Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Pierre Balmain does ostrich feathers

Last week most of you loved the 1840s gown remade from 1740s fabric – the colour, the frugality, and the nod to 18th century details all struck a chord with you, and the dress came in an impressive 8.9 out of 10.  Personally, while I thought the fabric and colour divine, and the silhouette lovely, the white detailing was too stark and cartoon like for my taste, and my score wouldn’t have been nearly so high, but that’s alright: different opinions are what make the world interesting!

I couldn’t find another UFO garment to show you for this week’s Rate the Dress, so instead I’m showing you a UFRTD – I started this Rate the Dress, back when I was making Carolyn’s wedding dress and had ostrich feathers on the mind.  Somehow it was never the right time to post it, and so it lingered as a draft.  Time to have one less draft!

Feathered frocks have had mixed reviews in the past.  Victorian marabou was popular in white, not so much in teal.  Feather prints did OK, but not fabulously.  Will this dress raise or lower the total score?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. Sue H says

    Feathers are jewel equivalents. I feel they don’t go with jewels in this particular way. The lines of the dress are good, and it is interesting, but blech! 5/10

  2. Don’t care for this dress, although I might like it better if the ornament were limited to the silver embroidery.

    The feathers make it look as if the breasts had exploded — eye-catching, maybe, but not in a desirable way.

    3 out of 10

    • I second all you said, except my rating is rather 5/10, because the fabric and embroidery/whatever is lovely, and I would very much love this except for the feathers.
      They look rather randomly attached, not in a good way – they don’t have enough substance to make it an interesting assymetrical look. More feathers on the skirt and less on the bodice, perhaps?

  3. I love that!!! I think using feathers on gowns is an awsome idea, and the jeweled accents are to-die-for! I especially love the way they have be-jeweled the spines of the feathers. It’s also interesting the way they’ve put the wait together. If it had been me, I would have put feathers and jewels all over the dress, not just down to the upper half of the skirt, but it’s still pretty. I also might have trimmed the edges of the feathers at the bust a little. I’d love to make it one day… This is acutally one of my favorite Rate the Dresses ever!

    Ten out of Ten!!!

  4. Sarah says

    Hmmmm, I wanted to love this, I really did! The bling is gorgeous, but is it me or do the feathers make it look sort of messy? Like the seams have exploded!! I agree with Cyranetta on that. Will give it a five for the sparkles! Thank you, lovely Dreamstress for giving us something to ponder over on this cold and snowy day in the UK!

  5. Tenshi says

    I love this in its over-the-top femininity. I like the exploding dress and the feather embroidery combined with the actual feathers – maybe it’s an obvious, but still a pretty nifty design element. White and silver make it look like an ice princess dress, which always is a desirable look in my book, so its a winner all around. I don’t even think the feathers on the bust would be unflattering, because I imagine them to move softly with every step and breath, giving it an ethereal quality. Love.

  6. Need more feathers. Like a train or a boa of these feathers. If Vegas showgirls and Brazil Carnival dancers can cover themselves in feathers then this dress can get the some treatment.


  7. Without the feathers this dress would have been an absolute 10 for me. However, while I generally do find the application of ostrich feathers appealing, in this case it looks like they were stuck on so randomly that I just can’t get behind it. It looks like the dress is molting. The crystal details are lovely, but the feathers just ruin it for me.


  8. I don’t think this is a debutante dress. Despite it being white, I suspect that anyone with the least little hint of demureness or uncertainty would end up being eaten by it. This is far more a red-carpet dress, to be worn with supreme confidence.

    I like it. I think the feathers would move in an interesting way with the wearer and also with any slight breeze there might be. Without the feathers, with just the silver bling, I think it would be quite ordinary.

    9.5, though, 1/2 off because I suspect there might be the possibility of tickling round the armpit region.

    • Well, according to the V&A, it wouldn’t have been just a debutant dress, but a debutant presentation gown, and when you are making your bow to the monarch or celebrating it with a ball after a bit of extra grandeur would be fitting. There would also be a lovely link between the prerequisite ostrich feathers in hair for the curtsey and the ostrich feathers on the dress.

    • Carolyn says

      Ha! I was thinking the exact same thing about tickling at the underarms! lol I think it’s super lovely otherwise with just the right amount of pizaazz. I also give it 9.5, I’d totally wear it – maybe with a break in the feathers at ticklish areas.

      I wonder if the ‘debutante’ issue is one of perception between a British vs American context. My immediate association to ‘debutante’ is American (even though I’m Canadian), and those are typically supposed to be on the demure side (I think?). When you, Dreamstress, indicated it was a British court presentation dress, it seemed a lot more appropriate.

  9. I wonder what the dress looks like in motion. Between the glint of the jewels and the feathers swaying, I imagine it would be almost ethereal. It doesn’t really strike me as a debutant gown, because I usually think of debutants as being younger with a more naive look than this dress gives off. As an evening gown, though, it would be spectacular. 10/10

  10. Roxanne says

    Oh…my…so pretty and love the over the top effect. 10/10

  11. Lynne says

    I agree with Sarah and Cari – it is not really the right thing for a debutante dress. Too much, even if it is white and silver. And I agree with Sarah about the fluff in the armpit region, as well.

    I do have some reservations about feathers, too. Some of them don’t involve the death of the bird (peacocks), but some do.

    But it is stunning. The line, the embroidery, the sheer confidence of the whole dress. 8 out of 10.

    • That’s one hell of a dress, it’s beautiful and flowing. I wonder how the designer made those flutings. Lovely.

  12. Cheyene says

    I love it! I always liked this dress a lot.
    It’d be ridiculous and a pain to wear, I think, and I’d worry about ruining the feathers, but it’s too pretty! 🙂 I love ostrich feathers, too.


