19th Century, 20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Velvet & Fur in 1900

Despite a few readers loving last week’s avant garde green and gold Lanvin jumpsuit, most of you didn’t.  It rated a rather dismal 4.9 out of 10, with opinions ranging from Stella’s “Who knew!?!? Harem pants  can  look cool” to comparisons to a trashbag.  Ouch.

This week’s rate the dress is brought to you courtesy of the exceptional weather we have been having in Wellington.  It’s been snowing.  Now, this wouldn’t be exciting if I lived in the South Island, but snow in Wellington happens once or twice a century.  And my suburb?  Never!  We live at sea level!  But we have been having hours long snow-storms, and the whole neighborhood has been outside with cameras.  It’s such big news it made the New York Times.  If that wasn’t a hyperlink it would be in bold, italics and underline, all at the same time.  The only one who doesn’t love the weather is Felicity.  Poor kitty is freaked out.  She doesn’t understand this white cold stuff that falls from the sky.

Obviously, I need to present a proper snuggly, furry, winter appropriate frock for your consideration.

How about the afternoon dress from the Met in plush black silk velvet and soft brown fur, with matching fur trimmed hat?

Madame Virot for Raudnitz and Co. Huet and Cheruit, French, 1898-1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Madame Virot for Raudnitz and Co. Huet and Cheruit, French, 1898-1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Madame Virot has tried to give the warm winter fabrics and dark colours a softer, lighter, more feminine touch by twisting the usual cold-weather cliches.  She has blended the patterned velvet into the delicately spotted chiffon at the hem, and adding girlie touches like a bow-effect hat.

What do you think?  Is this an unusual, but effective way to give a lighthearted and whimsical twist to winter fashion?  Or is the dress to frothy for winter wear, and too drab for spring?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10

Want to see more winter wear?  Check out last year’s post on snuggly frocks.


  1. Courtney F. says

    I. Love. This.

    Seriously, this gown is beautiful. My favorite part is the asymmetrical divide between the black velvet and the lace-overlay at the bottom of the skirt. It’s a very Art Nouveau touch! The only thing is, I hope it came with a bevy of footmen to help keep it safe from wintertime dirt and muck! 10/10.

  2. ellipsisknits says

    hmm, not bad, but not my favorite. It feels a bit disjointed. I really like the colors, and the pattern on the chiffon, but don’t particularly like the patterning on the velvet and the uneven transition to the chiffon at the hem, particularly combined with the very straight lines of fur.

    So, 7

  3. I wonder if the hat is meant to look like animal ears? In all that fur and velvet and with big ears the wearer could look like a rather elegant Mama bear!

  4. I love the velvet. I love the lace/chiffon. Love the style of the dress. Do not love them all together. Somehow I feel like the contrast is either too much or not enough. I do not like the brown fur with the rest of the dress at all, it seems like the wrong color. This dress is made out of great components, but I do not think it is a fabulous dress.


  5. OK now I am at work with a bigger screen and I amend my comment – she looks like a much more elegant and less raggedy Grisabella from Cats! But I love the dress anyway. It is so sensuous and tactile, even in a photo. I give it a 9, because in spite of the Grisabella ears, it thumps all my dresslove buttons!

    • Elise says

      Haha! I saw it on a small screen first, too, and thought it looked like bunny ears! So, I was relieved to see sk8ter fashion no more, but the problem is that I saw all the other parts on the big screen, too. It does seem disjointed, doesn’t it? 6.

  6. Stella says

    I’d love it without the fur trim, but with the trim it seems a bit overdone. 8/10.

  7. This looks like just the thing to wear to a Theosophical seance! (See the link I connected to…) I’m finding the fur superflous, though – I’d prefer it if it was very dark brown or black. So, 6 out of 10.

  8. Zach says

    When I first saw it, I gasped in horror, but after I took a better look at it, I kind of like it! I wish that the patterning on the velvet was a little more delicate and I think it would look better in a smaller size–there is a bit too much black there. (When I cover it up to where the patterning is, it looks absolutely wonderful!)

    Nine out of Ten

    By the way–about two years ago, we had a MASSIVE ice storm that cut us off from the rest of the country (gas was so hard to get out to, let alone buy). We usually have about one or two days of snow here a year, but that was insane! No one had work or school for weeks and everyone was baffled (including our animals). We made national news because of it, but it wasn’t as if we could see it, since cable lines were down everywhere. You can still see evidence of it on all the trees–they all have no tops!

  9. 7 out of 10, methinks. I really like the richness of the patterned velvet cut away to show the chiffon and lace. It would be higher, but for the fur trim. I like the trim on the shoulders and hem, but what’s up with those three rows center front?? It looks like chest breadsticks. Bleagh.

  10. I liked it until I scrolled down and saw the chiffon bit at the bottom. The jagged transition just looks ragged, not deliberate, and the contrast of such a light material at the bottom of such a heavy gown doesn’t work for me. It works a little better from the back but I still don’t think the chiffon hem was a good idea.

