19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Wallflower or wower of 1840

So, last week I made a silly mistake and published two Rate the Dresses.  I noticed it a few hours later and withdrew the one I hadn’t meant to publish. So most of you only saw the 1780s pastel polonaised froof that I left up (and most of didn’t particularly care for it and rated it a not-very inspiring 5.2 out of 10).  But some of you did get a sneak-peek at this week’s Rate the Dress, so have had all week to think about whether you like it or not..

1840s dresses can be a bit, well, plain and boring.

This dress comes in a typically boring 1840s colour: rust brown, but does include some quite distinctive features: beautifully worked tone-on-tone embroidery (click on the image to go through to a large version), triple puffed sleeves, two rows of hem ruffles, and a cunningly cut and draped bodice.

Dinner dress, American, about 1840, MFA Boston

Dinner dress, American, about 1840, MFA Boston

Are all these things enough to raise the dress above the usual 1840s bland curse?  Or would this dress be just another wallflower?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10  


  1. You forgot last week’s rating! 🙂

    This week’s dress is nice. While borderline boring, when you pay attention to the details, it really does come alive. I love embroidery and the pleats are amazing too. (Just look at that back!) Brown isn’t my favorite color for an evening gown and the bodice seems oddly long-waisted with that point, but i can get get past them rather easily considering the loveliness of the enitire ensemble. I think it would look five times as good with some redish-plum/deep maroon velvet edging around the bottom of the ruffles and the neckline.

    Ten out of ten, because it could look amazing with the right things.

  2. ellipsisknits says

    Oh, very pretty and subtle. The color is not the best for showing off the details, but the details and form themselves are very nice indeed.

    I wish the ruffle on the skirt would puff up just a bit more, but perhaps some of that is due to the age and how it was prepped for display.


  3. 10/10 !

    Totale classe !

    Nothing more or less, nothing too much, just perfect !

  4. mouse says

    Pros: I love rust, it’s one of my favorite colors for dresses because it’s so flattering for my coloring. I also love the pleats and embroidery.

    Cons: The bodice looks like a crotch injury waiting to happen. I dislike the double ruffle at the trim, reminds me of a bed ruffle.

    7/10, assuming you can sit down without developing a wide stance.

  5. I think the dress is gorgeous… perhaps better in a different color, but honestly this color isn’t awful. The embellishments are wonderful. It might not be a ‘wower’, but I certainly think it’s lovely enough to stand out from the crowd a bit.

  6. Tracy says

    I love the details! The embroidery is lovely and so are the sleeves and bodice. The only detraction for me is the color and even the color isn’t too objectionable. Imagine it with some lovely amber earrings. I give it 9/10.

  7. I adore 1840’s. The neckline front and back is absolutely perfect. And love the embroidery too.


  8. That’s /really/ pretty.

    I wouldn’t wear that color, but if you found a person with the right complexion, it would be gorgeous.


  9. I’m not a huge fan of 1840s. The evening and dinner dresses aren’t so bad, it’s the day dresses I dislike.

    I don’t mind the color. I think for me the thing that keeps it from wallflower status are the sleeves, I really like the triple puff, and I think the dress would be lovely with the right accesories.

    I give it a 8.1

  10. Stella says

    It’s simple, understated and elegant. I love it. This dress is all about the construction details, and that’s what I like about it. It’s not a colour that would work for everyone, but on the right person it would look great. 9/10

  11. The sleeves are pretty! The color is yucky. I do like the overall shape of the dress, but I just can’t stand that color.


  12. Yes, that rust color really makes it difficult. The shape and details are exquisite. Like the many slightly dull dresses in the present day – this one would’ve been accessorized. With gloves, lace fichu, flowers and Georgian jewelry…still a bit dull, really. 7 out of 10, and that for the immaculate shape/details.

  13. Sue McCaskill says

    While brown is not my colour of choice, I do like this dress. The embroidery is lovely, and the cut and fit are superb. I’ll give it an 8/10

  14. Daniel says

    Oh, the embroidery is lovely – really makes it special. I actually quite like this period – I find it quite underrated, but it has a very gentle sense of understatement in contrast to the exaggerated 1830s and the flouncy 1850s, and I think it’s a beautifully proportioned dress. The colour also makes me think of chocolates and cinnamon and gingerbread so I like that too. So it’s a 9/10 from me.

