20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Linen & Lace in the 1900s

Well, I’m always surprised by what you guys like and don’t like, though in retrospect the reaction to last week’s 1858 pink dress should have been a foregone conclusion.  On the one hand, it was a 1850s ballgown (super popular), on the other hand, it was covered in random dull pink frills, layers & bows (ick), but, of course, all those pink frills bring to mind Kaylee’s Shindig dress from Firefly (automatic bonus points).  All this balanced out at 6.5 out of 10.

This week I think we should look at something a little more restrained and tailored: a refresher after all the elaborate sweetness of last week.

Linen day dress with green silk underslip, 1901-2, Misses Leonard, St. Paul, US, Minnesota Historical Society

This linen day dress from the Minnesota Historical Society combines a classic early 1900s silhouette with an distinctive layout of soutache and lace trimming the skirt and bodice.

Linen day dress with green silk underslip, 1901-2, Misses Leonard, St. Paul, US, Minnesota Historical Society

The trim gives delicious glimpses of the green silk under-slip, and its lines echo that of a corset, creating a intriguingly avante-garde undergarment-as-outerwear effect.  Or maybe I’m just looking at it from a 21st century perspective.

Linen day dress with green silk underslip, 1901-2, Misses Leonard, St. Paul, US, Minnesota Historical Society

What do you think?  Do you like the earthy, organic colour scheme?  The overall silhouette?  And, of course, the trim that gives it so much character?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I really like this dress! Beautiful shape and beautiful lines. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I really like these colours, as well, especially the green.

    The only thing I find really distracting is the soutache on the bodice, those lines below the bust may add interest, I find them a little more on the strange side. Maybe because from center front it looks more like a peeled banana than a garland (as in the back), so it might just be a problem of this particular angle.

    9.5 out of 10.

  2. Ooh ooh ooh! Edwardian Dress Love!!! What a clever, beautifully cut, balanced and executed garment. And I am so with you on the outerwear element. It’s the second thing I noticed after the amazing skirt (I was gushing about this cut to Jane on Saturday!)
    I adore the sleeves, I love the way they slightly echo the skirt. I just think this is so well thought out – not just another pretty but so-so treatment of a great shape from history.
    It’s hugely sexy for a dress that covers every single bit of the wearer’s body but her hands and head!
    Because of your silly rules about 10 being the most points anything can have out of 10 (what IS that all about???) I give it a 10. But in my heart, it is a 20.

  3. For something that would involve being held in by steel-boning to within an inch of my life, it looks strangely wearable. I love the mermaid shape of the skirt, but hate the high neckline. Yes, I realize that was the dress-code of the day, but the suffocation factor for me is huge. The colors are brilliant, subdued but interesting. Overall 8/10 for me.

  4. I’m torn on this one. I really want to like this dress. I do like the color scheme and the relative simplicity of the lines. On the other hand, there’s something about the way the sleeves end, about the way the skirt bells, and the line of the bodice that makes it look as though it’s being worn by a collection of balloon animals–and that’s NOT attractive to me. So at best a 7 of 10.

  5. I like the back view of the skirt, but overall I’m not sure about this one. It looks to me like it was designed for a different fabric. In that linen the front of the skirt doesn’t quite work for me. I also think the braid on the bodice is over-done, and the cut of the sleeves doesn’t appeal to me. 4/10

  6. Ooh! I love! This dress comes from one of my very favorite time periods–I just can’t get over the graceful curves they use. I love those colors together, too–especially the green (my very favorite, of course). The details are SO very neat, and the fabric looks so soft, as well; it looks like something “Mom” would wear in mid Autumn that you could snuggle up against.

    Ten out of ten.

  7. Demented Seamstress says

    I sort of like parts of it but the overall effect is too boxy and chunky. The back skirt has lovely lines but what is that trim doing on the middle of the back? It looks like a pair of sunglasses. The bodice is busy and droopy, the sleeves are weird and pouchy, it looks like it’s made of leather and lettuce.

    I really do like the skirt though, so, 6.5/10

    • Leather and lettuce . . .yes! that’s it! And of course that would be worn by a victorian elf wouldn’t it.

      I’ll give it a six.

  8. Like. 10/10, but you know I want to accessorise it with goggles, rayguns and brass-trimmed leather, right?

  9. 8/10 because I don’t like the way the bodice pouches at the front, I know that’s what they did but I just don’t like it. I don’t like the colour either, but that’s simply because I grew up with a lot of brown so I’ve not marked it down for that. I love the lines of the skirt and the elegant embellishment.

    • It’s hard to like the pouffy bodice with the angled skirt together. I adore the colors and fabric, and I love the top of the dress, and I love the bottom of the dress, and I audibly said ‘yes!’ when I saw the slip underneath. It’s just hard to like together.

      But–I still approve: 8/10

  10. I like this one! I love the shape of it, and the subdued but not boring colors. The sleeves are interesting, but the back of that skirt is divine. The only thing I am not a fan of is the black swirly designs under the bust – it looks like someone got a little too happy with the rik-rak. Otherwise I really love this though.


  11. Like Sarah I think it is perfect for Steampunk – I can imagine the matching hat with a large olive green feather, and a parasol too. 9/10

  12. I give it…6/10…the lines are delicious, but…perplexed about who would wear such form-fitting lines in such dull colors…quietly vain Lutheran churchman’s wife? Subtly persuasive suffragist? Lady of the night meeting with her banker?

    • Striking redhead aware that neutrals with a touch of green are the perfect foil for her colouring, complementing it without overwhelming it?

