20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Deco stripes in 1923

Last week your reactions to the 1860s girl’s pink & white striped party frock were quite divided.  Most of you said something along the lines of “cutest dress ever!” or “I would have felt like a princess in it”.  Some of you, however, had horrible experiences with being forced to wear frilly dresses as a kid, and you didn’t like it for that reason.  Those in favour of pretty princess dresses pulled it in at a 8.4 out of 10.

This week, lets leave any chance of saccharine behind and look at a dress inspired by my time at Art Deco Weekend.  This frock from the Met incorporates clever angles and curves and pleats and stripes, all while maintaining a sleek silhouette – very Art Deco.

Dress, ca 1923, probably French, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I polled you about your least favourite fashion eras the 1920s won (lost?) by a landslide.  So this dress is a real risk.  Will it fall foul of your dislike of the 20s?  Or will you like the simple, comfortable, easy-wear, restrained but colourful, Art Deco inspired shift dress?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. ellipsisknits says

    There’s nothing wrong with the silhouette, but I do not like the colors / color blocking. It looks like some sort of strange hipster-flapper super-hero costume. Or a preschool uniform sized up to adult. The chest has a rainbow on it for goodness sake! The more I think about it, the less I like it, so I’m going to stop while I’m still in the positive numbers.

    • Tenshi says

      I was looking for words to describe this, but your description is too perfect. Hipster-flapper super-hero costume, indeed. This had me laugh out loud at my desk. Good thing my colleague with whom I share this office is not here yet.
      It also reminds me of my school uniform in Japan, which was quite possibly the ugliest garment ever designed by mankind.
      Thus, 1/10.

  2. This one could still be worn, and would cause little comment, in the 21st century.

    I find it rather charming, except for the rainbow motifs which make it look too much like a saleswoman’s costume or something. A 7.

  3. Jenny Wren says

    Agree with the three previous commenters; it looks like a Boy Scouts uniform. In the UK we even have a pre-Girl Guide organisation called the Rainbows…

    Having said that, it would be perfect for a boating day on the river. So that pulls its mark up a little. 5.

  4. This would be an excellent color scheme, if you were an airplane. I might forgive the red and yellow if they were just on the bottom of the skirt, but, seriously, who want a big chevron and rainbow on their torso? 4/10

  5. It is odd, because if I think about this as, say, an art project about primary colors, I find I can sort of appreciate it after some fashion. However, when I think about it actually being worn by a person my brain goes “Argh, no, run away!” And, well, the more I look at it the more I hate it. I can’t imagine it actually looking attractive on anybody.


  6. Stella says

    I’m not convinced about the colour scheme. I do, however, like the design, and I like that it looks comfortable and wearable. I like the use of shape and the pleating on the skirt. If the colours were different I’d really like it. As it is, I’m going to give it 7/10.

    Do you have any photos from Art Deco Weekend? I’d love to see them.

  7. I took one look and said to myself, “Win!” Stack up some red and yellow Bakelite bracelets and a cloche hat, grab the keys to a yellow roadster. You’re ready to bootleg that champagne to West Egg, or go to that kooky Futurist dinner with those visiting Italians.

    It’s almost cruelly rebellious in its simplicity and use of line/color, spitting in the eye of any leftover Edwardian aesthetics. And it would look good on someone who was the opposite of that Edwardian ideal – someone dark/brunette, with a straight, flat body and serious legs. 8 out of 10.

    • The Edwardians were actually very into slim and long legs and brunettes – the whole overblown rose voluptuous blond was more of a Victorian thing. I’ve been reading a lot of Edwardian novels lately and all the heroines are tall and slim and dark haired. And generally “queenly” with long necks and small heads.

    • The Edwardians were actually very into slim and long legs and brunettes – the whole overblown rose voluptuous blond was more of a Victorian thing. I’ve been reading a lot of Edwardian novels lately and all the heroines are tall and slim and dark haired. And generally “queenly” with long necks and small heads. Whatever that meant!

    • fidelio says

      This. I can see it, and the other comment on Nancy Drew (a 1920s girl for sure) is on to something as well.

      I’d never wear it as I am allergic to navy blue, but it’s a clever dress and very much of its time. 7/10, because encouraging a girl to hang out with bootleggers is a bad thing.

  8. Laura says

    I consider myself a fan of the 20s, but this is hideous. 2/10

  9. It looks like an air-hostess uniform designed by a children’s television show from the 70’s. Maybe if the rainbow had instead been straight across it would not have brought to mind George and Zippy.
    It would be unfair to rate the garment based on that anachronisim though, so I’m just not going to.

    • Elise says

      That’s what I thought, too! The colors remind me so much of early 80s Sesame Street. I saw that another commenter said ‘hipster’, which all of us ‘oldsters’ know is just derivative of that sensibility.

      Really, though, I think it’s fine, if a little garish for 2012. 20s for sure, but then again, my body has told me several times that this is my decade!


