19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the dress: red, floral, and stripes in the 1890s

UPDATE: (hey, look!  She finally had time to tally the scores from last week)

So, last week most of you thought the embroidered mull Regency evening gown was the very epitome of Regency evening gowns, and your ratings depended on whether you thought that was a good thing or not.  Did epitome mean perfect example, or boringly typical example?  And do you even like Regency evening gowns in the first place?  Well, it appears you do, and while not perfect, it came in at  8.5 out of 10.


I know.  I’m running really late with this Rate the Dress.  I haven’t even tallied the votes for last week’s Regency yet.  I’ll get those up in a bit, but I want to at least get you a dress for now!  So here you go.

The last few Rate the Dresses have been pretty subdued colour-wise.  Time for something a little brighter, such as this printed dotted-swiss day-dress from the FIDM.

Day Gown Paris, France, c. 1897 P. Barroin, Designer Printed dotted Swiss, silk chiffon, silk taffeta & cotton braid, FIDM

There is a lot going on in this dress: patterning over dotted swiss, stripes over patterning, skirt and sleeves and blouson bodice.  Too much, or one harmonious whole?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10 (and be sure to leave your comment on the post, not on the image, or it won’t get counted in the final tally of votes)


  1. Zach says

    I love it! The fabric reminds me of “something Granny would wear.” I really like dresses from that era. The hat is okay, but I’ve never been big on that kind of veil. It’s cool that they put things with the dress, though–the gloves and small bag are cute!

    How lovely! Ten out of ten.

  2. Lynne says

    I feel my headache revving up. Dots. Pattern. Stripes. Red. White. Beige? The stripes on the puffs of her sleeves really put it over the top – even a twiggy little model looks a bit like a stevedore.

    It is cheery. And bright. And the balance is okay – the sleeves to balance the skirt, the tiny waist makes it look not too hefty. I think I would rather like the fabric if it had been less … augmented.

    7 out of 10.

  3. I think this dress is fine, but there is nothing about it that I really like. Nothing about it that I really hate either. I just don’t have anything to say about it really. Meh.


  4. Jamie says

    I didn’t even know there was fabric that included patterns made on dotted swiss (noob here!), but I don’t mind that. The bands of small stripes are a little mesmerizing (my expression when I stare too long: @_@), but I can tolerate it. I actually like the waistband thing!

    I’m also a fan of the accessories but could definitely live without the veil over the hat. The hat is so cute by itself!

    Unfortunately… the vertical…um…ruffle thing in the middle of the bodice is just too horrifying for me. My first thought was a certain portion of anatomy that gets featured frequently on Regretsy. It can’t be unseen! Love it from the waist down + accessories, so I’ll give it a 7.5. (7 if you want whole numbers. 😉 )

      • Hayley says

        I agree with the female anatomy remark… I cannot watch Lord of the Rings without laughing at ‘The Eye Of Sauron” anymore…. no wonder he is so evil, anyone would be if their bits were that inflammed!

        I don’t like this one bit. Unmentionable anatomy, stripes on spots, the stripes making the shoulders appear even larger!

        But I do like the hat. 3/10

      • The Mad Purple Chicken says

        It is sad that these discussions get lost, Why do the comments vanish after a certain amount of time?

        • It’s not that comments vanish after a while, but that in July 2010 I switched from Blogger to WordPress, and all the comments from before that date vanished 🙁

    • I totally saw that too! Didn’t say anything, because after and episode of Project Runway where Tim Gunn made a similar remark to one of the contestants I feel like I see it in clothing everywhere…

      But I am glad it wasn’t just me.

  5. Courtney F. says

    I really like this. It could easily be too much, but since the vine pattern, the sash, the center of the bodice, the and the trim are in the same shade of cream (at least, it seems like they are intended that way, making allowances for the age of the gown), it works very well.


    • Elise says

      That was my thought, too. I imagine a sort of human poppy out to flaner and beautify the park.