  15. I love this! I’ve always had a soft spot for this decade, and this gown is just lovely. The embroidery, the cut of the bodice, the ruffles, and those fabulous sleeves!


  16. It is beautiful in its simplicity. This thing in a flowery calico could be hideous, but the execution of the embroidery and the fit of the bodice are just beautiful. Slap a shawl on that thing and I’d be jealous.


  17. Lynne says

    That warm, bright, rich brown shade was sometimes called ‘tobacco’. I like it. I wouldn’t wear it myself, but with fresh white accessories, it can really sing. You can see it so well in the zoomed pictures. That colour would be great for showing off your gold jewellery. Beautiful dress. Love the bodice. The sleeves are a delight – just long enough, with not too much going on.

    I’m giving it a 9 out of 10, mostly because I want to hold a little in reserve for when my eyes really pop!

  18. Given the two choices in the title, I would have to go for “wallflower” since there’s nothing in this dress that makes me go “wow!” But that said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being simple and pretty. And I think that how much I like the mannequin subconsciously affects how much I like the dress. This is a good mannequin, so 8.5/10.

  19. Pamlin says

    Ok, It’s not massively frou-frou or exotic, but I LOVE this gown!! I could see someone *wearing* this to tea or as a “best” dress for an average woman. It makes a connection as a REAL dress that some of the couture pieces don’t.


  20. I actually really like this color. It’s not too red/orange, but not too brown either. The sleeves are lovely, and I’m incredibly jealous of the embroidery.

    The bodice seems really long to me, but other than that it’s amazing.



  21. Jenny says

    I adore it! It’s not gaudy, but rich in a subtle way. I would wear this. In fact, I am stealing the photos for inspiration for my next Gaskell gown! 9/10 because I am not sure what complexion would suit this dress.

  22. I like it. It is not my favorite era because it tends to be a bit boring but this one is definately not boring. I’m not fond of the color but that is only because I don’t think I can wear that color. A bit darker brown and I’d be coveting it. 9/10

  23. fidelio says

    langantiques.comIt’s a difficult shade but the woman who wore this was able to pick and choose, so it probably suited her quite well.

    Other than that, while I don’t like the tiered ruffles on the skirt as much as the people who perpetuated that look did, the details and execution on this are lovely–nothing too much, just enough to let you know it was a special dress. I’m a sucker for monochrome embroidery, I have to admit.

    Maybe she wore this necklace with it.


  24. Exquisite restraint – the delicate detailing, the tone-on-tone embroidery, the restrained form of the dress – 9/10!

  25. Ohhhhh, my goodnesss. Now I want a dress like that. I would prefer it with a slightly darker brown, not so reddish. And in silk or taffeta. The tone-on-tone embroidering is beautiful, I love the bodice, and even the puffed sleeves aren’t too puffy. 10/10

  26. I love it. In my size, I’d wear it in a hot second–it’s even one of my best colors. A 9.5, and the .5 off is due only to the fact that it could use a *little* bit of trim. Perhaps even in metallic gold–some gold thread embroidery about the neckline, maybe.

  27. Oops. I missed the part about the tonal embroidery. I think I’d prefer that in gold (either metallic, or simply gold-colored).

  28. Tenshi says

    I think the colour is actually quite nice. Maybe just a tiny bit bland for a whole dress, but the details do take it from boring to really lovely. I like the understated elegance of the whole thing.

  29. Rosalinda says

    Overall it is a very pretty dress. I especially like the sleeves. It may not be the most extravagant dress but it still deserves an 8/10

  30. Hey, I love 1840s dresses! I like simple dresses, too.
    9/10. Maybe 9,5/10.
    It’s not quite perfect, because I have hard time imagining a woman that colour would look good on. Meaning, there are not so many in the overall populace, at least not here in the Czech Republic (we Czechs tend to have mousy colouring).
    But it’s very nearly perfect. Maybe, if I saw it on a real woman like with Amalie Auguste – whose dress is actually also a striking colour -, it would be a full 10.

    Hm. Confused rating. Let’s make it 9,5, can we?

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