  13. I, too, want to like this dress, but I can’t quite make it. I do like the shape. And I love the green underslip peeking out at the back.

    But the rest of the decoration defeats me. It looks as if a very careful and precise child has been given an outline and been told to decorate it – day after day! Add another line, a bit of braid/beading or whatever. I could live with the bodice, but I jib at the embroidered yoke part (real piece or just applied to the whole skirt, I cannot tell). It looks fake. And the carefully worked swirly lines on the front of the skirt – no. The back would be reasonable, minus the yoke part.

    So, 6.5 out of 10.

  14. I adore everything about this dress except its somewhat drab color. The green pops nicely but the brown is a little too gray… 9.5/10

  15. 7/10 from me. 9/10 if the original colour was less drab. A very pretty cut, but the placement of the soutache does not quite cut it for me. 😉

  16. Lene H. says

    Ooooh, total eye-candy 🙂
    The skirt is so cleverly elegant, and the hint of green underskirt is an unexpected touch – clever.

    Dislike: the droopy-loopy black braid in front – looks dangly and impractical, but it’s a very small dislike.

    All in all 9.5 / 10

  17. Rebecca says

    At first glance, I did not like this dress at all. On second glance, I like the overall shape, the sleeves, the green color, and the underskirt. I wish the pictures could be enlarged so as to see that strange black trim in more detail.
    The parts I don’t like about this dress are the grayish-brown color (though it might be better in real life) and the black trim. Eliminate the black trim and lighten the color to a dove grey and this dress could be very nice (on the right person, of course).
    For the overall shape, it’s a 9; for the weird color combo and wacky trim, a 4. So overall, 6.5.

  18. I could not wear those colors well but I do envy the lady that could. Its serious and elegant without being stuffy. Me likey. I give it a 9/10 because if I made it for myself I’d regretfully have to change the colors to keep me from looking like I was dying of consumption.

  19. Daniel says

    Again, skipping anyone else’s comments.

    This interests me in how the skirt silhouette echoes the mystery dress that turned out to be a Lachasse. It’s an interesting construction. It has a very Charles Rennie Mackintosh flavour about it with the natural linen and the graphic green elements, particularly how they’re arranged, although if you look close it’s not really Arts and Crafts – but the overall effect, yes. I can see the wearer looking perfectly at home in the Willow Tea Rooms.

    My first reaction was “Erm…” but it really repays prolonged observation. There is so much subtlety and restraint in it. And yet, there are bits I don’t like. I think the flare at the skirt is just a bit too low, proportion wise. Apparent stiffness and colour-wise, it does look a bit like she’s wearing a skirt made from the cardboard inside toilet rolls. (Then it looks so much better in 3/4 view). The detailing on the bodice is beautiful. So I’ll say 7.5/10.

  20. I actually really like the occasionally “subdued” dress from this period, because so many of them are not. I love the corset look of the green trim from the back, it was my very first thought after seeing the picture, before even reading the next paragraph! I also really like the pop of bright green lining showing out the back. I do think the dress would have been a little prettier and maybe less “blah” color wise if it was a deep mocha or even chocolate brown rather than the washed out tan. All in all, very pretty.

    8 out of 10

  21. It seems my comment didn’t go through, grr.

    The skirt shape is amazing. The back is amazing. The cutout detail is amazing. I think I would like the drape of the sleeves if they were on an arm, guessing by how they fall when not on an arm.

    I hate pigeon breasts. And I’m just not quite on board with the color palette. I don’t hate it, but it’s not quite doing it for me. The green is beautiful. The brown is OK. They’re just not quite working for me.

    Ignoring the pigeon breast as just the shape of the moment and deducting only for the don’t-quite-love-it colors, 8/10. It’s really quite beautiful. Replace the pigeon breast with a fitted jacket front and the brown with black or cream, and it would be a total 10 for me.

    • Your comment did go through, you just commented on one of the images, not the post (which means that no-one else is likely to see it, and it won’t get counted in the final tally), so thank you for coming back and putting it on the post!

  22. I can’t make a whole of this dress. Most of the skirt I love, but not the green ick. Much less of the bodice with black wormy trim on top of the green ick. The back is better. But it just won’t work for me. 4/10.

  23. Okay, disclaimer here, I am a redhead, and I agree with the Dreamstress’ earlier comment about redheads and neutrals.

    I really really like it. Not such a fan of individual elements, but added all together, they really work well. I love the color combination, especially the green underskirt, it’s whimsically without being ridiculous. The applique over the bust is strange, but I can’t imagine the dress without it, so I suppose it stays.



    (I didn’t get to vote on last weeks, but I do agree with the Kaylee sentiments expressed by others.)

  24. karenb says

    I love it. If it was on a calender then I would keep it and display it on the wall. Any chance of a calender with lots of these outfits from your “Rate the Dress” in the future?

    • Hi Karen, The copyright for these images belongs to the museum/collection that owns the dress, so you’d have to hope they do individual calenders and then you can buy them all 😉

      • karenb says

        I did wonder about copyright…oh well at least I get to see what you find.

  25. Black Tulip says

    I really like the back of this dress. I love the lines of the skirt, the hint of green underskirt, and the corset-esque detailing of the bodice.

    The front – not so good. The problem for me is the black braid. It’s as though the maker was given x metres of the stuff, and told that they weren’t leaving the premises until it was all attached to the dress, regardless of the effect.

    It looks much better in the 3/4 view, possibly because it’s easier to see past the overbearing braid.


  26. I adore this. This is my first go at rate the dress. I am going for 9/10. And I would have voted last week but only found it today. It was deffinatly Kaylee I would have given it a 10 for that factor alone.

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