20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1930s rainbow stripes

Wow.  I really never do know what you guys with think of a frock!  I post the most saccharinely sweet 1850s dress, and you like it, because you like the period, and then I post a fringe covered 1850s dress that almost makes me like fringe (and that’s saying a lot), and your reaction….well!  Elise called it “…what my spiritual ancestress would have worn in the 19th century to campaign for gay civil rights”, but the overall concensus was piñata.  Poor piñata frock took a hit at (OK, I haven’t managed to add up the scores yet, but I know it’s under 7 out of 10).

Update: Oh wow.  7 out of 10 was way ambitious.  The final tally: 4.5 out of 10.  The piñata is busted.

This week I’m sticking with the rainbow stripes for our striped theme.  This is Elizabeth Hawes’ 1937 “Alimony” dress, in all its circle skirted fuschia and teal and lime and lemon and ochre and mallard and pumpkin and gold and white striped glory.

Alimony dress, Elizabeth Hawes (American, 1903—1971), 1937, American, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alimony dress, Elizabeth Hawes (American, 1903—1971), 1937, American, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

To tone it down, and for chilly evenings, the dress gets worn with a muted burnouse inspired cape (yay!  Burnouses!  ) with a cleverly coordinated tassel.

"Alimony" dress worn with "Misadventure" cape, Elizabeth Hawes (American, 1903—1971), 1937, American, silk, wool, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Alimony” dress worn with “Misadventure” cape, Elizabeth Hawes (American, 1903—1971), 1937, American, silk, wool, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’ve just realised this is the first Elizabeth Hawes dress I have ever posted as a ‘Rate the Dress’, and I am astonished at the oversight.  I wonder if you like it?  It does have some design elements in common with the zig-zag 1942 Worth frock I posted which you weren’t so fond of.  And it has a lot of the same bright colours and striped going vertically and horizontally (and diagonally) that you thought were daft last week.  But it’s quite a different dress.  Will that make all the difference?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. 10!!! It is like my version of heaven with all of those delicious colors and stripes. The capelet is a fabulous addition, and I love the shaping on the belt so much.

  2. Daniel says

    LOVE IT!!! TEN OUT OF TEN. Elizabeth Hawes is one of my design heroines (and one of my real-life heroes too, I would so have loved to have met her and have had a good chat about all the things she thought and did and said. Such a fascinating person.)

    But yes. The stripes! The vibrancy just makes me happy. Festival colours, absolute happiness, absolute ease – just looks so comfortable and easy to wear and so much darned fun. And the way the colours are all picked up in the threads in the tassel on the Misadventure cape? TOTAL COMPLETE UTTER ADORE. This is such a party frock, you just imagine someone leaping into the air and spinning round and round and just generally going for a madcap, jolly gay spinning dance around the room, and I love it, I love it, I love it.

  3. I love, love the way the front of the skirt is gathered and how the stripes swoop down.

    If you described this dress to me I would definitely say I didn’t like it. But in execution I think it’s beautiful! 9/10. Losing a point because high necklines make me feel a little like I’m choking.

  4. Sue H says

    I kinda love it, but it, literally, gives me a headache to look at! Pure audacity! 9.5/10

  5. That’s a 10. Amazing fabric, great cut, and it looks like it would look nice on real-life bodies not just a fashionable 1930s stick figure. Love the way the stripes are positioned so carefully all over the dress. I kind of want one.

    • Elise says

      Yes–at first I didn’t like the stripes. I’m a small-chested lass, and the bodice does nothing for me. But then I thought of ladies with curves, and how lovely this would have looked.

      It sort of reminds me of people who are about to go on a diet–one last boozey chocolately hurrah before asceticism. As much as I love the entre-guerre period, the knowledge of WWII keeps me from really getting enjoyment out of any of it. Looking at the date, 1937, everybody already knew that all sorts of awful things were already happening, so we may as well have a big party before we have to run for cover!

      Oh, 9/10

      • See, I disagree about the cut of the bodice. As a small chested lass myself, that cut of that bodice is fantastic on me. I think it’s both a preference of taste in how you want your body to look, your overall proportions in respect to your chest, and getting that cut exactly right.

        • Elise says

          True. I’m pear-shaped, so I like things that show off the chest and clavicle. So…bias. Right. You bring up a good point of body proportions and cut.

  6. ewa says

    I must say I liked the dress from the previous week better. I don’t think I like the use of a striped fabric in a circle skirt (bias cut is a completely different story!). It’s just too much. The colors aren’t bad, though. I would give this dress a 6.

  7. This makes the 1850s striped gown look conservative. The silhouette is simple, elegant, maybe even a bit dull… but the colors! Agghh! My eyes!
    Sorry, I can’t get past how jarring those color contrasts are. 4 of 10, if only because this isn’t as bad as the dress that looked as though it had weeds growing out of it.

  8. This dress makes my inner 5 year old very happy. However, my inner 5 year old also wants a care bear somewhere in the picture so….7 out of 10.

