19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Queen Adelaide in velvet and lace

Hrrmph.  I try to keep my opinions about Rate the Dresses under covers, but your review of last week’s Worth dress rather disappointed me.  Whilst I knew the aesthetics of the zig-zag Roger Worth dress might prove challenging, I’d hoped that more of you would recognise the artistry of the construction: the brilliance of the stiffened front-raised hemline, allowing easy walking and dancing, and creating the most amazing movement in the skirt; the clever, clever sleeves, cut at one with the bodice; the un-pieced skirt, with shaping achieved through tucks.  And yet, it was these very things that so many of you disliked!  A few loved the dress (I love the dress), but so many of you hated it that it came in at a 5.3 out of 10.  Poor Roger: worse even then his grandfather!

Carrying on the zig-zag theme from last week, here is Queen Adelaide (consort of William IV of England and aunt to Queen Victoria) in a very regal 1830s gown with fascinating zig-zagged sleeve details, and luscious blonde lace sleeves.

Adelaide Amelia Louisa Theresa Caroline of Saxe-Coburg Meiningen, by Sir William Beechey, c 1831, National Portrait Gallery London, via Wikipedia

Adelaide is probably the most overlooked of the English queens, which is a bit sad, because she really was a paragon of every possible virtue that could have been desired of a Queen and woman in the early 19th century.  She was a devoted wife and was widely credited with vastly improving the much older William’s behavior – he drank less, swore less, was more tactful and thoughtful under her influence.  She was gracious and regal, beloved by the court and populace alike.  The only people who resented her were ‘women of a low kind’ as she refused to allow revealing gowns to be worn at court.  Her only failing was as a mother: she suffered numerous miscarriages, and all her children died in infancy.  Despite this, she was  a kind stepmother to her husband’s 10 illegitimate children from before their marriage, and did everything she could to help the young Victoria, who was heir in place of her children.

Some of her sweetness comes through in her portrait, and the artist has attempted to convey her status, and her innate regality, in the grandeur of her dress and hair, and her delicate femininity in her lace and ruffles.  Her noted modesty is shown in the covered shoulders and relatively high neckline of her historically inspired frock.

Adelaide balanced a lot as a queen, and what she didn’t manage to achieve was memorability – she was just too sweet and good to achieve historical notability.  This portrait also tries to balance a lot, but has her outfit in it achieved sartorial success, or at least sartorial memorability?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I find the lace of the sleeves exquisite, and overall I like the shape of the dress, but I don’t care for the dark short sleeves under the lace, and the ruff collar is distracting for me, but I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

  2. I have a soft spot for blue and white and balanced things. I think the dress would look much better if painted on a different background; the rusty red does not seem to do it full justice. IMHO. And I really, really like how the simplicity of the dress makes all those rather heavy jewels and hairstyle perfectly all right.
    10/10; the first 1830s dress I’d give that rating, I think.

    • Elise says

      Me too. I usually hate the period. I love this. Luscious–great descriptor, Dreamstress!


      (BTW, I looked back at the 30s dress. I see how cool it is…but I still don’t like it–sorry!)

      • Oh yes, I can take not liking it, but I do thing that the artistry that goes into making a thing should be acknowledged! Just like it’s fine to dislike Jackson Pollocks paintings for how they look, but it’s unfair to dismiss them as mere dribbles (the dribbles break down into mathematical patterns after all!). Aesthetics are a personal choice, quality is universal.

  3. I’m must admit to being one of the many who has never heard of her! That is a shame, though, since she sounds like a wonderful lady. I find her taste in clothing impeccable! The deep blue (I’m guessing velvet? It sure looks soft, whatever it is.) and beautiful white lace is one of my favorite color combinations. I really love how she’s accessorized here, too. I can’t allow myself to give anything less than a…

    Ten out of ten for the very lovely lady.

  4. Demented Seamstress says

    Hey! That looks just like the KCI watch that they display on the light brown 1830s dress and the purple 1840s dress.
    I love that watch. I don’t love the rest of the outfit. No matter how exquisite you make the details, the 1830s silhouette will always be awful. Pretzel hair, balloon sleeves, ugh.


  5. Ok, the 1830s are generally foolish looking (though still lovable), but I think this dress actually achieves cuteness! I LOVE her blue velvet! I give her a 9 out of 10.


  6. Daniel says

    Hey, I rather rated the Roger Worth dress for all the reasons you listed and even argued specifically in favour of the hem detail!! Has to be worth an acknowledgement at any rate. 😉

    As for Adelaide… It’s quite unusual to see velvet dresses from the early nineteenth century, and the lace of the sleeves is very beautiful, though I always think “imbecile sleeves”. I think the ruff on the tucker looks a bit silly though as the neckline of the velvet dress doesn’t line up properly and you have the rest of the tucker showing at the shoulders at the edges of the ruff, not in an intentional-looking way either. Gorgeous as the fabrics are, and she is very nicely painted, I don’t like that heavy looking brooch on the delicate ruff (it looks like there will be a RRRRRRRRRRRIPPP moment any second, and poor Adelaide would be mortified) I’m actually not a fan of jewellery in general, and I’ve always found these wide-arranged chain necklaces visually annoying, they look about to fall off the shoulders, which winds me up. The earrings are very lovely and delicate, and I like the wide band of pearls in the hairdo, but that neck chain – ARGH, so annoying.