    Also, I think the hat is silly (although it probably worked better over a period hairstyle than it does on the mannequin!) But I love the velvet and fur together. I think I’d give it 7/10.

    • Seconded. I rather like the chiffon on the bottom (the colour effect it creates), but so totally don’t like the transition.
      7/10, too.

  11. Jenny Wren says

    It would be stunning- really stunning- as a costume. I can see someone stumbling into wintry Narnia wearing this. But there’s no way anyone wearing this in real life wouldn’t look absolutely ridiculous, like an old lady with a stuffed bird on her hat. Plus you don’t want to be wearing things that trail on the ground when the ground is muddy and slushy. So I’m torn. Going to give it a 7.

  12. eh. someone help, her skirt is on fire!!!

    Seriously, it’s not a bad dress, but it’s too busy for my taste. and i don’t like brown and black together, especially in fur.


  13. Daniel says

    Take off the roadkill (which doesn’t actually “go” with anything – colour aside, it’s like she’s wearing those novelty caterpillar things) and it’s still an elegant but not particularly thrilling dress. The transition between the heavy velvet and the hem is clunky and abrupt, and doesn’t really flow properly, although I see what they were trying to do.

    I actually kind of think this is a bit ahead of its time (I’d query the date – 1898-1900? Would have said 1907-09 myself) as if the same design and concepts were interpreted into a slim-skirted Titanic-era dress it could look very elegant adn quirky, but in this, the mannequin looks stout and matronly. 7/10

    • Daniel says

      Then again, when I say 1907-09, I mean that it’s what an older conservative woman would wear in 1907-09, something elegant but sort of belonging silhouette-wise to a few years earlier, if that makes sense.

  14. I’m afraid going to buck the trend and say I think it’s hideous. The colour is funereal, the styling is patchy and the bits of fur look like scraps taken from someone’s deceased pet. She reminds me of a combination of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and a character from Cats. Unfortunately the fluffy white hair of the mannequin from behind only adds to this effect. I know there will be howls of protest but I just find it creepy.


  15. I think this dress is a bit matronly, but otherwise I would like it if the navy fabric went all the way to the floor. It looks like the designer got tired of working with velvet and just stuck some random fabric together to finish it. Also, the hat is postively hideous. 4/10

  16. “Dress worn by Mrs R- to the ceremony memorialising “Mr Fluffles”, the mysteriously missing and now sadly presumed deceased ginger tom, long time companion to her neighbour, the elderly Miss Q-.”

    Seriously, it’s astounding how well the transition from black velvet to chiffon anticipates the flame effect patterns more usually seen on motor vehicles in the second half of the 20th C.
    Despite all that, 6/10. It would be more, except for the fur centre front.

  17. I am not usually a fan of fur, but I really like this dress! I love that color of velvet! Only things I don’t like is the strange design of the hem of the velvet, and that hat! The hat should definitely go. 8/10

  18. Joie de vivre says

    Hmmm, lots of bits that I like in this but not sure about the whole.

    I LOVE the pattern that looks etched into the front of the dress. Is that achieved with a burn-out or is it printed onto the velvet? I also love the neckline at the back of the dress, with the high chiffon collar and the deep sort-of sweetheart line in the velvet, and I love the sleeves, with the velvet cut away over the elbows and the chiffon flowing out at the elbow. I like the way the velvet has the pattern printed onto it cut out to give that assymetrical detail at the bottom. In fact, now that I look closely it looks like the velvet IS burnout and has been burnt out right the way to the bottom, leaving the sheer-underbit of the velvet (does that have a name?) to sit over the printed chiffon of the bottom.

    And that is the bit that gets weird. Not the unusual line on the velvet, but the velvet-backing-burnt-out-sheer-stuff (not the best name) going over the printed chiffon, with the VBBOSS having a different line to the hem so it obscures some (but not all) of the fur trim at the front, so that you get those wierd stripes across the bottom. Looks better at the back where the VBBOSS follows the line of the fur trim on the printed chiffon, so maybe if they hadn’t done such a strange thing on the front it would be OK. Also, maybe if they’d kept with a single row of fur, like on the back, rather than morphing it into three rows across the front.

    Also, the fur on the shoulders and chest? And the hat? Not OK.

    Anyway, 6 for having more loves than not loves and for being able to imgaine drawing inspiration from it for something awesome.

    Hmm, sorry for the in-depth answer. I’m sure most people got bored half way through but I don’t want to delete it now that I’ve written it all!

  19. I’m writing from Canberra, so I fully sympathise with your need to show a snuggly winter frock!

    I’m giving it 7/10. The velvet and appliqued lace are stunning, but the fur seems oddly out of place. There’s not enough, really, for warmth, as as a trimming it isn’t very effective. And the piece around the hem gives me the shudders as I try to imagine some poor, beleagured ladies’ maid trying to keep it clean!

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