19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Sunny yellow Romance

Last week some of you though the ’50s coat dress was awesome, and some of you thought it an awful, impractical mish-mash, giving it a score of 8 out of 10.  It was an interesting exercise in knowledge altering perception, as before we knew what the dress was people marked it down for being in an incongruous wool fabric (it was a silk) or for having decorative buttons (they were functional).  If I had been able to post all the information about the dress, and all the images of it from the get-go would you have liked it more, or less?  The thing that was undeniable awesome is that Daniel managed to identify the dress as a Lacesse creation from 1955. Yay!  Thank you Daniel!

I’ve been looking over the last few Rate the Dresses and have noticed a real dearth of colour.  Colour is fabulous, so that must be remedied.

It’s a pretty well known fact that the colour I am currently obsessed with is yellow.

Well, this dress is really yellow.

Dress, ca 1829, via Artfund?

It also ties in nicely with last week’s themes: once again, I don’t know a lot about it.  I found it on pinterest, and it only goes back to a blank link (links from tumblers that don’t work and don’t go back to the original collection make me sad.  I won’t follow anyone who regularly pins from that sort of link.  Please makes sure your pins honour the copyright owners!).  I suspect it is an auction image, but am not sure.

Another theme that it ties in with?  Corselets.  The corselet effect on the bodice is most intriguing.  I don’t think it’s a separate garment, but it does provide an intriguing aesthetic transition between the ‘shell-bra’ bodice look of the Romance fashions and later swiss waists.  It does make me wonder about the dating of this dress, and of course, we don’t know if the dress has been altered at all.

So, you can discuss all that in the comments (Rate the dress + intellectual discussions = awesome), and you can also discuss the aesthetics of the dress.  Does it have just enough details to make it interesting?  Or is it too fussy?  And can it beat your antipathy towards puffed sleeves?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10  (and remember, if you leave your comment and rating attached to the image instead of the post I, and most other people, won’t see it and it won’t get counted in the final rating)



  1. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    I don’t like this era much at all. It really bugs me that they call it “the romantic era”(unless you are talking about mens fashion). To me these dresses are just silly and I doubt I could take anyone seriously if they were wearing this.
    I don’t like the sleeves, the bodice is blah, and the two level thing of the skirt looks off somehow.

    The whole thing is too yellow, I feel like it’s trying to force cheerful rays of sunshine down my throat.

    I like the floral pattern though.


    • Elise says

      I, too, have issues with the bodice. All the proportions are lovely for a very weird dress time. Well, all the proportions but the bodice. 6/10. It belongs on a very young madame.

  2. I like the color (not on me, but in general) and the elegant, simple style. The only think I don’t like is the strip down the center of the bodice that separates the breasts–it looks awkward and out of place. An 8.

  3. I love the colour. I’m curious as to how they got that colour in 1829, before aniline dyes.

    I also love the bands of trim on the skirt and the Swiss waist effect. However, it does not overcome my antipathy towards puffed sleeves. 7/10

  4. Kathy says

    I prefer the softer colour in the other photos without the harsh lighting on the the artfact site. And the detail of the embroidery is beautiful. I do agree that it must have been made for someone young, as the bust seems quite flat. Perhaps the central strip down the bust is to create an illusion of shape where there wasn’t much underneath.
    I think I would rate it around 7, but I need to see an outfit on a person rather than a dress form to really understand it. Which is bit of a liability as a sewist!!

  5. My observations are that it looks like a strip of silk was added to the skirt, separating the two borders. I also think the bodice is converted from a high waisted empire line bodice. The vertical strip seems to be an attempt to disguise this. So, I am inferring that it was originally an empire line dress with a wide skirt border, that was chopped up to reposition those borders to the new, fashionable height, and possibly adding to it. It would be SO COOL if the empire dress was also made form an earlier style, and the bits added back in were saved from that hack, but who would know.
    I am giving it a 10, not just because I like it but also because it is so intriguing!

    • As much as I love seeing altered 18th/early 19th century garments (it’s the subject for my PhD thesis!) I’m not seeing it here. The bodice as is was very popular for the time – perhaps as part of the transitional nature of the 1820s – and it doesn’t look like a hack-job to me. The central band on the cf of the bust is also fairly typical of the time. As another poster mentioned below, one of the detail shots of the dress shows the embroidery crossing the seam between upper and middle section. Unless the needleworker was a mouse, I don’t think this is a hack-job either, more just an unfortunate design choice or the effect of aging. Overall it’s just too pristine, alterations to hand-sewn garments tend to show more – at least that’s what I’ve observed thus far.

      I love coming across altered garments, I think they have so much depth and are so important to historical study. However, I sadly really don’t think this is one of them.

      As for a rating – I’ll say 7.5. Love the colour (though not for me) and while neither the vertical strip on the bodice nor the puffed sleeves bother me (I think the latter are quite sweet actually) the awkward piecing of the skirt puts me off.

  6. MrsC: I think your hypothesis is very plausible, especially since the measurements suggest this gown was worn by a young girl, who may have had to make do with a dress that was “made over” from an earlier time.

    • Elise says

      How interesting that it was for a young girl! I still imagine that it belonged to a newly-married madame who reveled in finally wearing whatever color she wanted, and who made over the bodice to give her a more womanly, grown-up shape.

  7. Lynne says

    It is tiny, isn’t it? The close-up of the embroidery shows one place where it comes down into the darker yellow band, so the skirt piece may very well be original. I love the colour. I could never wear puff-sleeves – broadish shoulders made me look like a bouncer in drag – but I do like the look for those who can. That is, the very young and the thin.

