19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the dress: Embroidered mull

So.  Sigismund III.  Badass or just bad?  Well, between the fez, the collar, the hose, and the scimitar, almost everyone said his outfit made them giggle.    And yet, for all that, it made a 7.3 out of 10.  Pretty good for so many giggles!

This week lets go from dark and badass to light and sweet.  I find Regency frocks so appealing.  They are so simple and pure and youthful in their barely-adorned whiteness.  Of course the problem with Regency frocks is that they are often so similar, and simple and pure and unadorned, that they don’t make for a very interesting Rate the Dress.

I’ve tried to get around this by posting really unusual examples, or portraits with accessories, but sometimes you just want to show a simple dress.  So here is a Regency frock from  the MFA Boston  that hopefully is still a classic example of Regency fashion, without being too uninteresting.

White mull dress, early 19th century, American, MFA Boston

White mull dress, American, early 19th c, MFA Boston, 53.206

This white mull cotton evening dress from the early 19th century features a gathered bodice, short puffed sleeves, a narrow back with extra fullness in the train, a floor length hem perfect for dancing in, and for extra interest, a star motif worked in flat silver embroidery.

What do you think?  Does it make you yawn with disinterest?  Or swoon with its sweetness?  Or is it so saccharine that your teeth hurt? Or are you put off by how unflattering the shape can be on some figures?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10.


  1. I think it’s lovely! The embroidered motif is surprisingly modern to my eyes, and I love the cut of the gown – very smooth and slimming, and the neckline is perfect. I can’t really think of anything to complain about! A 10 from me 🙂

  2. 8/10 I like nearly everything about this dress, but if the sleeves were a bit different I would like it even more!

  3. I agree with Emily, this dress would be so charming if the back of the sleeves were just a bit less poofy! 8/10

  4. Natalie says

    Oh leave the sleeves as they are! I adore poofy sleeves. It is the only part of the dress that actually interests me. I find most Regency dresses with long tight sleeves kinda boring.

    From the front, the dress looks like something my mom would have worn in the 70’s. The back has the seems lines that make these dresses interesting. I wish I could see the print better.


  5. Laura says

    It’s a regency dress. I like the silver stars. Bit lacks the occasional very bad aspects of regency frocks. I’d wear it, but it engenders very little reaction in me. 7/10

  6. Simple, lovely, perfect. Probably doesn’t hurt that I just watched Sense & Sensibility last week. Love it!


  7. I like it. Simple, sweet. Not something I’d wear to a fancy ball, but pretty in its own way. I’m not a huge fan of Regency, mostly because the style doesn’t fit me well, but I would be willing to try to wear this. 9/10. Not a “Whoa, that is AWESOME” rating, but still a pretty dress.

  8. Stella says

    I’m afraid in my mind mull will always be something you use for bookbinding, but I do like the pattern and the little fan of pleats at the back. I also think it has a lot more potential to be flattering than some examples of its period. 7/10 because I like it, but it doesn’t fill me with the desire to pop down to Arthur Toye’s in my lunch break.

    • Haha, that’s what I thought too – we sell mull cloth and it’s way too loosely woven for a dress but the name is so distinctive eh 🙂

  9. I mean, it’s a nice dress. It’s pretty. It’s very representative of the era. It’s got nice lines and nice proportion and nice fabric. The back construction is particularly nice. But nothing flies out and catches you visually, you know? I think a lot would depend on the woman who wore this–her hair, accessories, and general personality would have to really shine, or it would be “just another dress.”

    A 7–because it’s nice. And pretty.

  10. Carolyn says

    It’s pretty. Not an over-the-top, spectacular, unforgettable sort of glamorous type thing, but pretty and wearable. I could imagine that if I were to try it on, Mr. Darcy would have to ask me to dance. 7/10.

  11. It’s very pretty; simple, elegant, but the silver embroidery (which I wish I could see better) raises the dress above the ordinary. Yet I long to see it worn with just a few dramatic accessories; a colored sash, perhaps, or a dramatic turban, or both (in matching colors). So an 8 of 10.

  12. I love the regency style (possibly because my figure *is* generally flattered by the silhouette), and this is an adorable example. 10/10 for me.

    • Elise says

      I’m jealous. My body says NO to Regency–which hurts right now. I wish I wish, and this dress makes me wish all the more. 10/10

        • Elise says

          Isn’t it wonderful how we all have a ‘clothing period’? I think that’s my favorite part of your blog: there is something that makes every BODY beautiful!

          • .Awww.. 🙂 That is the wonderful thing about costume history. You quickly realise that there have been so many standards of beauty.

  13. I love the star design, that’s definitely unique. As far as Regency goes, most of the gowns look the same, but since I like that era, it’s all okay for me.

    8/1o – only because I’d love to see some accessories with it.


