20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Evening ensemble of 1958

Last week you did NOT appreciate our 17th century allegory and her very festive frock.  You found the colours garish, the headdress decidedly odd, and the neckline, well, just a little too festive (if you take my meaning).  Poor astrology needs to do a better job at aligning her wardrobe elements, as she came in at a pitiful  3.2 out of 10, making it the first pre-20th century outfit to rate below a 4.

This week I’m sticking with the metallic and red holiday colour scheme, but moving it up three centuries.  Are you thinking of holiday parties?  Why don’t we rate a holiday party-worthy frock?

This silver evening gown comes with its own matching red velvet  satin evening coat (good catch Sarah!), lined in the same textured silver fabric as the dress (click through twice  on the image to see a large version)

Evening ensemble, American, 1958, Designed by Arnold Scaasi, American, born in 1930, Worn by Arlene Francis, American, 1907—2001, MFA Boston

What do you think?  Just the thing to make a statement, or too matchy matchy?  And is the textured dress fabric just divine, or just a bit much?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I LOVE this. Love it. It has the drama but isn’t overdone. I love the colors, the fabric, I even appreciate the bow. Really fabulous.


  2. Natalie says

    I don’t always reply to these but how could I pass this up! This dress is a dream!!!!! I am pretty sure anyone who wore it would look stunning no matter their shape.

    I want to go dancing in this dress.
    I want to ring in the new year in this dress.
    I want to shine in the beautiful sparkly festive fabric
    I want to wrap myself up in that bow and offer myself as a Christmas gift to my hubby

    I will be shocked if this doesn’t get a 10 out of 10 from everyone

    Big fat 10 from me!!!!

  3. I find that bow a bit too big where it is, but then, I cannot imagine what it would look like if it were not. It’s slightly over the top, but in a perfect understated way (ha! I’ve been searching for that word for a week, at least; blackout broken!) – the limited colours, the limited number of fabrics with the contrast of smooth and textured, the very simple construction/pattern showing off the fabrics… The brooch finishes it off very nicely, too, playing up the themes of the whole ensemble.

  4. I’d give it an 9/10; it’s beautiful, but it looks like it would be heavy and itchy, which wouldn’t be fun to wear. If I’m mistaken about the silver material’s texture, though, it’s a 9!

  5. Oh my god, it’s so delicious! I would wear that all the time except that I don’t like the feel of velvet (I know, what kind of costumer am I?). 9/10

  6. Gorgeous gown–I love the simple yet uber-flattering cut, and the ginormous bow and brooch combo. Something I would love to do, yet am not quite bold enough to attempt. The red color is just droolworthy. The coat would make a stunning entrance (and yet is also oddly utilitarian–I mean, you could easily wear this over other evening ensembles). My only, teensy, quibble is that the textured fabric reminds me, just a touch, of bubble wrap. I think I’d prefer a tafetta or heavy satin or subdued brocade, but I’m dull and boring like that–though I like the texture contrast, I’m just not fond of this particular texture.


    But, um, why is the mannequin trying to curse all of us?

  7. Ha! I agree with Rowenna…scary mannequin!!

    I love this dress. So elegant, so stunning! I love seeing this era in color. So used to seeing these dresses in black and white. The good thing about that is that I think it must have pushed them to making things stunning with details rather than color (for movies at least) hence the big bow and the interesting textures.

    I love it!

    • I think by 1958 most films were in colour. Anyone know when it became really common for films to be in colour? Wikipedia ends its list of ‘early’ colour films in 1935, indicating that it became more widespread after that. I guess still photography was still often B&W though.

      • Two of the first films in color were released the year I was born, 1939, “Gone With the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz.” I’m sure my younger friends and cousins have seen these films many times! T.V. didn’t go color until about 1962; the first show in color I remember was “Bonanza.” “Batman” was another series known for brilliant colors, and it started in 1965. I remember the years, as these were years two of our children were born.

        I love this dress, it was a very typical late 50’s style, and I particularly love the coat.

        The early 60’s got crazy with the 20’s throwback flapper look, only boxier, with a dropped waist, shorter skirt.

      • It was not uncommon for films to be made in black and white through the early 60s–but color was very common, too. I wonder when the “tipping point” was–when most films were made in color as opposed to black and white. I think budget had something to do with it at that point too–as well as style of film. I think it was still “acceptable” to make a non-budget film in black and white in the mid 50s for stylistic reasons.

  8. Stella says

    I love it. It’s dramatic and tasteful, which can be hard to pull off sometimes. I wouldn’t like the red bow in any other context, but I think it works well here. 10/10

  9. Joie de vivre says

    I dislike bows. A lot. Especially big bows.

    Yet I love this dress. Love the colours, the clean lines, the sparkliness, the brooch on the bow. I would like the coat to have a tiny bit more shape to it, either in at the waist or out at the hem, but that could be the way it is worn on the mannequin to show the lining. 9/10

  10. Abigail says

    Hmmm…I love, love, LOVE the dress, but the coat…not so great. 9/10.

  11. Love the drama of it. Are you sure the coat is velvet? It looks more like a heavy satin to me, and velvet wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the bow thing either.

