19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the dress: late Rococo ruffles

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Talk about drama!  Turns out a lot of you like it – the extremely dramatic pink and black dress had a lot of enthusiastic responses, and a few slightly horrified and repelled erks from those with more delicate taste in clothes.  Definitely not a dress for the faint-hearted!  Thanks to the non-lovers of huge hot pink & black chevrons (and those who noticed that the cuffs were a bit off, and the dress fell apart stylistically below the knee), it came in at 7.3 out of 10.

Sometimes a ‘Rate the Dress’ chooses itself, and sometimes I have the hardest time picking a garment that is interesting and doesn’t repeat the theme/colour/timeperiod/aesthetic of something I showed you recently too closely.

This week was dreadful.  I looked at hundreds of images, and saw many that would be perfect Rate the Dresses, but weren’t right for this week.  I finally settled on this:

Robe a l’anglaise, 1780’s, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

This gown fascinates me.  I think how you see it depends hugely on how much of it is original (I’m sure the yellow rose isn’t, and I strongly suspect the white ruffle is a modern recreation).  Even so, it’s so crisp and blue and shiny and frilly, when most 1780s fashion looks muted and restrained, even when it is covered in ruffles.

Do you like the soft, shiny, ruffly effect?  The very girly floral and pastels (such a contrast to the bright colours and crisp lines of last week)?  The bows and frills?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10



  1. I love it! My only quibble are the yellow fabric rose at the neckline and the white fabric roses (bows, tags? I can’t quite tell) on the skirt. 9.5.

  2. Courtney F. says

    I love it. With the ruffly collar, it seems like a take on the Petit Trianon country peasant look. (Because patterned blue silk just screams country peasant, right? 😉 ) 10/10

  3. It looks like a modern costume version made from curtaining, in some ways. And it is blue. And yet, I love it anyway. What is not to like about a polonaised robe a langlaise? I’ve never met one I didn’t at least like. And of curse, it’s not really ruffly – I can’t see a single row of pinked silk ruching beyond the neckline ruffle.
    I like the simplicity of the lines, the gentle contrasts of white and blue, the crispy shiny silk.
    9/10….well, it is blue… 😉

    • Claire Payne says

      I agree totally. 9/10 from me for the marvellous shade of blue. I much prefer muted tones as opposed to loud and bright colours. I must admit that my first thought was of curtains too but lets not let such thoughts detract from the beautiful blue silkiness, the floral pattern of the fabric and magnificent bodice, skirt and sleeve shapes. I would love to wear such a magnificent frock.

  4. I really like this dress, but I am not in love with it. I think the ruffles look too chunky and a bit heavy handed. The flowers on the skirt look sad – like all of the other ones fell off, or like an after thought. The blue fabric is lovely though. And the overall shape and style of this dress is pretty too. I think it just loses points for all the details.


  5. Lynne says

    The fabric is very, very pretty. I do like it – lovely blue, charming swirly floral pattern. The dress itself is very simple and charming. I can see why someone stuck the frill and yellow flower on the top – it probably had something – lace and flowers like the rest of the dress.

    Very nice indeed – easy on the eye after the pink and black number!

    9 out of 10.

  6. I want to like it, but there’s something about it that just doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe it’s the ruffle and the yellow rose at the top that don’t go with the rest of the dress. The fabric is pretty, but can’t redeem whatever it is that isn’t harmonizing to me. 6/10.

    • Demented Seamstress says

      I agree. Who put all that crap around the collar?


  7. Carolyn says

    Huh. I’m really not sure what to think about this one. I think it’s very pretty for what it is, but it seems very ‘off’ to me. While 18th c. textiles in and of themselves are not my area of specialty, I’ve never seen one like this. Of course, not being able to get a real feel for the textile from a picture it’s hard to be sure, but it just really doesn’t seem 18th century – even late 18th c – to me. This really really looks to me like 19th century fancy dress. Although I have to admit that the sleeves look properly constructed for the late 18th c. The silhouette of the mannequin certainly doesn’t help, but I’m quite puzzled by this one!

    I give it an 8/10 because I really do think it’s pretty, if you don’t apply any context to it. But it is a head-scratcher for me!