  6. I’m conflicted about this one. I rather like the color. On the other hand, the horizontal striping on the bodice, combined with the puffy-headed sleeves, looks a bit too gaudy and over-the-top to me. I’ll go with a 7. (Even though I’d never wear something like this–I’ve learned that the big-sleeve dresses of the 1890s make me look like a mutant dwarf.)

  7. Kristina says

    Horizontal bands ruffle my objections–only on a very tall woman would this dress look balanced. Although I like “busy” combinations and would probably love the fabric if I could see it closer, I don’t care for leg-o-mutton sleeves or the opening thing in the front of the bodice. Maybe I am influenced by modern freedom from corsets? With a narrower waist, and less of the horizontal striping, it would be a cheerful and more attractive dress. I give it a six (6), as on a woman of average American height (5’4″) it fails to enhance the wearer. I admire clothes that draw less attention to themselves, more to the wearer.

    • Funny you should mention the height. FIDM actually estimates that the original wearer of this dress was 5’10” – so she had the height to pull off a lot of stuff.

      I’m confused that you prefer freedom from corsets, but want it to have a narrower waist. The two are mutually exclusive!

      • Courtney F. says

        Oh, gosh, now I’m even more in love with it–I’m 5’10” myself. Do you think FIDM would like a live model for it? I’d only need to lose 5o or so pounds. 😉

      • Lynne says

        Now that would look good! Those sleeves need some altitude.

  8. Stella says

    I’m normally a “more is more” kind of person, but this is all a bit too much for me. I do like the shape, but I’m just not sold on the OTT print and detailing. 5/10.

  9. Nicola Lowrie says

    I love the skirt, but I hate the open bodice, looks too much like a wardrobe malfunction to me! If the bodice was closed and a darker belt I would love it. As it is, I do like the sleeves and skirt so…..


  10. 1890’s dresses generally have to work hard to earn my approval, and this one just isn’t cutting it. I don’t like the print and I think that the poofy-ness of the bodice would just make the wearer look fat. 4/10

  11. I give it 6 out of 10 – the material this outfit is made of is just too “busy” for my tastes. OTOH, I rather like the fashionable 1890s silhouette!

  12. Hellooooo, Dolly! Dog my cats if that is not a movie dress. Right out of a Technicolor marvel, complete with bright green gas-lit dining room and the sun splashing off the tubas in the brass band just outdoors.

    Actually, I think the dress works, given its height, and given the era’s obsession with big patterns, bug cuts, and big colors. Kind of like the 1980s, come to think of it. can you imagine a room full of dresses like this? Whew!

    So it works. Do I like it for myself? A cheerful no. Do I think it better than most of the period, like anything in yellow and black? A resounding yes.

    So, 8 out of 10.

  13. I love the print, and the horizontal trim on the skirt, and the contrasting waistband. The skirt is ridiculously cute overall, and makes me think both of a picnic on 4th of July, and Anne of Green Gables. Love it. But the bodice and sleeves? Oh, horrors! DON’T even THINK of getting me to wear the top half of that dress. I’m going to give it a 7/10. The bodice ruins it for me, but the skirt is awesome enough to keep it from being plain horrible. 😀

  14. Cornelia Moore says

    maybe I just lack knowledge on this one, but I always thought dotted Swiss was…well, dotted. that white polkadot on red. hate it. hurts my eyes. so I almost hate this. anything this busy AND bright drives my eyes crazy and they hurt from trying to focus everywhere at once. actually like the cut, though, so a 6 because it isn’t quite as bad as what I think is Swiss dotted/dotted Swiss, but nearly, and because I do like the cut…though the poofy front panel is a little odd, like a grouse’s waddle…which loses it a bit. meh. feeling ambivelant, I like/hate it. hard to choose, actually.

      • Cornelia Moore says

        yes, that’s what I meant. flat background of this shade of red, with raised white dots on it-or, conversely, just the opposite, Shirley Temple style, white with red raised dots, neither of which are pleasing to the eye because they try to focus on all the dots at the same time. and if I glance away, the dots remain, as spots in front of my eyes. the pattern of this dress, untextured fabric with tiny leaves, I always thought was Calico, though I believe Calico started out brown, originally, with little multi-colored flowers, or so it was in the early-mid 1800’s, then new patterns and colors were added, though exactly when I don’t know.

