularity, Andreotti’s painting left me with a bit of a dilemma.  Where do you go from a rate the dress that included both the 18th and 19th centuries, and that had so many colours and details in it?

How about a compromise?  Regency – halfway between the dates.  Something with lots of colours and details, but with all the details agains a simple backdrop.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady, Henri François Mulard (1769-1850), ca 1810

So I present this unknown woman.  She’s got a lot going on: striped ribbon sash, Kashmir shawl, striped kerchief, garnet necklace and earrings, yellow kid gloves, gold diadem,  and ruffles around her sleeves and neck.  Is it too much?  Or do all the details add interest to the simple Regency dress?  Do all the colours clash, or harmonize into a portrait of a strong, individualistic woman?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. On the good side, this painting is a good example of the items that put together the Regency lady’s wardrobe. This lady must have LOVED her accessories and she’s showing us her favorites. I like that. She’s wearing a lovely white dress with alot of colorful orange & blue accessories. The warm grayish-blue seems to balance everything.


  2. On the whole I think the accessories are well-coordinated, although I’m not entirely sure about the striped scarf-thing *and* the kashmir shawl. One or the other, perhaps. But I love the sash and the neck-scarf and the pretty gloves, and the dress is beautiful. Honestly though I had to stop and really think about it to notice these things, because her face is so lovely and arresting that it was hard to look at anything else. Which means she (or the painter) did extremely well, because after all that is the point of clothes, right? To make their wearer look lovely.

    I’d give this 9.5/10 (half a point off because I’m not totally convinced the floral kashmir shawl is completely harmonious with the blue/yellow/white palate of the rest of the ensemble.)

  3. Zach says

    I’m not so sure about this one. There is quite a l

    • Zach says

      Sorry, I accidentally hit the wrong button on my phone!

  4. Zach says

    I’m not so sure about this one. There is quite a lot going on…I hate the long sleeves, the neck tie looks odd tucked into the sash, but somehow I like the way everything looks when put together. Even with all of the various details, though, the entire ensemble isn’t extraordinary.

    Eight out of ten.

  5. I like it. Not too sure about the kerchief, even though I kind of like it tucked under.
    Apart from the diadem and the gloves, this could be worn nowadays, and I would be one to wear it.
    9,5 out of 10.

  6. Stella says

    I like it a lot more than I usually like Regency fashions. The coloured details help to make it interesting, and I love the shawl. Ultimately though, I don’t like Regency. I don’t like empire waists and this outfit still has all the elements of Regency style that irritate me. It’s too bland, too frilly and too shapeless to rate more than a 5/10 from me. Good work with the accessorising though. Without those elements I’d have given it a 2.

  7. I like it on her, but I think it’d be hard to wear. It’s relatively simple but dressed up with the accessories. And I like the accessories! Er , I give it an 8

  8. Libby says

    Overall, I’m a fan of this. I think that this lady wanted to show off and threw on extra shawls and a tiara that didn’t match the rest of her jewelry. 7/10.

  9. Elise says

    There have been times when my first reaction was positive, so I’d rate it highly, only to be embarrassed when I’d look at it again and say ‘ugh’. Worth 2.0, for example. But this–this I liked earlier, like now, and will probably like tomorrow, too. Of course, like the others said, the sitter makes the outfit. Nevertheless, it’s lovely. 9/10

  10. A Regency fan, I like this dress, although I think she has over-accessorized. The sash and neckerchief are fun, and the lace edging to her dress relieves its severity, but there are too many shawls for my taste, and her hair is too perfected. By 1810 fashion is well on its way to being prettified, and this particular hairdo is so formed on her forhead that I can see her making her spit curls just before the sitting. I wish she had let well enough alone.

    8/10, due to the hair and overshawling.

  11. Eh, this is ok. I feel like simultaneously it has too much and not enough going on. All the different colors and fabrics up top look sort of hodge podge, and then the whiteness of the dress looks a little boring. On the other hand, I don’t hate it, just don’t love it. I do like the style of the dress though.


  12. I think this is a case of art being more involved than outfit building. The shawl, gloves, diadem and chair are all warm elements coming together to frame her from a composition point of view. The blue sash and fichu/kerchief are I think the only actual elements of this outfit that she would wear with it in reality. Painting is an art form in itself that takes liberties with reality in a way that a photo never will.
    I think she is exquisite – such a sweet face and such drama of dark hair and pale skin with the cool white and blues. She is the spitting image of a french woman I worked with once. Very fiery!
    As Regency goes, I like it more than a lot but not as much as others. It looks a lot more 1795 than 1810 too, but never mind. I’d give it an 8/10.