  9. This dress makes my inner 5 year old very happy. However, my inner 5 year old also wants a care bear in the picture so….7 out of 10.

  10. I actually like this one. Maybe I like these colors better? I also like the way the stripes are used on this dress. My only complaint is that it is too long. I think if it were a shorter dress it would be perfection, but I think the length of the skirt is just a little too much of the stripes. But the stripe matching is perfection, so I give it a bonus point for that.


  11. The way the stripes are handled in the belt and skirt reminds me of the Folkwear “Edwardian Wedding Dress” pattern which I’ve always found to be remarkably flattering. Perhaps because it is grey and rainy and bare-branched outside here, the profusion of color is a relief. 7/10

  12. I love it, but I think my 5 year-old daughter would love it more. 9/10 from me since she’s at school right now and can’t demand that I rate it higher.

  13. 7/10 I love the whole idea and construction/pattern/whatever, but the colours… the colours are those colours that follow the black and white and basic reds and blues in Microsoft Paint, if you know what I’m talking about. (Seriously! Microsoft, did you take your colour cues from Elizabeth Hawes?) The sort of colours I worked with when I could not get more in my computer, and that was a long time ago. I’m glad I have more now, and I do not want to go back.

  14. Caroline says

    Ughh I hate it! The dress is awful and the fabric is awful and it looks so unflattering! I love the 30s including all of the outrageous puffs and the ruffles but I can’t stand this! 0/10

  15. Yuck. I like the cut of the skirt, but the bodice is a bit blah and the fabric is hideous. Too bright, too garish, too many colours that don’t go together. My verdict: tacky hippie maxi dress – 1/10.

  16. Mel the Redcap says

    That… that is FREAKY COOL and I love it! The shape and construction are beautiful, and while part of me wants to sniff at the colours, I have to admit that my best friend would take one look at it and say “That’s a Mel dress”. And she’d be right.

    I would wear this. 😉 9.5/10

  17. Kathryn says

    Longtime Rate-the-Dress lurker, first time Rate-the-Dress commenter. This one brought me out of the ether because I think it’s my favourite of all the dresses I’ve seen you post. The colours, the shape, the stripes, everything about it is AWESOME. TEN.

    • Kathryn says

      Also, since discovering your site, I have been re-thinking my feelings towards 1930’s styles. This cinches it-I am a total convert. The 1930’s yielded some stunning dress, for men and women! Thanks for selling me! 🙂

      • You’re welcome! I do think the 1930s was a much more diverse decade than most people realise, and I love showing the range of styles. Glad you are loving some of them and have come around!

        And welcome to commenting! It’s always great to have new voices and opinions!

  18. Love it! The matching of the stripes is superb, and the neckline detail and shaped belt really add to the overall look. And the cape is fabulous as well.

    Oh, and the fabric in close-up is just brilliant.


  19. Maediya says

    This deckchair looking dress doesn’t scream evening gown to me. It seems too long and would be much better with a shorter skirt..something fun rather than costumish.


  20. Lynne says

    I’m sorry, but the colours cause pain. The frock is pleasant enough, but the colours!

    3 out of 10.

    • Lynne says

      Just spotted the tassel on the little burnous! Love it – the way it uses all the colours without the agony of the dress. The tassel deserves extra points.

  21. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the two sides don’t fall evenly toward the centre front. Aside from that I love it! 9/10

  22. Tenshi says

    No, just no.
    Then again, I love the use of the stripes. The design itself is really striking and beautiful, with the stripes creating such graceful flowing lines along the skirt. I imagine it must have looked very elegant in motion.
    But the colours are horrible, horrible, horrible. They look like a 70’ies LSD trip, and not in a good way (if there is a good way for looking like an LSD trip).
    Oh, if only it wasn’t in such childlike primary colours….

    • Primary? I’m not seeing much true red, blue and yellow there at all. If anything, it is mostly secondary colours, and variations of them.

  23. Claire Payne says

    I love the shape, the drape and even the colours (all of them!) The simplicity of the lines allow the vibrance of the colour to shine. I also love the 1930’s so 10 out of 10 from me.

  24. Hm. I like that pattern– daring for the 30’s– but the form/cut of the dress itself is just really bland to me. Maybe it would look better on a human body instead of a plaster mannequin, though; I think mannequins rarely do delicate silk clothes justice.

  25. Rebecca says

    10/10! I love the fabric and the colors and the cut. I would wear this!

  26. Definitely a 10 for me, so evocative of that mad 30s ‘the sky is falling ‘ pre war era where everyone was ignoring Henny Penny!

  27. I love the colours in this dress, the style and drape and the way the stripes change on the belt. The cape just finishes it off. 10 out of 10 from me!

  28. Madcap happy dress. Love. It’s like a super rainbow candy cane, but in a good way! Walk into a room in this, and you alter the mood of everyone. 9.5.
    (I know, leaving off half a point because its still not my perfect 10, I know she’s out there somewhere…)

  29. Abigail says

    I’d give it an 9. If it was summertime at the beach and I was feeling daring, I would totally wear it. I hate the colors by themselves, but somehow just looking at the stripes and everything puts me in a summery-beachy-good mood! And I love the cape!