  15. Laura says

    I hate leg o mutton sleeves, and I hate blouson bodices. I don’t hate the fabric, but I don’t like seeing so much of it for the pattern. Is it a two- piece circle cut on a stripe-like pattern? I can’t quite tell, but the overall layout of the print is awkward on all that skirt. Colors are fine, and I like the stripe details. Soooo… 3/10

  16. Daniel says

    Since 1890s dresses began to be shown with their skirts fuller and more spread out, they’ve become a little less appealing to me – I sometimes wonder if the actual dresses WERE meant to be quite so wide at the bottom. Having said that – this one divides me. I’m not sure where I am with it. I’m not convinced by the geometric strips of braid against the busy print. I’m not sure about the busy print behind the geometric strips of braid. Thanks to earlier comments, I cannot unsee what the bodice has been compared to. I would like the bodice (either plain with contrasting braiding, or sans the braid) if it was worn as a blouse with a contrasting black or solid skirt, and I think the skirt would be lovely under a dark cape or mantle or jacket.

    It’s an odd one. Most of the elements are just fine taken individually but I don’t like them so much combined. So I add a point for something and then take it away for something else – and vice versa. I like the dress enough not to give it a rating below 5, but it’s definitely not a 10/10. so I’ll go for 6.5

    • That’s one of the things I’ve wondered too! When museums get skirts to this width do they use vintage petticoats and support? They do look wide in period paintings and fashion drawings, but usually not this wide…

      • Daniel says

        I don’t think many museums now use actual vintage petticoats, but create net/crinoline/stiffened fabric supports to mount the dresses on. For me, I think these 1890s dresses look a bit better with a tiny bit (just a tiny bit) more softness/give to the skirts rather than being distended to full conical shape – you don’t really see the exaggerated conical effect in photographs of the period as such, and drawings can obviously be exaggerated for effect. But yes, it does look a little unnatural when mounted. Somehow, crinoline dresses don’t have the same problem though – maybe it’s because rounded bell shapes make a bit more visual sense than geometric conical shapes. Now I’m going to be thinking about this all day…

  17. Oh, no, this is way too busy for my taste, and the beige in combination with red does nothing for me. At least the hat is nice 😉
    And again, cannot look at that bodice middle in a neutral way now *rolleyes*.


  18. Carolyn says

    I liked this ok with the busy print and trim details, etc. all working together quite nicely, but since the anatomical features of the bodice have been pointed out, that area of the dress has become a bit distracting. I guess that kind of subtle detailing is inherently Victorian in a way. 6.5/10

  19. TRacy says

    I’m not a fan. It looks like a costume from a very small town production of “Oklahoma”. I’d give it just a 5.

  20. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Blech, I don’t like those colours together and the print plus the stripes is too much. I like busy outfits, but this is the wrong kind of busy. The bodice is too puffy and confused and the sleeves are awful.
    On the other hand I do like the purse and gloves, the hat would also be quite nice without the veil.

    The veil has really got me thinking. It looks like it goes all the way down to the collar, if it were tucked in and a bit finer it would keep the bugs out! The black flies are just starting to get really nasty in New Brunswick and I am thinking about veils and other head coverings. I wonder, is it possible to have a mosquito proof costume?

    4/10 for the bug proofing inspiration.

  21. Drat…now I see it too. Doh! I love the shape of the dress. The bodice would look less “ahem” in a different color and/or if the collar had the lighter color going all the way up. I love the details and I’d copy them. I just wouldn’t do it on a print. It is a bit OTT for me…so that gives it an 8/10.

  22. Pamlin says

    I like it! I could see just about anyone being able to wear it, and it has that feel of a favorite summer dress -the one where you put it on and always feel good.


  23. I like the colours and the pattern of the patterned fabric, but I don’t like the shape, and I think the whole thing is badly proportioned, somehow, because in spite of liking the individual parts (or at least some of them – the blouse peek is badly shaped, too, looking like an afterthought that happened because the bodice was too tight over the bust), I don’t like them together. 4/10

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