  14. Its beautiful, I love everything about it, fabric, drape, elegance, simplicity.

    9/10 because nothing is perfect 🙂

  15. Zach says

    I love Regency gowns. Simplicity isn’t normally my thing, but, for some reason, I’m always drawn by it in the clothes from that period. I also love embroidery (unless, of course, it’s a really ugly pattern). It definatelly added something to a dress that might have otherwise been boring (without any accessories, of course).

    I can think of nothing more to say except “perfect!” Ten out of ten from me.

  16. Daniel says

    7.5 from me – it’s lovely, but I’ve seen quite a few nicer dresses of its ilk, so I can’t rate it any higher I’m afraid.

  17. Lynne says

    Very sweet! Classic of its kind. 7.5 out of 10.

    I wish I could see the embroidery better, as others have said. Aren’t we greedy? Such wonderful opportunities we have to see things that we could only have read descriptions of twenty years ago, and we still want more! Bring on the close-ups!

      • Lynne says

        Oh, my! Lovely pattern – very pleasing. Thank you for the kind reminder about the link. I’m such a techno-noddy!

  18. I love the simpleness of Regency dresses. It’s one of those few styles that can be easily dressed down or up with accessories and layers.


  19. I love it, but then I have a definite love of the period. I’d put it as a 9.5; if it had a jacket with it then it’d be a 10.

  20. Now this is just my opinion but to me the whole era says night gowns. If you have one dress pattern you have them all. If you have two sleeve patterns you have them all. The only thing that saves a Regency dress from the realms of boring in my mind is the fabric. This fabric is nice. (Not OMG that is stunning-just nice). If you had a photo of a person wearing this dress with the hair and accessories I might look twice. As is, I stiffle a yawn and give it a 6. Give me Victorian with piles and piles of detail and color 😉

  21. I love the simplicity of it. It could almost be modern. Its not harsh white its more cream and the waist isn’t too high.

  22. Seamstrix says

    I like this dress. It’s simple and not OMG!! but heck, it’s Regency. I think the embroidered silver stars would have looked amazing in a candle lit room. As the woman moved, the stars would have sparkled just like the ones in the sky. Mmmmm…..I’m just going to visualize that for a second.


    And some interesting accessories would have improved it even more.
    I give it an 8/10.

  23. Tracy R says

    I love its simplicity and elegance. Wish I could have seen it when the white was truly white and the silver still shiny.


  24. Daniel says

    bridgemanart.comSee, every time I see a “simple” Regency dress, I compare it to this:


    This may just be one of my favourite dresses ever made – it’s super simple and virtually minimalist in construction, yet the fact it is simply spotted with beads throughout makes it – just – wow. The first time I saw it, I was like – “Wow. This is Regency, yet it’s not like any Regency dress I’ve seen before”. And this is why most other Regency dresses won’t get 10/10 from me – I’ve been spoiled by seeing this one! 😉 (I also think it is possibly the earliest example of an all-over beaded dress I’ve seen.)

  25. Kattis says

    It’s lovely! Now I wanna make my own…

  26. 10/10 from me. Or maybe 9,5. It’s still a bit on the bland side, which makes it less interesting to me than the Amalie Auguste gown (I’m getting boring with this…), so I suppose 9,5 it is. But it’s everything a Regency dress should be, and I don’t see anything it should not be. Only I love those bright coloured Regency dresses even more.

  27. Anna says

    I can’t find anything wrong with the dress. I’d wear it for sure, but it also does not inspire any enthusiasm. Nice, but bland. 9/10

  28. Since summer is nearly here and my thoughts are of summer dresses, and this one would be such a cute and girly dress to wear during those long summer days. a 10 from me!

  29. It has to be 10/10. It is the perfect dress of its type. I cannot fault a dress for being perfect of its type, just because its type is not my type. I would love to see it new and shiny in candlelight, where its simplicity would be transformed into something really quite amazing. 🙂

  30. Black Tulip says

    I know this sounds silly, but I really like the fact that the band under the bust makes the best possible use of the embroidery on the fabric. So often something like that seems to have been cut with only half the motif on it, and I’m left thinking, “Why on earth would anyone make such a mess of something so obvious? Why???”

    Simple, but lovely, 9/10

  31. 10/10! Why? Because I would look FABULOUS in this dress. Cap sleeves on my not-too-thick arms? Ruching over the bust to make it look slightly larger? Hitting on my narrow ribcage so it looks like I have a waist hiding underneath? I would love to commission this dress someday.

    (Andrew loved it, too.)

  32. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Cute but boring, Regency is definitely not my favorite era, 6/10.

    • The Mad Purple Chicken says

      By the way, you mentioned sigismunds hose, but what does “hose” mean? Sometimes it sounds like it is referring to the breeches and sometimes it sounds like it means stockings, I can’t find a clear definition anywhere.

  33. Kristina says

    I love this look on girls and very thin women, but it doesn’t work for my short, square, fullbusted figure, so I just admire wistfully. With gloves and jewelry and silver shoes this could be a stunner–the kind of dress that lets the wearer shine out. And very pretty movement on the dance floor!

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