  10. Cornelia Moore says

    all I could think of when I saw it was “maternity dress” ugly with focal point on the “protruding” belly and burgening breasts. shudder. as I think of it now, the colors remind me of an early paint called buttermilk paint, all tertiary colors and although not grating, not terribly pleasing, either.

    comfortable looking brings the score up a little, but deco should be more pleasing than this. they did have a bend toward some awful colors.

  11. Pamlin says

    I’m having early 80’s childhood flashbacks with the color scheme.

    The rest of it is ok -silhouette, etc. Nothing major to write home about. I think it’s the super matte feel of the fabric (WHY does it look like polyester?) that’s putting me off


  12. This one really doesn’t bother me that much. I love the shape–the 20s are one of my favorite eras, fashion-wise. The only thing I don’t care for is that rainbow-ish thing, but it doesn’t bother me very much. The Nancy Drew comment just makes me like it more–I can totally see that.

    Nine out of ten.

  13. 7! I wouldn’t want to wear it myself at all, but I love the bold colors and shapes. Spare and clean.

  14. The silhouette doesn’t bug me–I actually don’t mind the 20s straight-and-narrow at all 🙂 What bugs me is the wacky stripes arcing across the blouse and the weird diagonals. I hate to say it, but my Nana would wear this now. Less-than-kicky scarf and all. And Nana’s fashion sense leaves something to be desired. (Sorry, Nana.)

    That said, I’d wear the skirt. With a simple blouse and a long, single-color cardigan. And sensible shoes.

    3/10. Since the skirt could be salvaged.

  15. ZipZip says

    Twenties dresses can look terrific and feel even better, but you’d better have a whip-thin body to pull this design off…it widens the waist and behind.

    This dress on any one of my aquaintance, memory, or self? No way…


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

  16. Lynne says

    I can see it being an effective outfit in its time, with the proper accessories, and a long, lean woman to wear it. It’s quite edgy, really – so Modern with a capital M. I’m prepared to fence-sit on a 5 out of 10. No cries of rapture.

  17. 8

    One of my absolute favorites from the decade. The score would be higher if not for the red, yellow, blue combination. I love the blue and yellow, but it looks a little too circus-y when mixed with red.

  18. I would have liked it in a black and white photo. The colors are too boyscoutesque. It would look better without the scarf and with a yellow cloche and yellow shoes ( adore 20’s hats and shoes!).

    I’ll give a 6 for the appealing graphic lines. (would have been an 8 with better colors and accessories. :))

  19. I like the Art Deco part, but the colours are – not sure what the correct word would be – not nice? Just by a hair, but they’re not. Are they aged?
    And I’m not exactly a fan of the 20s silhouette either, even though I did not vote for 20s in your poll – it does not suit everyone, and this looks like exactly the kind of frock that would look like a sack on most women.
    Still, it’s creative in a good way for its time period (you get tired of colourful, beaded flapper dresses after some time), so it’s 6/10 from me.

    • Can I correct it to 7/10? It looks better on my other computer, and it was my original estimate that I took off a point from for the colours. Which look better on my other computer.

  20. I’m *shocked* at the vitriol heaved at this dress… Heh. The hipster-flpper-superhero description made me laugh… 🙂

    These colors would look amazing on a blonde, probably with deep blue eyes. My sister could pull this off, too, she’s a strawberry blonde.

    I wear shifty things like this sometimes and do not care in the slightest that I’m not “supposed” to because of my figure shape… I mean… Sure it hides my figure but sometimes that’s nice. Do I care if some random strangers think I’m dumpy because I’m not dressing to accentuate my waist? Not particularly.

    10/10 because I’d wear this, too. Maybe without the neckerchief.

    I bet Leimomi would look cute in this, too..

  21. Daniel says

    The stripes look like the Belgium flag, at least in this photo.

    As for me? Dear Lord. This dress would look ah-mazing on a Vogue cover as drawn by Lepape. on an eleven-foot-tall woman with a Modiglani face. who keeps falling down drainpipes by accident without touching the sides. In reality… uh oh. The actual cut is not bad at all, and it’s not a bad dress in itself, but the stripes really are unforgiving and distracting. They blare. They’re aggressive. They demand full attention and don’t really reward it, although they are extremely well matched. I do not like it, even though I recognise its good Deco qualities. For once, the curator in me that wants to be fair is utterly squelched by my visceral reaction. I am compelled to rate it 2/10.

  22. I would say 8 out of 10 because I like 20’s fashions in principal but they don’t tend to suit me very well. Looking at this dress it would be a way of me wearing the fashion. Being the fashionable shape but the shapes would give a more slimming impression. Not too keen on the colours though, blue yes but wouldn’t have put the red and yellow with it.

  23. Um…. Is this the prototype of Japanese Kindergarten uniforms? I could totally see this with the bright yellow hat the kindergarteners wear… I do love the skirt though.



    • In a roundabout way, it absolutely is. The 1920s are when Western style uniforms for schoolgirls got introduced to Japan, and the pleated skirt was already a standard in Western uniforms (and still is in many places). School uniforms (like graduation robes) change vary slowly, so it’s not surprising that Japanese schoolgirls wear dresses much like this (and so do a few Kiwi schoolgirls).

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