19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the dress: Pink and black in 1869

Last week there wasn’t a great deal of love for Maria Anna and her fabulously (there, I said it!) geometric gown.  A few of you shared my excellent taste (there, I said it again), many of you were ‘meh’, and a few of you really disliked it.  It came in at 6.4 out of 10 – not bad for 17th century Spanish princess, but not as much as that spectacular geometry deserved (yep, I’m going to keep saying it!)

At least I won’t have much competition in the ‘it’s already been made’ stakes if I decide to make a reproduction of it!

For this week’s rate the dress I’m going to present something with a lot of colour.  We’ve had quite a few not-particularly-vivid garments in a row: time for something a little different.

This striking gown was sold at auction a while back.  It’s very vivid.  And vibrant.

Promenade gown, circa 1869

While it is much more colourful than Maria Anna’s dress, it shares the same enthusiasm for crazy geometricisation and pattern arrangement.  I clearly though the geometry and patterning on Maria Anna’s dress was divine, and while you may not have agreed with me, perhaps you will like the concept in another era.

Or perhaps not?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10.

(and be sure to leave your comment on this post, not on the image, or I won’t see it to include in the final rating!)


  1. I like it. It’s bolder than any dress I’d care to wear, but on the right woman it would be spectacular. A 9, and I’d give more except that it would overwhelm most wearers.

  2. This is certainly dramatic. I feel like it is something Helena Bonham Carter would wear in a Tim Burton film. I wish the lace cuffs were black – the white just seems wrong with the boldness of this dress. And I am not really a fan of the petal designs on the skirt either – they seem to undermine the strong effect of the pink and black stripes. I think overall it seems more like an over the top costume rather than anything else. I am usually a fan of over the top, but I think there is a bit too much on this dress that just feels “off.”


  3. If the esthetic of the dress above the knees was not chopped off there (and a white or black geometrical lace were used) I’d give this a 10/10 – but something went very very wrong in front! 5/10 for overall impact.

  4. Tenshi says

    Love! That is geometry done well. I like how the stripes on the skirt continue on the bodice without forming another chevron – that prevents it from looking overdesigned or stiff. I do have to agree about the lace, though. Wish it was black, that would look so. much. better.
    8/10. The more I look, the more I am bothered by the white lace.

  5. I think I’m in love with this dress. Pink and black is one of my favorite color combinations. I love the geometric design softened by the white lace accents. 10/10 from me.

  6. I didn’t get a chance to vote on Maria Anna’s gown last week – I liked it, but it was REALLY busy! (Had I voted, I probably would’ve given it a 7…)

    This one, though. This one I love! I would wear this in a heartbeat. I love the contrasting colours, and I think the design is striking without being overpowering. 10/10 from me!

  7. Lynne says

    It’s a liquorice all-sort with some splendid lace!

    You can just imagine it. “Mmm. I have enough pink for half a dress, and enough black for half a dress. What shall I so with it?” She would have been so much better to have made a black skirt and pink top or vice versa.

    5 out of 10.

  8. My love! I adore thee! Such beauty in the…whatever that shade of pinkish red is (rasberry?)! I love the shape–the lace–the contrast! Shall I write a sonnet for thee, oh, my beautiful, beautiful dress? Can’t I award it more than a ten out of ten? What tragedy! What horror! To what evil do I owe the displeasure of being un-allowed to vote it any higher?

    Ten out of ten!

  9. Demented Seamstress says

    Yikes! It’s shocking pink Victorian all over again.

    The cut is nice, and I love the hour glass-y lines of the bodice, but the colour just makes the whole thing an assault on the eyes.

    I hate insanely bright pink, and pairing it with black makes it even worse.


    The cut got four and a half out of five, the colour got zero.

