18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Summer of 1778

Despite the possible oddness and uncomfortableness of a boned skirt, and not everyone getting the Japanese influence (it was the best sort of influence – very subtle, most Japanese in that respect, among others!) most of you soundly approved of last week’s green party frock, and it rated a perfect 9 out of 10.

You’ve already seen this fashion plate featuring a very summery yellow and lilac frock of 1778 in my post on sabot sleeves, but I thought it deserved a closer look.

Gallerie des Modes et Costumes, Robe à la Circassienne, 1778, MFA Boston

The fashion plate describes the dress as (roughly – my French is pretty bad)

A Circassienne dress in the new style, of gauze in a sulphur colour, with trim in lilac gauze.  The flounce trim is in the same colour as the dress, as is the bottom of the sabot.  The whole thing trimmed in lilac and purple, even to the headdress

What do you think?  Do you like yellow and purple, or is the whole thing a bit twee, with all its pastels and ruffles and bows and polonaised skirts?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I used to have a room that colour purple and yellow. lol!
    I do like a polaniase but there’s something that’s not quite ‘balanced’ with the design.

  2. Ooops, forgot to rate last wekk’s dress, even though it’s one of my favourites! But it’s fine, because 9/10 is exactly what I would rate it.

    This one…. 10/10 as a frothy, unreal dress for a princess out of a little girl’s fantasy. About 4/10 as it is for this grown-up girl. Not my favourite style and era. Reminds me of a toilet paper doll, if you know what I mean. Or those cakes with a Barbie doll stuck in the middle; there’s not much difference. Would be worse if it were pink, though, and I’m rather fond of her necklace.

  3. ellipsisknits says

    Yes, too twee precisely.
    Purple and yellow pastels aren’t necessarily a bad thing in my book, but they are on a dress shaped like a giant cupcake.

  4. fidelio says

    I try very hard rto look at a garment as an example of its period, and not just aim my modern eyes at it and react.
    I just can’t. I do not like this era. The 1770s and much of the 1780s are just a loss for me. This looks like it should be the base of a china lamp in a little girl’s room, c.1957, with a white-and-gold painted bedroom set (sheer canopy and bedspread in pink).

    3/10, because I’m trying to get past my prejudices, and it’s just sooooooooooooooo ugly. Otherwise it would be 0/10. Because it’s just sooooooooooooooo ugly.

    • Argh! That is so funny! Exactly what it is like. While not alive in 1957, that sentimental look for girl’s decor was still around in the 1970’s, and it didn’t help that y mother had some faux Dresden china sheperdesses that looked just like this. Twee doesn’t even come close. 🙂

  5. Purple and yellow remind me of childhood in springtime (and violets!). I think it’s sweet, but a bit too…. something. I’m not sure. I’m just not completely in love with it.

  6. Courtney F. says

    I think I’d like this better if one of the colors were darker–a deep gold with pale lavender, or a dark royal purple with pale yellow. Also, the description of “sulphur”-colored turns me off!


  7. The colors are a bit eastery but in real life I think they’d look better. Not a fan of the low front…where are…? But again, I think it’s the painting being exaggerated.
    In all I like the dress and I know I’d like it much better in person.


  8. I love this period–the late 70s-late 80s are my ultimate favorite fashion era.

    So why does this dress crash and burn so badly?!?!

    I imagine the real-life version would be a bit better–less bouncy and fluffy, but I have to judge on the merits of what I see here. Purple and yellow is far from my favorite color combo–great for sports teams when vibrant, iffy on gowns when muted. And it’s not an ideal example of the era, either, in my book–the torso looks oddly elongated, not the nice flattened cone. The skirts are a big bell, not the elegant swooping drapes of a proper polonaise. Off-balance, as LadyD said.

    And the fluff–the best part about this era is that they had begun to de-Roccoco and down-grade the fluff a bit, opting for more subdued opulence in the best gowns. This is like a bad flashback. Just so…precious. In the worst way.

    Plus the sleeves look like someone ripped them off the Michelin Man and pasted them on this dress. Very awkwardly cylindrical.

    Overall, a sad and awkward example of the period. It gets points for being late 1770s and not made of burlap.

    A 3/10.

  9. Daniel says

    Well, it’s quite a confection isn’t it? I imagine it being perfectly charming in reality, in a Disney Princess sort of way, although these hairstyles are always a bit of a boggler for me. So I think it’s a 6/10 from me because it’s a wee bit too sugary-sweet and poofed-out for me, although I bet it would look better interpreted into reality.

