20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Springtime evening dress of 1915

Not everyone liked last week’s mid-Victorian paisley wool wrapper on an aesthetic level.  But the emotional reaction to it was nothing but complementary; it made you dream of curling up in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a good book.  Evoking that response speaks more than any rating could!  (But the actual rating was 8 out of 10).

Since last week’s dress was an autumn dress for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere who are looking towards winter, I thought this week I should go with something spring-y for the Northern hemisphere.  I also wanted to do a 19teens dress to coincide with Anzac day.

Dress, Evening, 1917, American cotton, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, Evening, 1917, American, cotton, silk - Metropolitan Museum of Art

What do you think?  Does this dress just epitomize spring?  It is exactly the sort of thing that boys would have dreamt of their girls wearing to dances as they struggled in the muddy trenches of France and the beaches of Gallipoli?  Is it the perfect escapism, or too frilly and frivilous to connect with reality?

Rate the Dress on the Scale of 1 to 10?


  1. Laura says

    Did the rest of the text get lost? Usually we hear the score of last week’s, plus comments, and also usually you end sentences with punctuation!

    On to the dress. I have to unpack a little bit when I see something not on a person or a form, as when I see that I tend to default to thinking about it FOR ME. But with enough thought, on the “on someone else”, I think I almost love it.

    First off, pink. I’m not a big fan and don’t tend to wear it, but this shade is really quite lovely and nice on the old retina. It is soft and melty and muted while still being springy. The color saturation of the detail going so well with the more muted overall tone is also fabulous.

    More contentious than that for my tastes, the neckline. I honestly am not very big on high necklines. This look like is covers or almost covers the collar bones, although the fact that the high neck is of the mesh might ease the appearance of that which I dislike. And well, I just don’t like princes seamed fitted sheathe-like bodices. Yes, they’re amongst the most classic. I just can’t get behind them except on very laky slim torsos. But in my imagination of putting this on the perfect figure for the dress, that would take off just a little bit from my score.

    Which brings me to OH MY DEAR THOSE DETAILS THEY ARE GRREEEEEAT. I love the ombre ribbon, and the ribbon embroidery (though I can’t tell if the method is technically ribbon embroidery or technically something else), and how the bodice scoop parallels the skirt’s scallops. That scoop would also really need to happen on an above-mentioned boyish torso.

    So since I’m pretty sure that if I saw someone else out in it at an evening party in 1915 I’d have to tell them several times in the evening that I liked their dress, but it has just a few things I still don’t quite like, it gets a 9/10.

    • Erm. It’s not that the rest of the text got lost, it’s that my finger slipped on the keyboard and the draft got published a day ahead. It should be all sorted now!

  2. Cheyene says

    I simply adore it! I would wish for a better top part, though. I’m not crazy about that part at all. But everything else, LOVE!


  3. 8/10. Why does the top have such a bib shape? OK, I get it, it’s meant to echo the scallops of the skirt – but it still looks like a bib to me. I’m all contrary to Laura on the bodice – I dislike the bib and love the overall shape underneath it!
    It’s mostly lovely! It does not even make me think of spring that much, rather summer – probably because it reminds me of roses (even though the actual flowers are something else). Considering the spring we currently have is a bit on the cold side and I’m sitting at home with a cold, that’s a good thing!

  4. This makes me think of the description of Sara’s dancing dress in The Little Princess, which is one of those dresses that exists only in my head, since any real version couldn’t possibly be as fanciful and whimsical as the one I imagine. That said, I think this could be it! I give it a 9/10, not quite full marks only because of that awkward loop of flowers on the front of the bodice.

    • Yes- exactly what I was thinking… Also thinking this could have stepped right out of “Rilla of Ingleside.” Lovely, and beautiful escapism.


    • Lynne says

      I admit I thought of this, too. Then I went away and looked at the original Harold Piffard illustrations in my copy, and all it really shares is the pinkness. The dress in the illustration comes just below the knee, with a soft ruffle at the hem. It has a darker pink sash at the waist of the slightly full skirt, pintucking (or embroidery) on the lower part of the bodice, a big bertha collar, and long full sleeves with ruffles at the ends. Anne Shirley would have approved.

      • Ah, but I wonder if the illustration was at all what FHB envisioned when she wrote the scene? Often the authors had no say in the illustrations. I have to admit I’m more on the Rilla of Ingleside bench though!

      • I just looked at my book, and it’s got illustrations by Margery Gill. The dress there has a ruffled hem and rose trim, but that’s not quite enough for me. I didn’t even think of Rilla, but it works!

  5. Zach says

    I can’t really think of what to say… I like the skirt a lot, but the top is so weird! It’s like a huge baby bib! All the little details are great, but I just can’t get over that top.

    Nine out of ten–it could be so much better with a slight tweaking.

  6. Stella says

    Oooh, this is a hard one! I feel like if I could see it on a dress form or a person it would look either really good or not good at all, but it’s hard to say which from these pictures.

    The details are lovely, I can definitely say that. And I do definitely think the skirt is cool, though if it were me I’d use a net that contrasted with the fabric underneath instead of one that matched it. I think that would give the look more depth.