  10. Rebecca says

    I’m not a fan of the petals or the thick stripes. It could look nice on the right woman, but most other dresses would look nicer. Hm… The more I look, the less I dislike it…

  11. Oh, no. This is too much of everything for my taste, too bold, too bright, the stripes are too broad. To many petals and too big. The lace? Can’t even say what I dislike the most.
    I’d love to see the hat that went with this dress, though. Hopefully it made other people notice the face of the wearer and not only her dress.
    Well, then again, maybe that was the point.


  12. I love how the last few dresses you have chosen have been what I would consider incredibly modern, as opposed to the massive expanses of damask and brocade that someone like me would associate with period dresses.

    Again, this could be the golden age of Jean-Paul Gautier, especially with the stripey black, or even Westwood. I am not keen on the, “fringe” with the pointy bits, but other than that I can see this on a catwalk. It’s an 8 out 10 from me.

  13. It was striking when I first saw it, and it took me a moment to go from striking to liking. That’s overall a positive. I find the cream lace incongruous in a way that doesn’t really work for me. 8/10. If the lace were black it would rise to a 9, but 8 it is.

  14. Its wonderful, the colours are marvellous and the design is clever and works well with the colour choice, 9/10

  15. It’s certainly striking and bold. I love the stripes, and the segue into the chevron at the front. Pink isn’t my thing, but I could see recreating this with a bright blue, or even a lime green! I agree with the rest; the lace doesn’t fit. I’d take it off entirely rather than changing it to black though. 8/10

  16. oh, to be the girl who swanned through Hyde Park twisting a parasol while all eyes turned to see her – a promenade dress it is indeed!

    J’adore! The colour, the stripes, the placement of the contrast chevron (so flattering) I even love the lace (sure it would work even better with a person in it to define the collar and cuffs.

    10 out of 10.

  17. 3/10 While the workmanship may be interesting, I really don’t like dresses of this era. It is really funny that it is called a promenade gown. It must have required a lot of muscle to drag all this around. It is a little to theatrical for my taste. Lacks the understated (for women’s clothes then) elegance of Maria Anna’s dress.

  18. Daniel says

    I like this. It’s bold and striking, even if it does look a bit like Cecil Beaton designing for a Technicolor period film. The pink is very tasty looking and I do like the contrast of pink and black. I definitely approve of its (for the period) relative simplicity and boldness and think it has great presence, great colour, and actually, a very regal shape – the formality is offset by the raspberry pink colour. Shame we can’t see the back view, but I do like it. The stripes also give a rather interesting effect of swooping upwards, (or down and backwards) which gives it an added sense of sweep and movement, and actually if it were a solid colour it might look a bit dumpy/plumped down there, but the movement of the stripes lifts, lightens and enlivens it.

    I like it the more I see of it. Is it 10/10? Well, you know what, I can’t see anything that would make me mark it down or even pause for thought, and I’ve tried, so ten out of ten.

  19. I like this a lot! I feel like the geometric pattern is very bold, but it works surprisingly well. I like that the pattern of stripes isn’t fussy or overly busy, which I often expect from gowns from this era. I love the color combination as well. I agree with others who have said that the lace would go better if it was black, but I don’t really mind it on the sleeves too much, though the lace at the hem seems a bit tacked on, and doesn’t seem to go well with the rest of the dress.

    The only thing I rather don’t like is the flounce on the overskirt. I am not sure how one would make it better, I just think it is too big, and makes it look like the skirt is melting! Also I don’t think the petal shapes go well with the overall structured geometry of the dress.

    So, I’d say 9/10 overall, because the things I don’t love would be a relatively easy fix, and aren’t huge detractors for me.

  20. swwuj says

    uups … somehow reminds me of Mrs Quickley in Nanny McPhee. a Me too am not a fan of the petals or the thick stripes. 5/10.

  21. I can’t decide on a rating. Either it’s 9/10 for the reasons Catherine R. described, or it’s about 5 for reasons others mentioned: for being such a crazy colour, not properly thought out in some parts and…
    Well, 7/10 should cut it, right?