    Lovely fabrics. Can’t fault them. The dress is lovely apart from the ridiculous tucker/neckline conflict, and I’m not really sold on the veil either. It’s a bonkers era anyway, I actually really like it and I do like a lot about this dress, and I like her generally, but… mmm… it’s gonna have to be a quite lukewarm 6.5 from me.

  7. I really love it. Not so much the tucker, although I don’t hate it and I do like the Elizabethan echo, but the lace and the midnight blue velvet are delicious together.
    This is the first time I’ve looked at a dress from this era and thought, hmm, nice shape! The sleeves are softer in the lace and drape nicely. The vandyking at the top of the sleeve is a lovely detail. Actually, elizabethan ruff aside, this dress vibes far more a Renaissance look and feel.
    Also, her hair is less like an elaborate austrian pastry than usual for the era and I rather like that dramatic pearl band.
    I think it is beautifully painted, such plays on texture and colour. She looks like a real person, she looks like she would have that mousy coloured hair and she is pretty and soft and kind and sweet, which it sounds as though she was. Very honest.
    I have to give it a 9.5/10. Only .5 off for the ruffoolery 😉

  8. She does look very regal in this picture. She’s even rocking the silly hairdo and you need a lot of natural gravitas to do that.

    I like this one. The colours are great together and the fabrics are beautiful, though I’m not really sold on the ruff. I think it needs something there, just maybe not that ruff. I’m also not very keen on the little puff sleeves under the lace, but I do like the triangular points on the armholes. Overall I give this one 9/10.

  9. The fabrics are sumptuous (the artist did a marvelous job capturing the various textures) and the color scheme tasteful, if very restrained. And Adelaide is a beautiful woman; the luster of her hair as shown by the artist is sumptuous too!

    However, the dress itself is frumpy in cut and her jewelry is poorly chosen. The lace ruff around the moderate neckline does not help matters. All in all, a 6 out of 10.

  10. Wow, I love it!!! It’s ridiculously wonderful! I love the creative asymmetry of her hairstyle and the jewelry in it, and the fabrics are luxurious and elegant. The neckline is a bit poufy for my taste, but if I had ANY reason to wear such a dress…. you bet I would! I give it an 8 out of 10!

  11. Rebecca says

    I love it! I love the lace and the blue velvet; the hairstyle and the veil look a bit strange, but the overall effect is not changed. 10/10

  12. Cornelia Moore says

    there’s something luxuriant and soothing with crushed velvet, and deep purple is it’s best color. but off-white/ecru/whatever lace just looks tobacco stained/dusty to me. so that’s a bit of a turnoff. would i wear it? if I were royalty, but not likely otherwise. no dislike, but not passionate about it. and not that pin, it’s a type i’ve never favored. i think my most and least favorite part is the collar. I like the looks, but have found things of that ilk to be scratchy and uncomfortable-to say the least. rash creating on me…it’s pretty, but i wouldn’t wear it. 8.5 for looks, 3 for wearability.

  13. Very pretty and dreamy. The color/texture combo is really nice, and so long as one is getting a painting of themselves done, they might as well have crazy draped jewelry. I’m deducting 1/2 a point because the zig-zag edging bears a slight resemblance to Kermit the Frog (not that they would have been able to predict that when the painting was done, but I couldn’t wear the dress now without thinking about it.) 9.5/10.

  14. Love this. I normally can’t stand 1830s but this feels like an 1830s take on 17th century fashion (kind of like when modern designers do a modern take on past fashions). I love the color, and the artist made the velvet look so soft and touchable. I adore the sleeves, the jewelry, her hair clip. And I know we are supposed to be just rating the dress but I am sooo diggin the hair. The only thing I dislike is the ruff, I’m not a ruff girl, maybe if it followed the neckline of the dress. So I will give this a 9 out of 10

  15. Though I don’t know much about her either, I come from the South Australian city of Adelaide which is named for her. Her image is very familiar to me. There is an affordable Aust wine label called Queen Adelaide and so I have spent many enjoyable evenings admiring her lace sleeves (she clearly had a thing for lace).

    (They’ve recently changed the label – the new image is not her at all!)

    As for the dress, I too love her sleeves and the blue velvet. Not so keen on the faux-Elizabethan neck ruff, I think I would prefer if it followed the wider neckline of the gown (but I suppose it’s really a shirt under a ‘jumper’ style of dress).

    This queen figures a little in the early scenes of Young Victoria, clearly suffering under her loud boorish husband, and sweetly managing her dowager queen role once Victoria ascends the throne.