    There’s something about the bodice I’m not totally sold on, which I think is because I’m having a hard time picturing what it would look like on a person. I can’t decide whether it would look plain and dowdy next to the detailed skirt, or elegantly simple with a beautiful “necklace” of flowers.

    7/10, though it would possibly be higher if I could see it on a dressform.

  7. Katherine says

    I don’t love the bodice, but overall the dress is great! I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

  8. Lynne says

    For I’m called Little Buttercup–dear Little Buttercup,
    Though I can never tell why,
    But still I’m called Buttercup–dear Little Buttercup,
    Sweet Little Buttercup I!

    That’s what it makes me think of. Admittedly the whole dress needs a floof up and a bit of a perk, but just looks so sad- sack and PINK. Bordering on nauseating. There has been a lot of terrific work done on the floral decorations, and I commend the skill. But unless the wearer was ten, brunette, and off to a party, this dress is a no-no.

    So many of you love it, but this is one that doesn’t do it for me. 3 out of 10 for the floral work.

  9. Hmm. If Firefly were set in 1915 I can imagine Kayleigh choosing this to wear to the ball instead of the famous crinoline. It is the answer to all things feminine.
    Most intriguing. I have no idea what to rate it I don’t know how I feel about it. Could be the cold blocking my synapses!

    • Elise says

      Hahahahaha! That sums it up PERFECTLY! Maybe Wedon and his costume team even used this as a model!

      I was thinking about a 15-year-old girlie girl and what SHE would wear. Sort of the 1915 answer to the quincenera. I’ll give it a 7, because I’m too old to give it a 10.

  10. This screams 12 year old girl invited to her first grown up party. The bodice is FLAT! Pink is so little girl. The high neck line=little girl. The one swoop on the skirt says “bib” (more swoops might save that…but not two swoops for obvious reasons) The skirt is too cute for a woman my age. That netting looks scratchy! I’d put a kid in it…if she could stand it. Not for me. If I were dressing a flower girl for a wedding I’d pick that. But, since I’m not getting married and there are no other females in my house (just the dog-I might put her in that) it has to be all about me. So for me 2/10…Two points because the little flowers seem to be well made.

    • Well, the netting is either silk or cotton, I’m sure it’s not scratchy! That much I can say in it’s defense.

  11. Daniel says

    Aww, it’s sweet, but not TOO sweet. Not overdone either, which is great – just romantic and rather deliciously confectionery. I’m gonna say 9/10.

  12. I’m with Dawn–this looks like a little girl’s dress to me, not the sweetheart of a soldier. If I were rating it as a little girl’s dress–someone no older than 12–I would give it an 8, as it’s sweet and demure and delicate and not too childish, not to grown up. But for anyone over the age of 12, it’s a bit too saccharine for my taste. Too frilly, too pink, to literal in the girliness. I tend to think that the boys fighting in the trenches were imagining *women* back home, not pre-adolescent girls in frou-frou dresses 🙂 To frilly for a grown-up, so the dress as it stands earns a 4/10 from me.

    • Yup…if I were rating it as a little girls party frock…at least an 8! If I were dressing a wedding flower girl…it would be in the running for sure. But, not for an adult IMHO. I wish the Met would not assume we know, based on the photo, who an item was intended for. I’m not college educated in fashions, what I know is self taught. If something is labled Christining dress (sorry…not sure of my spelling here) I can figure it out. If the measurements they provide (sometimes) are small I can figure it out. If it is on an obviously aged dummy I know. But, some of the time I am left guessing…especially if it is photographed laying flat. I use the photos to learn about how things were sewn together and what was in style. It throws me a bit if you are left guessing at age of original wearer and, in the case of young children’s clothes, the gender! The dating leaves something to be desired on some of the items too.

      • Well, based on fashion illustrations from the era like this one the look, even for ‘adult’ women (or at least late teens girls who were ‘out’) was very young and lighthearted and girlish, so this could, and would, have been worn by a young lady, 15-23ish perhaps?

  13. Anna says

    I am having trouble imagining this dress on a body. I have to agree with Rowenna, it looks like a girl’s dress, not a woman’s. 5/10

  14. I like the skirt, but not the top so much. I think it has to do with the placement of the flowers… Also, I am not usually a pink person, but I feel like this would look super cute on a young girl, maybe not so much on an older person.


  15. Black Tulip says

    Probably lack of imagination on my part, but I’m really struggling to get over the fact that it just looks so, well, flat. The arrangement of the flowers on the bodice looks odd; it might look better on a dress form, but I’m not convinced.

    Nice colour, and I’m a big fan of anything ombre, but the bodice takes it down to 7/10.

  16. I love it ! 8/10, but only because I’m not a big fan of the slip color.
    However, what strikes me the most is the ribbon rosettes. Katherine (from Koshka-the-cat and The Fashionable Past) had a project of recreating a 1920s dress in exactly the same colors with the same ombre ribbon rosettes. Only I can’t find it now, I think it might be a Lanvin dress. Ack ! Why won’t google help me ?

  17. Seamstrix says

    This dress leaves me going- “meh”, and I’m not sure why. I like the color, the ombre roses are very pretty, the netting looks light and airy…..but overall I just go “meh”. Maybe seeing it in action on a real person might change my mind, but as it is it’s just “meh”.

    4/10 (mostly for the roses)

Comments are closed.