  8. I want to love it. My favorite era of clothing, beautifully restrained in terms of trimming–I love a “plainer” gown! But that fabric–hurk! It looks like a modern costume, not an original, and I think the fabric is to blame–so super-shiny yet lacking real luster that it puts me in mind of polyester! I want to like any brocade silk, and perhaps it’s just poor lighting here, but…yeah. Also–does the bosom part of the bodice look off to anyone else–like perhaps it’s curving out to accommodate a bust, modern-clothing-style? Or it may just be an awkwardly proportioned mannequin…weirdsies.


  9. Julia says

    I´m not a huge fan on most styles before 1800, but on a first glance I really loved it. But on the second look I was sort of put of by the white at the neckline and the weird yellow rose. Without the ruffle and the rose I think I might really love it but this way, altogether I get a bit of a blah feeling. So I´d give it a 7/10

  10. I had to take a while to think about this dress. It just doesn’t look right at all! Do they need a pair of stays or panniers–what is it? There is something off about it, and I’m not talking about the ugly ruffle and rose (those are not right for this dress at all). The fabric is pretty enough, the sleeves are wonderful, and the general shape is nice too (what I am assuming to be the proper shape, anyway). The bows, or whatever they are, aren’t really my favorite part of the ensemble, but I can deal with them.

    Seven out of ten. (I’m going to blame my complaints on improper display. Aren’t I nice?)

  11. Tenshi says

    The yellow rose and bow have to go, but apart from that, it’s quite lovely. I guess what makes me love it most is the color. I’m a blonde, and this is the perfect shade of ice princess blue, the colour I should basically live in if I were inclined to colours of the pastel persuasion.
    I also love the floral pattern, which takes it from “ice princess” to “country girl” – or as country girlish as you can be in a silk brocade robe à l’anglaise.
    It does help that Roccoco is my favorite era.

  12. Cornelia Moore says

    I have to agree with Rowena. it looks like stage prop to me, and poorly done at that. something out of the 1950’s made to look like the time but not terribly careful regarding details, except for the sleeves. oh, I love the fabric, and the cut is nice enough, though a bit rough at the edges, but the collar is definitely an artifice, and from another period, and the skirt capelette is frumpy and clunky, not smooth and even, and that set’s my OCD on edge…and why is the hem cupped on the sides, instead of strait? I’ve never seen a crooked hem like that, other than when I first started sewing…lol…7/10 for apparently poor construction but pretty fabric.
    btw, what’s the line about thigh high on the skirt capelette? it breaks up the smoothness, which doesn’t help it any.

  13. Hmm…I’m having very mixed feelings about this one. I adore the colour, but the print almost seems too busy. I HATE the bows and that awful collar ruffle, but I do like the sleeves. I don’t care for the white border around the overskirt at all. It strikes me almost as a beginner/intermediate level reproduction, and doesn’t actually feel like it’s from the time period. O.o The fabric seems inappropriate for the style of gown, so I’m guessing that it’s been remade into an anglaise from an older gown.
    I really want to like it because I love 18thC dresses, and the fabric really is lovely, but there’s just so much wrong with it.

  14. I get suspicious when anything’s called ‘a l’anglaise’ in French – surely that’s a backhanded putdown? Given the French have long believed in their stylistic superiority (and they’d be quite right too). Marie Antoinette’s obsession with englishness (e.g. the wild parks of the petit trianon) was laughable to them. I believe the idea of this style was to be pannier-less, part of MA’s desire to be more ‘natural’ no doubt. It sure could use some (but then it would be a Robe a la Francaise!).
    So perhaps the odd elements of this dress, the messy hem and bows, are all part of the joke?
    Pity, because it is a lovely colour. I’d give it a 7.

    • Carolyn says

      Panniers (which is actually a 19th c term) don’t make a robe a la francaise, the style of waterfall pleats from the shoulders do. The ‘Anglaise’, as far as I’ve observed, is an evolution of the ‘Mantua’ in terms of being a dress with a fitted back. Dresses with fitted backs, but the exact same skirt style as Francaises including side hoops, were typical wear in England throughout the century. The french imported the style, modified it somewhat, and exported it back.

  15. Lene H. says

    Ooohh! Absolutely to die for! I would wear that if I ever got the opportunity. Love everything about it, apart from the rose. Especially the way the light trim on the outer skirt accentuates it, but discreetly. So lovely 🙂

    That would be 9.5 out of 10 from me 🙂

  16. Willow Hope says

    Love it! The colour would have been particularly flattering with powdered (or gray) hair. The skirt shape is very contemporary (I have a long designer skirt with a similar shape) and balances structure and ‘nature’ really well.
    Give me a robe a l’anglaise over a la Francaise any day.