    The dress I’d give a 7.5.

  16. Claire Payne says

    How could I have missed last week’s Worth Dress? I would have rated it 9 out of 10 for all it’s 1930’s fabulousness. I loved the hem, the cut, even the sleeves and would loved to have dressed up in it, but I digress. To this week’s rate the dress.

    Such a shame Queen Adelaide is not so well known. The bad girls get all the attention it would seem, but I love her frock and wish I could see all of it. What about the skirt? The back view? The sleeves are very dominant (which is a current favourite style of mine) but the painting looks as though the skirt is a pencil line which it surely couldn’t be in the 1800’s. Blue is always a favourite of mine and for the parts of the dress I can see I give this 8 out of 10. I am now playing a game of ‘Fantasy Skirt’ in my head in which I imagine what the lower half of the dress looks like.

  17. karenb says

    I need to ask a question.

    Where do you all learn about garment construction in the various periods ?
    I can only comment on the look of a dress and its colour as I don’t know anything about the subjects most of you discuss.
    Hoping for some answers as I love learning new things.

    and as for the dress, I like it just because it’s a nice colour and the lacy sleeves look pretty.

    • Demented Seamstress says

      gogmsite.netkci.or.jpI learn about fashion history and the difference in cut and details from sites like Grand Ladies.


      It’s a fabulous website with hundreds of portraits of women from the 1400s to the early 1900s. They are sorted into groups in chronological order so it’s easy to see the way fashion evolved.

      Fashion plates are also a good thing to look at, Dames a la Mode has loads of them from the 1770s to the 1840s. I like to play “the guessing game” on Dames a la Mode. I scroll down so that I can see the picture but not the date, then I try to narrow down the date as best I can, before reading what year the plate is actually from. It’s lots of fun and I have gradually gotten better at guessing.


      Old Rags has portraits, fashion plates, extant garments, dolls, and other stuff from about the 16th to the early 20th century. You can play the guessing game there too, but It’s a lot harder.


      Museum websites are also great to look at(be careful of the Met, their artifacts are awesome but their dating sucks). The Kyoto Costume Institute has a marvelous timeline right at the top of their digital archives page, it’s got tiny little silhouettes above the dates and you click on them to look at garments from specific decades. They also do a really great job accessorizing their mannequins.


      You can also get books on fashion history and most are arranged in chronological order, read the reviews first though, some can be really awful.
      Basically I look at lots of pictures and read the dates under them, I’m certainly not an expert on historical fashion but I’m doing lots of studying and getting better at telling decades apart.
      I hope that was helpful.

      • karenb says

        Thankyou so much for all your advice. I shall get started and learn the way you suggest. Should be alot of fun as well.A whole new interest is opening up and I can’t wait to get right into it.Thankyou again for your reply.

        • I’d like to put in a plug here for good old-fashioned books. The internet is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is full of rubbish (I know, sometimes I accidentally add some myself), and there is a limit to how much you can learn from pretty pictures. The Victoria & Albert, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and KCI have all put out great costuming books.

          There are also other great costuming blogs that do really good research (not all do). I particularly like Demode and Wearing History.

          • karenb says

            Yes, I know I mentioned the pretty pictures etc because that’s what has catches my eye when searching but I will be definatly getting some books. I like to have a library of informative books but I will be using the internet to help find them. I looked in Minerva bookshop when I was last in Wellington but only found 2 books and wasnt sure how useful they would be.
            I am well used to the fact that the internet has a lot of wrong and misinformed info on it as I have various other interests that require endless research and I usually check out a number of sites on the same topic and if they have similar views then usually it’s fairly accurate. sort of.
            The biggest problem I have in researching something is the amount of time spent searching. Thats why I like getting recommendations from other people.
            Thanks for advice and I will get stuck into learning about historical costuming ( after Christmas feasting and visiting).

  18. Cheyene says

    I’m going to give it a 10/10.

    I love the sleeves, and it’s 1830’s dress that I DON’T find ridiculous looking.
    Plus, the personality who wore it deserves to have 10/10 points.

    Really, I have not been so struck by any of the women and men of history that you have introduced us to yet. But I think I’m going to be a big fan of this Adelaide. 🙂

    But really. Velvet and lace? YES. Blue is my favorite color, anyways. 😀
    I have to admit I’m more taken by the person than the dress. She looks so sweet.

  19. Sue H says

    This is about as good as Romantic period dresses get. My eye wants the sheen of rich satin to contrast with the deep glow of velvet and the lace disappoints it. 7/10

  20. I love the fabric used for those sleeves! I don’t actually like the shape of the sleeves though… I like most of the dress, but not a fan of the neck ruffles. Or the zig-zag sleeve caps. But I do like blue velvet. Hmmmm… Also I must comment that her hair looks like an inspiration for Star Wars.


  21. I like the white and blue. I like the velvet and lace. It makes me want a dress from the 1830’s era and that is unusual for me. 9/10

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