    • Those puff sleeves with the long sleeves coming out of them definitely aren’t 1795! Maybe a little earlier than 1810 though.

  13. SarahKate says

    There is the distraction of her left arm and hand, (on the viewer’s right) which from the elbow appear too large to belong to the woman. Something a wee bit bizarre happens from below the cap sleeve, where the shawl begins its drape and the arm begins its pre-Photoshop distortion.

    Dress 8/10, Foreshortening of arm 5/10.

  14. I think this is an 8 for me; and I don’t really know why, just that this is one of those instances when the whole is much better than the summa of its parts.

  15. Maire says

    I love it, especially the way the shawl ties together the reds of the jewellery with the yellows of the gloves and the stripy things. The only reason it’s a 9 not a 10 is the long sleeves. I hate puff sleeves with long sleeves coming out of them.

  16. Hayley says

    9/10. It only loses a point because her waistband is tied over the ends of her scarf….. would be so much prettier if the scarf was hanging free!!! Its so pretty in those shades of blue/grey/purple checks, just looks dorky tied down!

    And I’m not all too keen on the long sleeves

  17. I love the Regency era – especially placed as it is before the restrictive conformity of the Victorians. The colours are fabulous and the shawl is a lovely touch – without it the whole effect would be a bit bland. The kerchief gives her an aura of individuality (and is almost a bit masculine) but I also think the way it is tucked into the sash looks unattractive. The whole effect is definitely worth 9/10.

  18. I agree with Mrs C this outfit has been artfully put together and from that perspective it works perfectly, the warm colours in her headband, necklace, earrings, shawl and gloves draw your eye around the painting, while the cooler colours accentuate her pale complexion and dark hair. She really does look beautiful and I love the outfit. I think the plainness of the white dress carries the accessories.


  19. I think it works in the portrait. I wouldn’t wear it, I like things a little simpler, but kudos to the lady for coming up with an interesting outfit. That’s just what it is, interesting. Fun to look at, but not exactly pretty.

    so 6/10

  20. Madame Ornata says

    I like regency but there’s little you can do with plain white tube dresses but accessorise. Love the shawl and accessories but the dress is pretty average.
    I’m with MrsC on this, as a composition it works and is interesting. It may not be what she actually wears. It is busy but fiddle dee dee, if I were getting a photo shoot I wouldn’t wear jeans and a manky old t-shirt, I’d wear my best and bling up.
    I think the primary colours balance and tie in well the seemingly disparate accessories. The contrasts of stark white and dark, subdued with bright and bold only enhance her natural colour and complexion. She glows and I think it bold, clever and simple so 8.5/10 for me.

  21. Daniel says

    How has this portrait never been used for a Heyer paperback cover yet? (especially given some of the original artwork used…)

    I really love the portrait, am a big fan of portraiture in general, and think it’s a 10/10 for the portrait.

    Also like the dress and accessories which come together – am a big fan of colours and patterns offset against a very simple base, such as white (as here). So I’d say it’s 9/10 for me

    • I think it might have escaped paperback novelisation because it’s actually in a private collection, so the image is less likely to be available for commercial use.

  22. Jenny Wren says

    Wow, I really like this. I love lots of detail in outifts, especially ones that aren’t colour-co-ordinated (because that’s just too easy). I’d give it a 9.

  23. Mmmm… Regency dresses….. blue….. white…. stripes….. lace…..

  24. BeckaJo says

    I rate this an unhesitating 10/10. The details of the shawl, kerchief and sash are delightful, and wonderful examples of then-recent advances in both textiles and international trade. The dress itself seems to suit her figure remarkably well; she doesn’t look over-dressed, but rather cool and comfortable. Her hairstyle reflects the Classical aesthetic without being too Grecian Urn-y (“urn-y” is now a word, I do declare it.) And I love how the yellow gloves and the coral earring and necklace pick up the colors in the shawl.

    (Something I would be interested in seeing a rating for: do people rate dresses with patterns more or less highly than plain dresses with lots of accessories? I think I’m trying to speculate on what counts as “busy” for these images.)

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