Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a 17th century Allegory of Astrology

Last week you either appreciated the mix of simplicity and complexity in the floral bedecked late 1820’s frock, and rated it highly, or really hated either the fabric or period and rated it poorly, or experienced a mix of the two elements with a resulting middle-of-the-road vote.  The first tipped the scales just enough to bring in a rating of 7.2 out of 10 – a bit above average.

It may be coming into summer here in New Zealand, but I’m reminded that many of you are moving into winter, and (based on my latest poll) looking forward to celebrating Christmas.

So, just to mess with your heads, I’m presenting this nice warm, snuggly, Christmas-coloured 17th century rate the dress, which actually isn’t Christmas-y at all, because it’s a portrait of a lady posing as an Allegory of Astrology.  What makes her an Allegory, I’ve never figure out.*  And also, on second thought, that neckline isn’t really very warm and snuggly after all.

An Allegory of Astrology c.1650, Attributed to Charles Beaubrun

So, with a bit of confusion carefully established, what do you make of the ensemble?  Do you like the front-fastening jacket-y bodice with its plunging neckline and fur trimmed tabs?  Is the red, white and gold colour scheme effective, or just a cliche?  And what about her distinctive lace hood?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

*Resists making jokes about being green and scaly on the banks of the Nile.


  1. Needs more boobs.
    No, seriously, I really like it. The colours show as more orange-y on my screen so it doesn’t come off as Mrs. Clause too much, which had been a bit too much. But I love fur trim, so 8 from me!

  2. Lace, boobs, fur and smugness–what’s not to like? Everything. She looks like she’s wearing a table doily over her head with a ornately trimmed bathrobe. (Yes, I know it’s a jacket and petticoat, but the cut and trim of the jacket just scream “bathrobe” to me.) With too low a neckline. This outfit just looks grotesque to me. 1 out of 10.

  3. GAH! It’s like Santa Claus invades the 17th c woman’s wardrobe. I hate it! blah.

    I give it a 2

  4. Abigail says

    Ick. Completely a failure. I don’t know if I can even give it a 1. I hate fur trim, the neckline needs lots of help, and the lace is tacky. Table doily, bathrobe, and Mrs. Claus are the only way of describing it.

    • Elise says

      Hahahahahahahaha! I thought the same thing!
      I just love the colors, and I hate the hat. 4. It would have been 5, but then it would have been inappropriate to show.


  5. Actually, overall I sort of like this one. I mean, yes, the top is really really low, and I can see the Mrs. Clause-ness, but that isn’t my first thought when I look at it. I actually like the trim because I don’t think it is too over the top, and I like the gold details. I think perhaps if it were blue/silver/fur/lace I might get the Astrology reference a bit more? Or, well, at least then it wouldn’t look quite so Mrs. Clause.


  6. Caroline says

    This is just unfortunate!! I hate the Jacket and that neckline is just too low. Unflattering and ugly!! 1/10

  7. Stella says

    This is just not working for me. I like the colour, the trim and the lace as separate elements, but I don’t like the cut of the dress. I don’t like the collar, or the uncomfortable-looking bodice, or the silly lace hood. 2/10

  8. I love the cap. I give the cap 10/10 for sheer never-you-mindedness. (This coming from the person who once put a basket on her head and stuck ice cream ornaments into it to see if it would look like a bonnet. Not quite, but it was fun.)
    The dress… oh dear. I love the concept of it, but that neckline ruins it all. Off points to painter for unnatural neckline, plus points to painter for capturing what a pain this fabric is with wrinkles. Dress, probably 3/10. It just does not work, even when I wish it to.

  9. My, my…well, I guess I could see the Mrs. Claus-iness…if she just ripped off her top and decided to pole dance, that is. Despite the unorthadox cleavage, I really like it. I love fur and lace, after all. It looks almost as though the doiley bonnet was originally her bodice, but she felt a little frisky and ripped it off, placing it on her head. It also looks like she’s wearing a 17th c. version of pleather…

    Nine out of ten, because no matter how I may complain, I think it looks good.

    P.S. Is she holding a hatchet…?

    • Ah hah! I think I figured out what she is holding, and it solves the Astrology thing too! She’s holding a device for measuring stars (I’m sure it has a name, astralobe maybe?). It’s like a portion of a sundial or the thing that navigators use.

  10. Gosh, I just had a breaktrhgouh. I imagined her in real life, not the painting, standing up and not sitting as if she is about to go into labour. Totally different effect! I love this high waisted bodice with the deep points on the peplum look. And I love the big, split sleeves. The front is low and Someone can’t paint boobies, but if they were in the right place anatomically it would be a little less dodgy, I think.
    I love van dyking, although not so much the dressing table doily on the head look. And I agree Allegory? How? Is she meant to be the sun and her boobies celestial orbs? hehehe
    So, I revise my initial desire to laugh myself sick to a 7. And perhaps Santa will bring me something nice for supporting his wife 🙂 nd myabe just maybe in 2012 I may have a go at an outfit a little like this – not vermillion, not fur trimmed, not revealing, but in general shape.