  30. MJ Ruisi says

    as someone who generally enjoys the Rate a Dress as a viewer….WOW!!!!!!!! 10! I’d Imagine this looking fantastic on just about anyone….and who wouldn’t feel positively smashing in it!

  31. Zach says

    My, how colorful! I’d imagine it must have been worn by an equally colorful woman. While there is a bit more in the variety of them than I am usually attracted to, I think all of the colors work nicely together. The cut is really nice, too. Also, that cape is perfect.

    Nine out of ten.

    (I actually have no idea who the designer is. There really aren’t that many I do know, to be honest!)

  32. I’m going to be difficult and give it a 5, and that high only because I like the shape overall. Plus a full point for the cape. (Misadventure cape? Yes, please!)

    The rest of the dress resembles the nightmarish fever-visions of criminally insane clowns. I keep blinking and yet the stripes refuse to remain still.

    So yes. 5 for the hypno-dress. I’m going to go make a drink and try to stop looking at it, now.

  33. This isn’t the sort of thing I normally like (I love neutrals) but I love this! The colours are so bright that this wouldn’t work at all with a more fussy 30’s silhouette, but the lines are so simple that it works really well. I would totally wear this if it was a bit shorter, maybe a few inches below the knee. I suppose that is my one complaint about the dress, it seems very casual and I tend to associate floor length dresses dating after the 1920s as being formal. Otherwise I really like this!


  34. Christine says


    Very much an Amazing Technicolor Dream Dress!

    “It’s red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and blue!”
    — “Joseph’s Coat” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”

  35. Well, that’s a thing. I love the way the stripes are handled on the skirt, and the bodice doesn’t do anything to lessen the effect. The colours though. They make me wince but the more I look I can’t imagine any other colourway.

    But, yeah, Alimony dress. This is a dress for a woman well free of her parents, no longer encumbered with a dreary husband, with a well stocked bank account in her own name, and ready to kick up her heels. Time to sling on the Misadventure cape and see what’s out there…

    8/10 for the brilliant names.

  36. I love it, of course. Love the colours. 8/10. I loved last week’s dress SO much more, so I can’t give it any higher score. In case anyone is keeping track… 😉

  37. I would totally wear that! It’s such a happy dress, and I love how the stripes follow the shape of the waistband. 9 for me!

    I don’t really understand the cape and tassel. Maybe on a person, but it’s a bit hard for me to visualise with the mannequin.

  38. Jane says

    Love it from afar and love it even more after visiting the Met site and zooming in to discover the motif woven into the fabric and the keyhole neckline. If it was knee length I would wear the hell out of it. 9/10

  39. Sabrina says

    Totally wild and way ahead of its time. This looks like a 70s maxi dress in terms of colours. 10 from me.

  40. I love it a lot, the colors are cheerfull, the stripes always seem to go in the right direction, just great 😀 I’m not sure how much I like the cape with it, the color seems just a tad off, maybe it should have been a color that coördinated with the dress.

    Anyway, 10 for the dress anyway becaus it’s fabulous!

  41. I usually only lurk here because I don’t sew any more, but I had to surface to say this is glorious! I love the shape – I’d have a calf-length version in black for everyday and wear the long coloured one on feast days, and have the burnouse with both (or maybe a black one with the same sort of tassel for everyday). Anyway, I’m going to be happily fantasizing about it for weeks.
    It also seems absolutely timeless. There’s hardly a period since it was made when you couldn’t have worn it as an evening dress – well, I would have, anyway, I had one rather that shape in the 70s. 10/10, and thank you for the sheer joy of looking at it!

  42. Belinda says

    The only thing that I don’t like about it are the sleeves. They’re a bit ‘meh’. But then again, I only noticed them on a second scroll-through, the way the stripes fall on the skirt is so fabulously… well, fabulous! 8/10!

  43. A 9 from me. Missing a point because I think the cape (though I love the name) just kills it. It sort of cuts the outfit in half. The tassel doesn’t quite save it enough.

  44. The bias cut, the flowy skirt, the COLORS… *swoon* I adore this one! I could just imagine it catching everyone’s eye as you walk past with this skirt flowing around you… 10/10

  45. I both hate it and like it. Because of the poorly chosen colors, the pattern looks like something you’d see on an african-mumu-type-thing. The silhouette on the other hand is charming.

    • Oh whoops! I commented twice 😛 The comment form wasn’t loading properly after I hit the “publish” button, so I just went ahead and commented again… 😛 You can delete one of my comments if you’d like, as I said pretty much the same thing in both of them.

  46. karenb says

    love it…colours just the right shades and I would love to see someone swirling around in it. swirling? twirling?


  47. Elizabeth says

    I love the skirt completely, and I like the general silhouette, but that bodice is just unattractive imo. A combination of those stripes and that design just shouldn’t mix.
    So 7/10

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