19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress – Vignon’s garland dress of 1878 or 79

The ratings for last week’s 19teens party dress started out so well, and then the ratings plummeted.  The dress naysayers didn’t like the colour and the garland, and felt the dress was too youthful, and even those who liked the dress complained that it was too flat and hard to visualise on a person and had niggling doubts about the shape of the garland on the bodice.  Thanks to the first flush of approving comments, the dress came in at a 6.9 out of 10.

OK!  Point taken!  This week’s garment is fully three dimensional.  But….

…it still has a garland.  I thought I’d challenge your lei prejudice with another placement and treatment of the idea.

Dinner dress, Mon. Vignon, French, 1878-79, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dinner dress by Mon. Vignon from the Metropolitan Museum of Art combines restraint to the point of severity with a touch of delicate naturalism in the form of the embroidered garland that drapes down the bodice and wraps around the skirt.

Dinner dress, Mon. Vignon, French, 1878-79, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What do you think?  Are garlands just a no go?  Is the contrast between the rest of the dress and the flowers too stark?

Dinner dress (detail), Mon. Vignon, French, 1878-9, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What about the colours?  They are a far cry from the girlish pink that some found objectionable last week.  But has this dress swung too far the other way, and become boring and dark and restrained?

Dinner dress, Mon. Vignon, French, 1878-9, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

So, what do you think?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. 10!!!! Totally a 10!!!! If I could rate it higher I would.

    I LOVE everything about this dress – the cut, the color, the trim. The placement on the trim is so flattering, and is still bold without being over the top. This dress is absolutely elegant and I love it.

  2. Zach says

    I love absolutely everything about it! It’s from one of my very favorite eras ever, even. I don’t know that I can even think of anything to say about it other than that! It’s just too good to be true.

    Ten (thousand) out of ten!

  3. Laura says

    I sometimes get confused about the classifications people put onto gowns. This seems to be so clearly day dress and not dinner dress, but what do I know?

    HOLY CRUD, THOSE PLEATS! I want to roll around in them and die. They are outstandintly beautiful.

    I was one of the high-scorers for last weeks, and I don’t like this garland nearly as much. I don’t really care for the colors or the flatness, although I think the garland placement is far less controversial. I also am not so into the bodice shape, even though in general the late 1870s are my favorite for bodice tailoring. How much I adore the pleating on the skirt will bring this up from a 5 to a 7/10 for me.

  4. I love the shape of the dress and the design of the garlands; I just feel the colour choice of the garlands was a bit too much of a contrast, more muted colours would have fit th e dress better. I’ll give it an 8

  5. Jenny Wren says

    It’s beautiful! Definitely a 9.

  6. Lynne says

    10 out of 10! Bring on your most powerful corset, and I would wear that. I think it is beautiful. The embroidered (?) braid is exquisite – colours and design just – wow!

  7. ladyghost4459 says

    Absolutely a 10. The embroidery is amazing.

  8. OMG! I love this! 9/10, and the only reason it’s not a 10 is because the garlands distract a bit from all that AMAZING pleating.

  9. I have a very small screen. I saw the top half of the dress and tough “oh, this is REALLY nice”…and then I scrolled down,and I think I died and went to heaven. Can I wear it, like, now ? Puuuuhleeeze ?
    10(000000) !

  10. Pamlin says

    I LOVE this gown! Love the garlands, the pleats, the silhouette! I just want the back of the skirt tied in a bit (perhaps with a band of garland!) to keep the natural form silhouette from getting too poofy.

    And a hat. I seriously wish there was a hat that went with this!


  11. Wow, definitely a 10. I love it. I love the colors; the pop of floral on the black is just perfect. The pleating is amazing and very flattering to a woman’s figure. Then the bustle and the train . . . I imagine it rustles just so when one walks in it.

  12. Daniel says

    I concur. Afternoon dress/day dress. not a dinner dress. It’s classy and I love the embroidery although I think the embroidery on the skirt may be a tiny bit off kilter – it wants to be symmetrical but there’s just enough off kilter to distract me, so I have to say 8/10.

    • Elise says

      That’s how I felt, too! I especially didn’t like the abrupt end on the sides. (I can’t stand things that are decorated in front, and not in back–I have put back many a beautiful embroidered skirt/top that has the fun bits on the front only)

      But I love the colors and the pleating. Very elegant all-around. 8/10

  13. I am happy with everything about this dress except the wide X of garland on the skirt.


  14. Sue McCaskill says

    Love the dress, hate the garland! 6/10

  15. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    I like the dress and I like the embroidery, they just don’t work together. The embroidery is too bright and the contrast is made worse by the fact that the bands of embroidery are so clearly defined. There should at least be a bit of a fading out effect.
    Still, love black, I love bustles, I love pleats and I love rows of closely spaced little buttons.

    That makes it an 8.5/10

  16. Zip Zip says

    Beautiful, restrained design, masterly dressmaking, but oh, the embroidery of this period gives me the creeps. All greeney-yallery-orangey, poppies and skinny little reedy weeds. Gah. I saw too much of it growing up, I guess. However, blowsy roses would look awful, too. – wish the designer had thought of some white peach blossoms with soft green leaves? After all, this was the Eastlake era and Japonisme was all the rage. Perhaps white and green looked bad in gaslight.