    Bravo, Carolyn!

    8 out of 10.

  8. 8/10 This dress is about as pretty and elegant as a yellow 1830’s dress can be. I’m a non-fan of both yellow and 1830’s. In blue it would be a 9 – the hard horizontal lines are a decided minus. The textural differences from section to section don’t appeal now in the gowns current state, but were probably necessary when the fabrics were new.
    Sue H

  9. I’m not liking the horizontal lines of the contrast on the skirt, it spoils the shape of the skirt and makes it stiffer than I feel it should be. Love the colour though and quite like the bust rouching, just not the line between the breasts, that looks tacky to me. So I’m going with a 7/10

  10. Lisa F. says

    I have to admit that reading the comments has changed my mind somewhat about the dress. I particularly like the idea of this dress being redone to make it more modern. I think it is a good guess. First, I don’t like the color. I am not a fan of yellow. I do like the lace on it. The bodice is hideous. I would give it a 3 out of 10.

  11. Claire Payne says

    I’m not a fan of puffy sleeves nor the early 1800’s. Yellow is always a jolly colour though flattering to few (and not one of my colours alas). I love corslets however and the dress is lovely in its’ way so I rate it 5 out of 10.

  12. Laura says

    For my two cents, I liked the dress last week considerably better in the modern museum shot than in the original picture. I thought it was a dull tweedish wool or knit; it worked much better as shiny silk. Still wouldn’t have been my favorite.

    I guess this one gives me another “meh”. I don’t hate it, but I don’t think the layout of the skirt embellishments is pleasing, and nothing about it does much for me. It’s OK at a 6.

    Everything about it says 1830ish to me except the waistline placement. But that could be just a slightly unusual design or as you mentioned a later alteration, though with nothing else altered it hasn’t really been “updated”.

  13. Daniel says

    Charming and very pretty, but not really holding more than passing interest/attention I have to admit. I’d say 7.5/10 as I think it’s perfectly charming and largely unexceptionable, and the embroidery on the skirt is beautiful.

  14. Kate says

    I like it. No, it doesn’t suit me at this age & weight (sigh) but what a fun, young, dress. Can’t you see some sweet young thing flitting around the dance floor in it? Color is great & I would like to see some detail pictures, as I have some “dating’ questions — but still, don’t be stodgy.

  15. I usually hate this era. But this dress does not scream “night gown” so it has held my attention longer than others of that era would. I’m thinking this a dress for a “tween” and she probably felt all grown up in it. If I were 12 years old, I’d likely rate this dress higher but since I am middle aged and lumpy in all the wrong places….5/10.

  16. 5 out of 10.
    I am not a yellow fan, and not usually a fan of the romantic era. But this dress had enough interesting details (and wasn’t too extremely poofy) so I didn’t score it lower. This would be a cute dress for a little girl going to a princess party.

  17. Overall, I think this might be one of my favorite gowns from an era I’m not a big fan of.

    That said, the center bodice strip combined with the corselet unbalances it, to me. I think without the mid-breast strip, it’d be a perfect bodice (taking into account that the era dictates puffy sleeves).

    The stripe in the middle of the skirt bothers me. It really draws the eye to an odd part of the body. I think it’s less obvious in some of the auction photos, though, so perhaps in the right light, it might be ok.

    I actually really like this color, and the dress itself reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast, so I have to give it a 7/10.

  18. It looks like a fairy-tale costume more than a real dress! Mostly it’s the sugar-sweetness of the bodice–all the fluff and the enhanced waist–plus the flowers on the skirt. I can imagine a Disney character wearing this before I can see a real woman. That said, it’s perfect for a real-life ingenue type and I love that the color is so *there*–not wishy washy or pastel, but happily yellow. So, a 7–because it’s a little more fantasy than reality.

  19. Zach says

    Okay, so I was going to rate this dress a four, but then I decided I wanted to take a closer look at it before I made any decisions. What a difference light makes! The other pictures on the site weren’t taken with a bright, harsh light like this one. The color looked so much prettier and the dress actually looked somewhat softer! The embroidery is also very pretty. I recommend everyone to take a look at the other pictures first. As for the design, I don’t hate it (any more…) but it still isn’t my favorite thing in the world. The stripe and the corselet are both a little strange looking, but they aren’t absolutely HORRID or anything.

    Eight out of ten from me.

  20. 7/10 I like all the other shots of it more than the frontal. It does look weirdly hacked together in the front.

  21. Nicole says

    This doesn’t do anything for me. Not a fan of the color, style or line. It would look very pretty on my younger sister. 3/10

  22. I love love love it. My heart says give it a 10 but when I calm down and really think about it I can’t give it more than a 9 because it’s not absolutely perfect. I love the color most of all and I have a bit of thing for those old-fashioned dresses. It’s not something I would wear but I admire many things I wouldn’t wear.

  23. Geoffwah says

    I feel like whoever chose to break up this dress with the corselet-esque belt was right to do so. The dress needs that…pause in the middle of a different fabric and a different tone of yellow. A little breather for the eyeballs. But to have done it in that way, with the chest-cleaving racing stripe was inexpertly done or hastily done or done out of malice.

    That being said THIS DRESS IS GORGEOUS. I love the shape, the shoulder line, the bust line (despite the stripe) and the double finish with repeated embellishments. I am not a huge fan of yellow but this is a confection. It gives the impression of a debutante, don’t you think? Sweet and innocent with a hint of maturity.


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