  13. Ugh. The basic outline is very ordinary, but the ornamentation! It looks like one of those art class collages where the child is invited to glue glitter and other ornaments randomly onto pieces of construction paper. To make matters worse, the way the feathers are mounted makes them look as though they are moulting. A 3, because this isn’t quite ugly enough to fight its way to the bottom of the scrap heap, but it’s going in that direction all the same.

  14. Daniel says

    8/10. I like it a lot, but I don’t love it. It is actually so much prettier in person though – currently on display in the V&A – and in person it is a really beautiful dress. Very ethereal and floating and dreamy.

      • Daniel says

        I would have thought that when this dress was made the official British Presentations would have been coming to a close. I’ve looked at a number of designs for debutante dresses from the very late 1930s and I can see how this would have carried on from them. (think My Big Fat Greek Court Presentation…. we are talking MASSIVE crinolines, mile long trains, gi-normous three-dimensional embellishments, ruffles out the kazoo……) But yes, I can see this being a Court presentation gown for its period, although I don’t know whether they would have still had to wear ubertrains after the War (I suspect maybe not, due to persistent fabric shortages.)

  15. 7/10 for me, love the lines and the colour; just that feather on top of the bodice doesn’t work. I can feel it tickling and I’m not even wearing it!

  16. I really like this dress. I love the idea of having sewn sequin feathers and real ones with the centres jazzed up. A real mixture of textures and bling. I’d love to wear it to a winter ball. Only thing I have against it is that I think the back of the bodice looks a bit messy. My score 9 out of 10 🙂

  17. It’s daring and lovely. I give it 10 out of 10. I actually like how the feathers are not only sewn on, but adorned on top of that.


  18. I love the feathers. I think it’s a very soft look, especially along the neckline. I also like the interesting curves it gives because of the spines. I would totally wear it.. if I had someplace to wear it to.


  19. I kind of like it from the front. From the back, I’m less sure about it. Something about the colour and the feathers makes it look to me like it’s moulting little shaggy tufts of feather. I suspect this is related to the colour, because it reminds me of something covered in dust. To me, the overall effect is sad.

    5/10. I like the theory, but I’m not crazy about the execution.

  20. missjoidevivre says

    I, unsurprisingly, love it. I love how they’ve added feathers, then embellished those as well. I would love to wear something with a similar treatment. But I’m not sure about the mammary feathers. They do look a bit exploded

  21. missjoidevivre says

    I, unsurprisingly, love it. I love how they’ve added feathers, then embellished those as well. I would love to wear something with a similar treatment. But I’m not sure about the mammary feathers. They do look a bit exploded

  22. missjoidevivre says

    Stupid touch screens on phones while on buses. Wasn’t aiming for the submit button. No idea how it did it twice. Was going to say it looks a bit explodey but would undoubtedly move beautifully on a person. 9.5 for explodey boob feathers.

  23. Claire Payne says

    I recently watched my first Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film ‘Top Hat’ and in it Ginger dances in a gown covered in feathers. Much plumage was lost during rehearsals to the vexation of Fred so with a total disregard for practicality, I will give this 10 out of 10 for the sheer glamour of it all. I love 1950’s frocks. Go Mr. Balmain.

  24. Terrible, just terrible! I like the silhouette, and the glitter, but the ostrich feathers, TERRIBLE!!! 3 out of 10.

  25. I saw this when I went to the V&A a couple of months ago. I quite liked it, feathers and all, but looking at the images, and at the photos I took, the waistline really bothers me. There doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to carry the lines of the feathers over from the bodice to the skirt, just two parts rather arbitrarily plonked together.

    Could do better. 5/10

    • I read the museum notes after commenting – they say that the dress has been extensively modified at the waist, which could explain the mishmash hapenning there.

  26. I have to admire the wonderful application of that feather on the top of the bodice. That’s excellent construction, getting the thing to shape as well as it does. However, despite this, it just doesn’t quite work. Just too much fuzz stuck around there. Great needlework, trying to make a less than perfect idea look better that it really should. 5 of 10.

  27. The details are nice up close, but when you look at the whole dress, the feathers make the silhouette all awkward and lumpy. I don’t like the cut either, the waist is too high and straight.

    5/10 It should be gorgeous, but it’s not.

  28. Lene H says

    Love the feathers on the skirt, but not so much those on the bust – that’s a bit too much. Would only work if you were almost totally flat in front.

    Like the combination of embroidery and feathers very much, the lines are about what I would expect, so no hight marks there.

    all in all 6.5 out of 10

  29. 10/10
    I love it! I don’t know what else to say, but it’s wonderfully extravagant.

  30. This dress. Be still my heart! I love it. I would normally agree that to have both jewels (especially in shapes) and feathers would just be too much on the same gown buuuut…something about how this is all put together makes me swoon. I want it on my body right now so I’m giving it 10/10. I’d go higher though if I could 🙂 I love this hyper-feminine dress.

  31. I am actually enchanted with this garment. The literal and stylized interpretation of the feathers is a rather empathic statement. High fashion is art and art does not often play by rules of practicality–it’s art! It is a labor of love. While sure it has a bit of construction issues with the waist or practicality of feathers on the bust, just imagine how much fun this would be to wear! The real feathers add a bit of a festive and lightheartedness to the ensemble. I cannot imagine a dower or surly lady wearing this. Now, I am not a fan of white dresses, skirts, or pants of any kind on a purely practical level, but I do believe if I were to ever don this frock, I would twirl with glee and giggle like a toddler. 8 out of 10 for me!

  32. Angela Wicentowich says

    I quite like this dress feathers and all. My only reservation to loving this dress is that it’s white. I would love it in some fantastic colour of the rainbow! 8/10

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