    Anyhow, 9 of 10


    • Daniel says

      Green had a tendency to turn blue under gaslight until an aniline green was developed that didn’t have that effect.

      • Laura says

        Very interesting. I had not heard that. Maybe that is the evidence that this is indeed a dinner dress and not an afternoon dress?

  17. I do believe I have died and gone to Dress Envy Heaven.

    Absolute 10!!!


  18. Cheyene says

    LOVE IT!!!!!

    I love the garlands! I love everything about it!


    Those pleats! The train!


  19. Charming! The only thing I don’t love about it is the x-shaped garlands of flowers on the lower front of the skirt. A 9.5.

  20. Lynne says

    Do you know anything about the braid, oh Dreamstress? I have some that is close to this quality, and it was sold to me as Indian which seems possible. No good idea about the date. This is so fine!

  21. Cornelia Moore says

    Lynne, the Indian one would be Ojibwe or Dakota/Lakota, and generally beadwork instead of Crewel work, which is what this appears to be.
    I give the dress a 9.5, love it except the line of Crewel made to look like an overjacket and the asimetrical X on the skirt. something this nice shouldn’t have such a large flaw, and the overjacket is overmuch. I would have prefered the Crewel to have drawn attention to the womanly form, instead, perhaps a Tirolean design instead. and a preference for dark blue deep green, or dark burgundy over the black, but not a thing wrong with black. but for all of that, I still like it very much!

    • Lynne says

      Thank you, Cornelia, but mine is (possibly) Indian as in the sub-continent. Whether hand or machine embroidered, it is silk, as this looks to be. Crewel work is usually wool. I’ve seen pictures of some of the native American beadwork, and it is indeed lovely.

      • Crewel work needn’t be wool, but it is a particular stitch, and this certainly isn’t crewel work. It’s mainly broken satin stitch, a bit of stem stitch and French knots.

        What does your braid look like Lynne?

        • Lynne says

          I’ll send you a photo. It’s silk on silk. Pretty.

  22. Tenshi says

    Be-au-ti-ful! 10/10, for sure! It’selegant, restrained without being boring, understated but interesting… I love it. And I’d really really like to see it in motion.

  23. fidelio says

    I love dresses from this part of the 1870s and this one is especially nice. 10/10

    I’d love to see more about the taxonomy of late-Victorian dresses–how do we distinguish formal afternoon adresses from ‘reception’ (I’ve been told this is a group that could be worn by hostesses for formal afternoon entertainments, or by ladies generally for non-dancing evening events) through dinner and ball and full dress. I know that longer sleeves are usually not a clear sign it’s a day dress, since dinner dresses and reception dresses usually had at least three-quarter sleeves, but what are the other indicators to look for?

  24. Anna says

    I like the shape, I like the color, I like the portion of the garland that makes it look like a jacket. I am indifferent about the garland on the skirt, I think it’s superfluous. I wish there was more continuity with the back, as is it looks cut up. I do wish the neckline was different, it makes me think it’ll be uncomfortable. 8/10

  25. Manda says

    10+! This is one of my favorite pieces of historic costume! I just wonder if it’s my size…

  26. Love it. My only reservation is I wish it were a deep brown instead of black. Or a deep green. So, 9/10

  27. Stella says

    I really like this one. I love the pleated details, and the silhouette. I also like the garlands. 10/10

  28. 10/10. I think the flowers and the dark substrate balance each other perfectly, and the pleats are a lovely touch.

  29. This dress has been in my folder of “when my sewing and finances improve I will make this” for awhile. I love all about it. The color is perfect for a middle aged woman…dramatic without being undignified.

    My computer has never really made me confident about exact color. If the dress is black then I’d say dinner gown for a middle aged woman (I think there might be a bit more skin for a younger married woman). If it is a dark blue then possibly an afternoon gown. If it is black, the colors of the trim rule out afternoon dress for mourning. I can’t imagine a woman wearing black in the afternoon unless she was in mourning. I could be wrong on that though. I only Want to B Victorian…I’m really just a modern girl


  30. I quite like it. Only misses out on the full 10 because I think the plain black background looks a little severe.

  31. Black Tulip says

    Absolutely love it! Comes into the category where I start imagining breaking into the museum in the dead of night and ‘acquiring’ it!

    A definite 10/10

    • Haha! That’s quite a commendation! I think it would be easier, cheaper, and far more acceptable to just recreate it!

  32. I found this dress through a google search ,we are exhibiting a wedding gown from the same shop circa 1878 this summer on Governors Island in NYC. The title of the fashion exhibit is Tattered and Torn on the road to deaccession. Items in the exhibit have been removed from museum collections due to their condition. Hope to see you there.

  33. Nancy Kiel says

    Have you ever seen late 1800s gowns with two sets of sleeves? I’ve seen ones with two bodices, one for a dinner or reception and the other for a ball, but I haven’t heard of interchangeable sleeves. Thanks for you help!

    • I’ve seen separate bodices, bodices with neckline fillers for balls vs receptions, and separate trains, but never separate sleeves.

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