  10. Stella says

    Normally I’m the 18th century’s biggest fan, but this dress isn’t lighting my fire. I think I’m finding the pollonaise a bit too fluffed up – it looks like a big puffball with the enormous round skirt and little feet sticking out the bottom – and I’m not sure about the colour scheme. 5/10.

  11. Am I having delusions here? I could have sworn there was a rust-colored 1840s gown posted a few hours ago…

    Oh, well. I kind of like this dress. It IS very cupcake shaped, though, and her waist makes it look like she was made out of playdough and someone stretched her out. I feel like it would have looked a great deal better on a human being than in the drawing. I don’t mind the colors so much–they remind me of spring time…and cupcake icing! How fitting! I only wonder how on Earth anyone would sit down in that thing.

    Seven out of ten for the poofiness.

    • There was an 1840s dress. I meant to post it next week and got the dates wrong and published two. You’ll see it again in 7 days! Sorry about that.

  12. Lynne says

    Not a winner for me. The colours and the decorations are pure ‘icing Easter-egg’. Rather bilious. And I am right with the people who pointed out that the skirt shape does not work. Too much ‘inverted bell’ and too floofy on the top part. I like the idea of its being the base of a little girl’s bed lamp!
    Maybe the artist has a few things to answer for. The shape may be his problem as much as anything. If I think of it as a stylised representation, the real dress might be a lot more attractive. For instance, look at the neckline. In the drawing, it ends three or four inches down from the arm-pit. Now, I’m a little old lady, and things have slipped, but even on me, that is on the nipple line. On a pert young miss, it would be positively Minoan! And the poor girl’s face is tiny, on a huge body. Let’s blame the artist.

    I do like the period. Some charming and flattering dresses. Just not this one. 3/10

  13. A helium fill’d skirt, lifting the lady off her oh-so-tiny feet.
    It’s just so frivolous and sweet, I can’t dislike it, despite the odd proportions of the artwork. 7/10

  14. If I think of this dress made up, with the lavenderish trim more to the grey, and the yellow definitely to the sulphur/old gold end, and with a real woman’s proportions and real fabric drapery, and knowing what those poufs really look like and all of that, then I quite like it. I find I have to translate illustrations into real people, with real underpinnings etc of course, as this is the only way to get a level playing field in comparing them. Noone has ever looked like a fashion illustration, that is kind of the point – to propose an idealistic aesthetic to have women aspire to, spend money on and ultimately fail to achieve, thus ensuring they keep spending money. Charming! But, I digress!
    I want the petticoat to also be yellow, and it isn’t. I can’t start changing it that much just by dressing a real person in it 🙂
    So, let’s say 5/10. Because at the end of the day, we all love a polonaise, and there are many, many nicer ones than this around so it has to take its place behind them.

  15. chris says

    the bodice is pretty, the rest … reminds me of a bell. i just want to pick her up and giver her a ring! i do like the color scheme.


  16. I do like the color combo – it feels very happy and spring-like to me. However, I think the dress is an awkward length and there are just too many ruffles.


  17. Polly says

    I have just read a book about Marie-Antoinette… and this looks like her dress! The book describes her extravagance and pushing fashion boundaries. So, for that I might give this dress a 9… but personally… I think it is too short, too puffy, too yellow, too…. so therefore a 4 at a push.

  18. Dear Dreamstress,

    I don’t know very much about dresses at all, but I do read (and can translate) French. Please feel free to consult whenever necessary.

    <3 <3

    The Sewphist

  19. Jenny Wren says

    Blech, blech, blech. She looks like she’s sitting on a beanbag, a beanbag that appears to be floating, since her feet are SO TINY. I just hate things that puff out and are ruffled back in again, like the yellow trim here. 1/10.

  20. I blame the artist for the negatives. They didn’t have photoshop so they exagerated bits and they exagerated to convince the ladies they’d look sexy without showing the boobs and they’d look tiny. First there is the lack of ahem…girls . The gumby length waist is another. The feet the size of pins is a third exageration. If I am rating the drawing. 3/10.
    Made up on a real woman with normal propotions and we’d be swooning. The colors don’t work for me…I don’t do pastels and the look is a bit young for me so I wouldn’t make it for myself. But if my young niece wanted one….oh la la! 9/10 It looses a point because I can’t wear it.

  21. Um……. Sooo….

    I usually like this century. I really do. It’s typically cute and charming, and you can get away with throwing all sorts of trim on your dress, but seriously?
    My mother had a Little Bo Peep porcelain doll that looked exactly like this until my brothers and I hatched a plan to break it because it was ridiculously creepy…

    3/10 because I could see it being cute if it didn’t look so Little Bo Peep-ish.


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