    I’d maybe try the bow as a sash instead, but it might go back to being a bow afterwards. 10/10

  12. Pamlin says

    LOVE this! Clean, elegant, flattering. It has a bit of the excess and texture of typical 1960’s gowns, while still keeping to the gorgeous tailoring and structuring of the 1950’s.


  13. I love it! It is so festive! One thing I would change is the neckline (I don’t like plain straps most of the time) to a straight, off the shoulder. Besides that, though, it’s perfect (even with it as is, I suppose it comes close). That fabric is also drool-worthy: rich deep red satin and oh-so-perfectly textured silver something–a match made in heaven!

    Ten out of ten!

  14. Katherine says

    I’m with Natalie – I never comment on “Rate the Dress” but this one is gorgeous!! 10!!!

  15. Caroline says

    Wow this one is absolutely gorgeous! Though I’m not really feeling the mannequin’s pose, wrong holiday! I really love this one, but I think that maybe the bow should be at the waist. Anyway, this is still beautiful and I want one for christmas (-;


  16. Natalie says

    Yum. Just about perfect in every way. That neckline is better on some than others, and I’d prefer a boat neck or off-the-shoulder treatment, but otherwise, wowsers. A dress to wear right through the years.


  17. This dress is fantastic! I love everything about it! A definite 10, I’d rate it higher if I could.

  18. Daniel says

    And another 10/10 from me here. That is perfect – Scaasi can sometimes be a wee bit, erm, shall we say extraordinary, but in the 50s, he’s so often absolutely amazing. And it’s such a gorgeous outfit – beautiful fabrics, sumptuous colour, just such purity of line with the bold flourish of the bow perfectly counerpointing the deceptive simplicity of the shapes. Love it.

  19. Lynne says

    9 out of 10! A classic – still very wearable. Great colours, unfussy lines, a neckline begging for serious bling (unless one is possessed of a youthful and glorious neck!), and an outfit that could be worn by many. Two gripes, that pull it back from the perfect 10. Firstly, that daft bow-thing! I mean, really. You can just see Arnold looking at the basic silver dress and wondering what he could do to add – something. “I know! We’ll make a big red sash, but fold it funny-like, and stick it to the right side of the solar plexus with thumping great broach! Voila!” No, Arnold. The only person who can pull off that sort of daft outfit is QEII – and she has the diamonds to do it. Secondly, that very nice coat is lined with the silver material. Ouch. I survived the eighties – I remember just how uncomfortable metallic fabric can be on the skin. So, silver is good – just not the same textured material, please, Arnold, and do you still have it in a size 14?

  20. 9/10

    The weird bow on the hip and the crunchy-looking silver fabric keep it from perfection. But I love the drama the color creates despite the dress being of fairly plain design.

  21. 9 only because I can’t decide if that bow would hide my tummy or draw attention to it. If I were built like the dummy I’d have to say 10. So I guess that makes it 9.5.

  22. My gosh, this is gorgeous! I’m a sucker for beautiful deep reds and this right here hit the nail on the head! The jewels on the bow are a LOVELY detail. I don’t think it matches too much at all! Simple, yet elegant. Then the texture is just so daring, but I think it pulls it off!


  23. Normally I wouldn’t like that the coat is somewhat shapeless, but with this outfit it is beautiful! I love everything about this ensemble. 10/10

  24. I love the dress, personally I am not one for floor length coats so I would just wear the dress, but I think it looks really good together (just not on me lol). oh and I would also take off the bow, don’t like bows.

    I’m going to give it a 9/10

  25. 10 of 10, I love the drape, I love the use of textured fabric, and the wearability. I would wear this with zero compunction if I had an event.

  26. This is my first time rating a dress here. I love this one! The fabric has such a nice flow, it is spectacular! I would give it a 10!

  27. fidelio says

    10. Any doubts about the feel of the silver fabric or the placement of the bow aside aside, it’s a great, easy shape to wear, and the coordinating coat is a great addition–I like the way it frames the dress, so you can make an impressive entrance, yet they way it’s cut means it won’t crush or otherwise interfere with the dress–and once you’re inside and have shed the coat, the loose, unshaped cut isn’t a problem. A lot of evening coats and wraps have to deal with the problem of not mashing the dress, and I like that they’ve just gone with “simple is better” in this case.

  28. The bow is a bit much for me, I’d prefer a sash, otherwise very nice. 9/10

  29. I think it is fabulous! You’d have to be going to very swanky party in an ensemble like that. I give it 10/10.

  30. Love at first sight! This is going into my “Garrison Ball Inspiration” folder right now!

    Ever since I saw “Down with Love” (a very under-appreciated film imo) I have wanted an evening dress + coat set where the fabric of the dress is also the lining of the coat. Drool, drool, drool….(ooh, sorry for the mess). I also think the bow is fabulousness itself – go big or go home!

    A very enthusiastic and covetous 10/10!

  31. Elise says

    What an entrance! I don’t like the bow well, but with the coat, and the pose, it’s a 9!

  32. Shell says

    I give it a 9 only because I’m not a fan of the natural waistline, otherwise it looks pretty fun.

  33. I’d go for an 8; not sure I like the coat, but I love the dress. I’d turn the bow into a sash though.

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