Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Margaret of Anjou in Romantic pink

Silly me!  Forgot to tally up last week’s votes on Pierre Balmain’s 50’s ostrich feather and diamantes frock.  As it turns out, you either like ostrich feathers, or you don’t, so the votes were quite divided, balancing out at 7.5 out of 10, which was a rating that absolutely no-one gave the dress.  Such is the Rate the Dress though!

This fortnight’s theme in the Historical Sew Fortnightly is Under It All – making undergarments, and starting tomorrow I’ll be leading a Panier-Along as I teach how to make paniers.  However, showing you undergarments to rate isn’t that interesting, and I didn’t just want to show dresses worn over paniers.  Maybe I’ll do one of those next week!

Instead, I’ve gone for something random: Margaret of Anjou  being presented with the Book of Romance in a ca. 1445 illumination.

John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, presents the Book of Romances (Shrewsbury Book) to Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI, circa 1445 by the Talbot Master

John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, presents the Book of Romances (Shrewsbury Book) to Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI, circa 1445 by the Talbot Master

Want to see that in detail?

The young, beautiful Margaret, in the years before the disastrous War of the Roses, and while her husband still had some grasp of reality, is shown wearing an ermine-trimmed mantle of dusky pink over a dress of golden yellow with a surcoat (is that what those things are called) of blue with gold buttons.  There is some fascinating detailing around the edges of the cloak, and in the collar and sleeves.

What do you think?  Pretty, pretty medieval princess, or a bit too layer-y?  Are her crown and scepter just a trifle over the top, and is it a pity that her frock clashes so with the book?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Sue H says

    I like all I can see of the layers, and though the crown and scepter look cut & pasted from some other picture, that is hardly an issue for the outfit. 9/10

  2. Daniel says

    I quite like the idea of the clingin/fitted gold dress underneath the deep blue surcote, it’s a shame you can barely see anything of them, but I like the gold button detail. I do not like the choice of rose pink cloak, not in this context, and don’t think it really suits her colouring (as shown here). But then, I am somewhat over the whole pink princess thing (Disney and Barbie and whoever came up with the idea of “Mommy’s Pwecious Wittle Princess” and My Little Pony and the like have a lot to answer for)…. and as what is pretty much the dominant factor is a great big pink curtain wrapped round a dress that is further concealed by a stonking big massive scarlet book, but looks like it’s quite nice underneath… so… It’ll have to be a speculative 5/10 here.

    • Elise says

      Gold and Blue are one of my favorite combinations. I like the pink: sort of a metaphor for first blush or maybe even innocence. All-together, though, maybe it doesn’t quite work.

      I wonder what the original coloring looked like. I understand that coloring fades.

  3. Love it! It looks elegant and royal without anything too excessive or over the top. I wish the book weren’t in the way so we could see more of the dress!


  4. Lynne says

    Oh, I’m so shallow! I thought it was a shame the cloak clashed with the book – and my first impression was that the woman was not looking as pleased as she should be about what looks like an astoundingly handsome present!

    I’m not wild about pink, but I think the ermine lining is stunning. Even if I do feel sorry about the ermine. This was, however, before the true horrors of fur farming, and the trapper probably found the job rather trying in cold weather, so there is some balance. And ermine is from the ferret family, and they are as vicious a bunch of killers of birds and rabbits and small beasties as you could wish to find. There. I’ve talked myself round to ermine linings! And what a blessing in a cold, drafty castle.

    I always rather fancied the horned head-dresses the ladies in waiting are wearing. Much more becoming than a clunky crown.

    So, I’m afraid the best I can do for Margaret is 6 out of 10. (With most points lost for her attitude to the book!)

    • Elise says

      Isn’t it funny how old fur is so much better to think about than new fur?

      Maybe she isn’t smiling because so many women were illiterate–even queens–that the book would have been almost useless. (joke)

  5. I love the gold gown with a blue surcoat over it, and I love the pink cloak. I’m not sure I love those colours together, but I definitely like the overall outfit. 9/10, and I sorely wish I could see her without the cloak.

  6. I like the idea of a fur-lined pink cape. Practical and princess-y. I don’t usually see pink and red as clashing, but I’m probably in the minority there. It seems a pity not to be able to see more of her outfit, but since I really, really like the cape, it’s ok that it covers up much of the dress.

  7. 6/10
    I’m not very keen on it. I’ve been much more keen on other medieval outfits. The golden gown itself would have got 9 or 10, but the rest just does not cut it for me…
    The scepter is ridiculously huge, but I think the crown is OK, as far as crowns go. Far from an instant ooh, but it’s a crown that works as a crown.

  8. I rather like it, though I’m wondering why if it’s cold enough to wear ermine that the cloak is so low cut around the neck?

  9. Let’s make it! I have a pile of dusky pink curtains, tho it’s likely to have been velvet. I can see you rocking this look. 😉

  10. fidelio says

    I wondered if teh color of her cloak had faded frmo a shade closer to red, but given the strength of the other reds in that piece I suspect the answer is “no”. Clothes and crown are pretty much generic Queen clothes for the period, and you’ll see the same in any other period illumination with a royal lady present on a formal occasion–the fitted dress, decorated surcoat, and mantle are pretty uch a royal uniform by Margaret’s time, and the crown and sceptre are also standard issue.

    The pink is an interesting twist, though–mostly the queens’ mantles are blue or red–maybe she got that sort of individualist twist from her father, who made up in affection for the fine arts what he lacked in cash.

    I’ll say 8/10 for daring to be different.

  11. The gold underdress is nice enough (what little we can see of it). I have never liked those 15th C surcoats very much – I don’t like the fur section, just as I don’t like that same shape in 1610s Dutch fashion (e.g. Ruben’s “The artist and his wife, Isabella Brant”). I much prefer the mid- and late-14th C surcoats, before the upper halves become completely fur-covered.

    As for the cloak? Meh. Even with the neckline detail and the hint of decoration down the centre front opening it is … well … still a plain cloak. And cloaks are silly.

    All in all completely standard 15th C manuscript short-hand for “queen”. And I don’t like 15th C much (particularly when it’s nicking styles from my beloved 14th C) … so:


  12. I love the idea of this! It is hard to give much critique when I can’t really see the details of the dress, though. So mostly, I am rating this for the cloak. I really like the cloak! It looks like it would keep you warm while still looking very regal. I also like the cut and the trim on it. I can’t tell much about the dress, though, but I don’t much care for the look of the large gold buttons with all the other gold accents on that outfit.

    So, 8 I guess!

  13. Gauss says

    It’s hard to see the dress, but I bet it was fabulous. I love the cloak – so beautiful and elegant! It’s a 9 from me.

  14. I love her pink cape! It’s a nice shade, you know how I love fur (and ermine is no exception to that) and–best of all–it covers up that HIDEOUS dress!!! It’s not that I mind the colors (though I wouldn’t have paired them with pink), but the whole shape of the thing is hugely unflattering on her. What kind of a shape is that, anyway? I do like her glittering golden adornments!

    Six out of ten.

Comments are closed.