  17. Daniel says

    Costumey, shiny, faux looking. There’s something very dodgy about this dress. I don’t think the fabric is necessarily wrong as i own an equally shiny, supple and lustrous pearl grey satin robe anglaise which, fabric wise, looks much more modern than it should, but looks and feels pretty accurate in other respects. But the pattern does look a bit Fifties curtains, the bodice seems to have a quite modern fit (bad mounting?) and generally it looks more like a late nineteenth century or twentieth century idea of a sweetly pretty little eighteenth century frock, like in those genre paintings you see lots of. As a costume, its very sweet and actually not bad at all, for a costume. As a eighteenth century dress, its not terribly convincing going by that picture. I am going to say i think this is a late Victorian or early twentieth century fancy dress costume, or has been extensively modified and tarted up. Just doesn’t look right. Aesthetic wise, its a sweet little saccharine seven, and as an eighteenth century dress, I’m not wholly convinced so I’m gonna say a fancydress four. So that’s 5.5 in between. I’m feeling quite judgemental today, unfortunately for this dress.

  18. I love it! everything about it is perfectly lovely… except maybe the neck ruffle and rose… maybe. Therefore I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

    The middle sister and singer

  19. I know squat about this era. But, it isn’t quite right is it? The fabric is stunning. If I saw it in the store I’d be pawing it madly (and lamenting that it is 4 times the cost of what my budget allows.) The ruffle, white trim on the skirt and flowers are a bit off. Here is my theory, Victorian girl found great grandmas dress in the attic. She decides to wear it to a fancy dress ball but when she puts it on, she finds her corset doesn’t arrange her like grannie’s stays would. So she quickly adds the ruffle and rose to hide the “girls” which are bursting forth. Then adds the bits to the skirt to make it look like they “go”. 5/10 for the fabric.

  20. There’s just something not quite ‘right’ about this (and I don’t mean the collar and the yellow rose, which are not remotely ‘right’). Other than the sleeves, it just doesn’t properly say 18th century to me.

    Quite pretty as a dress, but well off-beam for an 18th century dress.


  21. Blegh! As mentioned above, the fabric somehow manages to look like a modern synthetic, and details like the ruffle and possibly the flowers are obviously bad later additions. It seems like it’s on a modernly shaped mannequin too, with no hint of the shaping that a pair of stays would provide. The wrinkling at the front drags it down even more. It looks like a costume! I am mildly curious about the bound edge of the overskirt… haven’t seen that before, but I kinda like it. Since a lot of the problems seem to stem from the gown being poorly displayed and saddled with non-historic add-ons, I’ll give it a few points. 3/10

  22. Myrthe says

    I’d give it an 7.5. I really love the fabric of this dress, but I don’t really like the white ruffle and the yellow rose. I’m also constantly going back to the creases in the front. They might just be a fitting issue due to the mannequin, but I just can’t get past my dislike of ill-fitting garments.

  23. Cheyene says

    I absolutely love the dress, but I think I’d want to rip off that horrid yellow rose. WHY IS IT THERE?!?
    I think the ruffle could be pulled off, depending on who wore it. It looks pretty bad on the mannequin, but there’s something I like about it, for some reason. 😀

    I adore the fabric! That shade of blue is absolutely wonderful!
    I have to disagree with everyone who is saying it looks fake and costume-y, though. I think it is on the very verge of looking like a costume, but it doesn’t quite go there. Maybe the ruffle and the rose push it closer to looking like a costume. Otherwise, I think it looks like a perfectly gorgeous dress.
    The brocade definitely looks better than the brocades at Joann’s, though! D:
    And perhaps we modern sewists look at shinier fabrics much differently than the people in the previous centuries would have. I’m no expert at all, but I bet that nobody back then made cheap, shiny costumes out of cheap, shiny fabrics. 😀 So they wouldn’t associate shiny dresses with cheap repros. Just my thoughts.

    As for the dress, I think I’m going to have to give it a 10/10. I have issues with the yellow rose, but it does not override my love for the rest of the dress!

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