  11. I do like the shape of the bodice…it just needs to be a little higher. Eek!

    headress….yes, because I LOVE white caps…but the shape of the cap…no.


  12. Jenny Wren says

    No no no. I can see ALL her boobs. This fails the primary purpose of clothing- to cover the body. 1.

  13. Is the odd cap supposed to be part of the allegory? Like an odd hood sort of thing?

    I’m no expert, but I *think* she’s holding an astrolabe, so isn’t she Ms. Tech Savvy. (All I remember about astrolabes is that someone named their kid after them, and I feel really, really awful for that kid.)

    Unless there are other pieces of allegory I’m missing, this has to be the worst allegory in history. But the outfit is cheerful enough (in and of itself kind of the opposite of mysterious, nighttime-oriented astrology, right?) and I suppose I can give it a 7. I like the red and gold and fur, not so much the lace trim, love the pearls, wish she’d hike up the neck just a touch so it looked less…forced.

    Totally off subject, but her hands are having an identity crisis–the one on the chair is lithe and lovely, the one holding the astrolabe (?) is beefy and mannish. Weird.

    • Tristan and Isolde. Great story but I reckon being their kid, the dorky name would be the least of his worries!

      • Daniel says

        Another site I’ve found suggests that Astrolabe was the child of Heloise and Abelard…

        Fascinating stuff!! Like calling a modern child Laptop or Toaster, I guess…

        • Daniel–that’s who I was thinking of! MrsC, I love the story of Tristan and Isolde, and didn’t recall that part of the story! No kidding, scarred child…

  14. Pamlin says

    rijksmuseum.nlAfter an image search, I’ve come to the conclusion that all allegories need to include improbable boobs, an orangey colored gown (ref. Rembrandt’s Musical Allegory
    http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/images/aria/sk/z/sk-a-4674.z and apparently in this painting, Crocs)

    It’s totally the doily on the head that is driving me nuts. Reminds me of the Worst Sun Hat Ever from my childhood (I was three, and I still remember hating it when it was put on me)

    As for the thing she’s holding, it’s not an astrolabe, but I believe, a star/planet chart. Aside from the gown (which I really just don’t like) if an allegory needs a description before one knows what it’s an allegory of, it’s not a good one. Because of that, the doily hat, and the improbability of actual ability to wear the gown in real life (in its proper time) I give the painting a 2/10. The gown itself gets a 3, only because I wish I could have about 10 yards of the lace.

  15. Hate it! I would not make this for myself (no…really!) It makes her look fat. If her boobs were truely that far out of her dress she’d be a shocking disgrace in just about all era’s and locations never mind her own. (Unless she was a hooker, in which case she’d likely not do well because those boobies are deformed!) And whats with the doo rag? The colors look like santa (as mentioned before.) The only redeeming element is the slits in the sleeves. 1 out of 10.

  16. Maire Smith says

    The lace itself is stunning. I made a pair of needle lace bits for my wedding dress, and the sheer number of stitches one has to take is kind of staggering.

    The fur and the gold don’t work with the dress at all though. 6/10 for the lace and what is probably a fairly nice dress, if she stood up and the artist were a bit less obsessed with bowling balls.

  17. it looks like the bodice doesn’t even cover her breasts and the painter has just left out her nipples lol. Definatly do not like

    its a 1 from me

  18. I hate it. 1 out of 10. It’s the neckline. With a higher neckline would come a higher number.

  19. Natalie says

    Our poor painter has done a sad disservice to the dress. Anatomicsally the portrait is icky and that makes the dress icky too.

    I’ve seen headdresses rather like this in prints and they can be fetching; here Mr. Artist messed up.

    The aesthetic of the day was for short waists and rounded everything, and fabric could be really dense and architctural. As Mrs. C said, if she would stand up the dressmight actually look better. It’s actally rather streamlined and handsome and no way would women have gone entirely uncovered. Close, maybe, but not fully. Not even demimonde types, which she may number among.

    For painting quality, 1; for dress 6. So average, what, 3.5?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  20. this is terrible. I don’t generally like this period, it looks rather boxy and just overdone. The color is terrible, the fur is terrible, the headpiece is terrible and I don’t appreciate looking at her boobs.

    ha ha. Can you tell I don’t like it?

  21. Suzy Peters says

    It looks altogether way too uncomfortable to wear and rather like the maid took the day off leaving the mistress to get it all so horribly wrong! If worn in winter her tits must have frozen, hense no nipples which must surely have inverted with cold! The rest of her would have been cooking as it’s so thick and cumbersome, it’s rather like a duvet – can you imagine dragging the weight of it around? Very brash colour scheme which I guess goes with the neckline. Hate the overly heavy and too dropped shoulders…can’t believe it would have stayed on to be honest judging by how heavy those sleeves would have been. As for that silly doilie headress!!! Pretty disastrous though somewhat intriguing in a weird way. a low 3

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