    I even like the rows of scallops, but not on this dress. It’s a fish-scales treatment, or bird-feathers treatment, and this is not the right dress for it.

  22. Love it! The skirt flounce picks up the shapes in the sleeve lace-I like! The chevrons would make me look thinner. The color would make me look healthy and its boldness would say “Don’t look at those skinny girls over there look at me and admire my joie de vivre!” 10/10

  23. Love it.! It’s got style & spunk — certainly not for the timid.

  24. Daniel says

    Is it a Worth, by the way? Guessing that as you didn’t say anything, it’s anonymous as I’m sure you’d have noted if it were. The boldness and bravura are very Worth to my eyes though, along with the way the stripes are so boldly and confidently placed.

    • I’d say with 99% certainty this wasn’t a Worth. I can’t imagine that the seller wouldn’t have mentioned it – or simply mentioned that it was couture quality. And there is something about the construction that just doesn’t speak of that level of skill to me. Aesthetically it doesn’t have anything in common with early Worth gowns either. At the time he really went in for pastels and frilled details. I did a post about his early works (pre 1870), and this just isn’t fitting in.

  25. The cut is mostly quite nice (although the bustle is rather OTT – and I usually quite like bustles). However, the cut is not quite as sharp as, say, a Worth – perhaps because it doesn’t fit the stand well? The stripe idea is … interesting, I guess.

    Overall, I don’t really like it.
    – the pink – far too OTT for me
    – the subtle striping in the black fabric that makes up the stripes – distracting and doesn’t match the direction of the stripes consistently
    – the lace cuffs – I agree, black would match better
    – most of all, the petals/raised front with black background – it just looks like some big cartoon mouth about to eat someone’s feet


  26. Claire Payne says

    My first thought on this was the same as Daniel’s – it does look a bit like Cecil Beaton designing for a Technicolor period film. Oh that pink! I don’t quite know what to make of this one. Yes I appreciate the geometry but the hem of the pink section doesn’t go with the rest – it is like a feather shaped hem and breaks the geometric flow. I usually love dresses from this period but I can’t get excited about this one due to the colour and feathery shaped hem. 5 out of ten from me.

  27. Geoffwah says

    This is SO dramatic and SO theatrical that I want to give it a bajillion points. However, though I am a lover of black and pink as a general combination, it REALLY does depend on the color of pink and this color is a little too flamingo orange for my liking.

    I am not against math in fashion and the geometry of this puts me in mind of the dress the Queen of Hearts wore in the Alice in Wonderland (you know…the animated one).

    Anyhoo, I can’t help myself 8/10

  28. karenb says

    I think it’s gorgeous. But would I wear it? Only on a stage opening a show. I like the way the front looks like the curtain rising at a theatre.


  29. Well, that is a dress to be seen in. I like the shape and i like the pattern, but one mark off for being so contrasty, and one for being pink. 8/10

  30. Myrthe says

    I’d give it an 8. I love the pattern on the dress and the shape. Not entirely sure about the colour, because it somehow works on this dress, but I wouldn’t normally like it. The only thing I really don’t like is the leaf-like hem in the front. It just doesn’t really suit the pattern with the clean lines.

  31. My first thought was “Bride of Bertie Bassett”, but I do actually like it. The only thing I’m not sure about is the change in the leaf bits – the way there are several layers of them at the front, but only the bottom edge at the sides. One or the other would have been better.


  32. I love it! I like how the colours seem very modern and yet the dress is not. It is so cheery, although I am not sure what the right occasion would be to wear such a dress! 9/10

  33. Sallie says

    My first thought was, oh god it’s awful. Then I thought, who am I to judge what somebody else wants to wear? Maybe a different color would be better? Maybe it is so awful that it’s fabulous?

    • Well, Rate the Dress is all about judging clothes 😉 And I do take care to pick things where there is no wearer/designer to get offended if we loathe it!

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