Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Charles I before he looked like Charles I

Last week, despite my (unvoiced) personal misgivings about wearing such a vast quantity of red, you were generally very approving of the 1865 red dress.  Oh, you had a few niggling complaints: the skirt trimming was a bit off, the colour too tomato-y, the bodice too square, but it still came in at 7.7 out of 10.

Since you like red, let’s look at another red outfit.  And since tomato red wasn’t your favourite, maybe rose-red will be even better.

Charles I is one of those historical figures that you have such a clear mental image of: the mustache, the hair, the boots, the capes!  But he didn’t always dress like that.  This is Charles in his formative years:

Prince Charles the Future Charles I by Robert Peake, 1613, Collection of the University of Cambridge

Yep.  Very late Elizabethian.  Also very red.  Red doublet, red cape, super-poofy red pantaloons, red tights, red shoe-rosettes.  And a kinda hilariously phallic hat with red trimmings.

What do you think of a guy in head to toe red?  Is Charles working it and showing the sartorial awesomeness he would be known for later in life?  Or does this look like the outfit his parents made him wear?

Rate his dress (e.g. the whole ensemble) on a scale of 1 to 10.


  1. Jenny Wren says

    I don’t see a problem with the red in the painting, although in real life it probably would look a bit ridiculous, especially since his cheeks match! Prefer giant hat and boots, though. As it is, it doesn’t blow me away. A respectable 6.

  2. I give it a 4. He looks like an Orlando-wannabe. Seriously Orlando was played by a woman and she looked MUCH better/macho than him. Who knows the painter probably was pissed at him?

  3. Zach says

    Yuck! It looks like he was wearing an all white ensemble and someone (rightly so) took a saber and stabbed him all over until everything–except the huge lace collar and cuffs which I actually like, though they would look better on a woman–was saturated in blood. His vampire-y look doesn’t help at all either… The hat does make me laugh, though, so I guess I won’t be AS harsh.

    Four out of ten. It isn’t AWFUL. It isn’t good either, though….

    Just a curious point–are his buttons on the correct side? I know that there is a difference between the way clothing is fassened today for men and for women, but I guess that it wouldn’t have always been that way. Honestly I can’t even tell if there are buttons coming through buttonholes or little loops.

    • I really can’t tell if his buttons are on the correct side or not. I’m not sure how old the tradition is (at least as a sewing absolute), and sometimes paintings get ‘reversed’ in reproduction, which completely messes up your perception of which way the buttons go!

      My very first sewing teacher taught me how to remember which side to do the buttons on for men and women by telling me “when a couple sits in a car, if the man is in the driver’s seat and the man and the woman look over at each other they should both be able to look through the gap in the shirt and see each other’s chests”!!!

      This worked really well as a memory aid until I moved to NZ and then the driver’s side changed and now thinking about who sits on what side and where the drivers side is just makes my head hurt!

  4. I personally hate the fashions for guys in that time period. It looks ridiculous, like so ridiculous that I wouldn’t be caught in that. The slight pattern on the fabric is neat though. 2/10

  5. I like it. I’d make a dress version and wear it. And red stockings too. And red poms on my shoes. I’d leave off the phallic hat, though, I always found that style so silly.

    I give it a 7/10

  6. I wonder how many cochineal beetles dyed so Charles could do the rich and powerful thing? 4/10 … would have been more but the hat reminds me of Mr Blobby!

  7. I like this color of red, although it would have been better as a dress… The puffy pantaloons are a bit crazy, and the red tights maybe push it a little too over the top for me. For some reason I like the puffy shoes though. And, oddly, overall I don’t hate it. It makes me laugh but I don’t think it is ugly. And yeah, either his parents made him wear it or really really wanted him not to…


  8. Stella says

    I think he’s rockin’ the red. I’m not a big fan of that style of pantaloons or the phallic hat (I just don’t know how you talk to someone wearing one without collapsing in a fit of laughter), but overall I’m giving it 8/10. I love the fabric. It’s a beautiful colour and I love how the understated pattern makes it almost look silvery.

  9. Elise says

    Hahaha! It looks like his mother dressed him! And at the start of puberty, he would be hard pressed to look dignified–and it would have been impossible in the leg-ballons. I kind of like it, though, really. 4/10

  10. “Hello, my name is Charles. I’m looking for a woman who wants to be pampered and to make my heirs. I’m a good catch, you can tell. Not only can I afford this glorious red fabric, but I can afford LOTS of it, and I will let you buy some, too.
    Did I mention that someday I will be a king, which means you would be my queen?”
    If you would like to meet Charles, select contact #1613

    I give it a 5

  11. Meh. I thought it was a dress until I scrolled down to see that it’s not…exactly…a dress. Loving the calf detail in the legs. It kills me how each time period has its own symbol of beauty and sexual appeal. I give it a 4.

    • My own reaction. I thought he was a child in a dress, until I saw that it wasn’t a dress… And I give it 4/10, too. I would give much more for that fabric alone and if it were a (woman’s) dress, I think. But as it is, it’s too weird.

      (I saw another portrait with enormous pantaloons in Rundále, Latvia. It was of a bit later date, not red, and father was fascinated and amused by the pantaloons. I wonder what he would say to these…)

  12. I do like the “rose red” color. But alas, Charles’s costume is very typical of its period, which I consider the ugliest period in Western costume history. A 4, and it’s a 4 only because he’s wearing it well in the picture.

  13. Elizabeth says

    I like the red and I like the amount of red…but in that style? EWWW! I agree it would look MUCH better as a dress, but I just don’t personally enjoy the clothing in this time period as a whole. SOOOO…3/10, only because I like the red 😉

  14. Generally, I like it. The red fabric is nice and I can get on board with most of the outfit, but those enormous pantaloons, the weird looking collar and that ridiculous hat are a huge minus. I give it 5 points.

  15. The color is beautiful–and so is the fabric. I love how it drapes. I love the subtle pattern. I’d love it so much more if someone made it into a gown for a woman. Because this, seriously? On a man? It’s a perfect example of everything I hate about this era of clothing for men. The giant lace collar and cuffs and shoe poms slay me. Ditch those, take some volume out of the–what shall I call his pants? a skort? coulottes?–and you’d have a much less representative example of the period, but a much more fashion-forward and wearable ensemble. A 4. Mostly for the rose-red fabric.

    PS It’s hard to tell, but it looks like he’s rocking a metro hairstyle c. 2002. Well played, Charles.

  16. Daniel says

    A bit TOO matchy matchy. I do like the doublet and have an affinity with a guy with good footman’s gams (as someone who can’t wear skinny jeans due to actually having calves). I think it works, and I quite like it apart from the breeches, (I’d actually wear something like the doublet though perhaps not with the collar/cuffs) so will say 7/10

  17. ellipsisknits says

    I think it’s pretty awesome. Why should girls have all the fun? I do wish it was a little less monochrome though.

    6/10 for lack of contrast.

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