18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: the Chocolate Girl of the 1740s

Last week there was no Rate the Dress, as I rated the Oscars, and the week before that we looked at the creme de la creme of elitist historical costuming: a precious metal trimmed suit worn to a royal wedding (which, despite the baggy britches, managed an 8.2 out of 10 – must be all that gilding and glitz!).

This week we’re on quite a different track.  The Historical Sew Fortnightly theme is Peasants & Pioneers, and we’re celebrating the lower classes, and their attire.  A very famous example is Liotard’s The Chocolate Girl, in mid-18th century servant or shopgirl attire.

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702—1789),La Belle Chocolatière (The Chocolate Girl), 1743 until 1745

Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702—1789), La Belle Chocolatière (The Chocolate Girl), 1743 until 1745

Liotard’s server is clad for practicality, not aesthetic, in her voluminous apron and subdued jacket and skirt, but her frilly pink hat lends an air of rococo gaiety to the ensemble.  Or perhaps it detracts from the elegant simplicity.  What do you think?

Rate the Dress on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. 10/10. I love everything about it. The colors, skirt shape, the cuffs and the peplum. Lower class at it’s best.

  2. 9/10.

    This is super nit-picky and not necessarily historically-inappropriate, but the white on white of the fichu and apron results in an odd shape on the bodice. Since white was the most common color of both, it is appropriate for the painting, but as an ensemble to wear, I would want to see if I could tweak that just a bit to make the collision of the two have contrast.

    Otherwise, I love it all, even the frilly pink hat.

  3. Daniel says

    I love the shape and proportions, but not so wild about the colour combination. No objection to the mustard jacket and pewter skirt – lovely and striking combination, but not sure the pretty pink cap goes with the yellow. So I will say 7.5/10 as the colours just don’t work for me and there’s not really much to go by detail/design wise, apart from excellent proportions and a very pleasing practicality. You could indeed, almost wear the jacket and petticoat in a modern context today.

  4. 10/10 – she’s quite fashion forward for her status. I think the fichu/apron problem is mainly cos she’s seen here in profile

  5. Madison says

    9/10 – I absolutely love this dress, the shape is fantastic, and the jacket is just perfect, it’s on the top of my “want to make” list. I love the hint of the pleated tail at the back, and the large cuffs on the sleeves, it’s simple, but not boring. I don’t love the colour, however, and I really dislike her bonnet.

  6. Genie says

    I love it. She’s so well groomed, and her personality comes out in her cap. 9.5/10

  7. Lynne says

    She is an up-market shop girl, isn’t she? Look at her smart little shoes!

    Love the whole outfit – even the pink headgear. I would never have thought to put that gorgeous dark yellow/ochre colour with a steely grey. Makes them both look amazing. And all that lovely white. Looks so clean and fresh.

    The jacket is such a pretty shape, and so practical as well. Firm around the body, but allowing some freedom around the shoulders and the elbows. A good sleeve length for keeping clean when working. And women wore skirts like that for centuries. Apart from the annoyance of getting your hems dirty, it must have been easy to wear.

    10 out of 10. For clear, simple style and wonderful colour.

  8. I think it’s beautiful; I’d love to wear a costume like it. The shaping of the jacket is splendid. Without the big (functional) apron, it would be extremely pretty.

    As for the cap, I personally would prefer an all-white one, but the pink one can work. It would work better if the skirt were red (see other skirt comments below).

    The only possible defect is the drab gray/green/black of the skirt. If the skirt were a dark red, or even a brown, the effect would be marvellous. 9.5 out of 10.

  9. 10/10, for sure. I actually love the pink with the mustard and steely blue-grey. She looks like a servant, but she saves for pretty things like her cap, and wears it proudly.

  10. I adore everything about this outfit–except for the pink cap. I like the idea that others have put forth, that it is her showing her personality. I just personally can’t stand the pale pink against the rich, beautiful mustard and blue. (I never actually like that color… I’m very picky about my pinks. More of a blue girl.)
    As for the rest of the outfit, I love what I can see of the construction of the jacket (magnificent cuffs and pleats!), and that steely blue is one of my all-time favorite colors. Add in the crisp white of the beautifully draped apron and fichu–perfection! Funnily enough, I had just been planning an 18th C outfit with a yellow jacket and blue skirt… I’d better get on that, perhaps I should tack this up as inspiration 🙂

    Since the cap makes me feel a little nauseous, I’ll knock my score down to a 9/10. Gorgeous outfit, though!

    • Elise says

      Yes yes. I also choose 9/10. It’s beautiful on it’s own, but not with the other colors.

  11. Kim says

    One of my favorites as well. Hopefully I won’t sound like a pompous art critic if I say there is something that is restful and yet at the same time dynamic about the proportions and colors and how they are distributed. Maybe it is the slight sheen of the black skirt working with the crisp white of the apron. The mustard color keeps it from being boring. The 1740’s are one of my favorite time periods for clothes. 10/10.

    • I’m pretty sure her skirt isn’t black – it would have been a very expensive colour to dye in the 1740s.

      • It could have been a faded black, though. She might have gotten it as a hand-me-down from a wealthy employer. I don’t know if there was much of a used clothing market in the 18th c (there was a substantial one in the 19th).

  12. Zach says

    Isn’t she darling! She’s very fresh looking, and I love her outfit-especially her little shoe peaking out from her skirt! The only thing I’m not crazy about is her pink cap. I think I could have stood that number of colors, had they all been in the same color region. I love everything else about it, though. It’s cute!

    Nine out of ten.

  13. 8/10

    The pink cap doesn’t really go with the mustard jacket, and the apron and fichu thing does look a bit odd. Other than that, I love it. It’s pretty and practical at the same time.

  14. I really, really hate that hat, but I adore the rest of her outfit. 9.5/10

  15. 9.5/10, only because the pink hat seems a bit incongruous. I love the skirt and jacket, though, and the apron and fichu are so crisp. There is a part of me that wants to dress like this every day.

  16. This is one of my favorite paintings of 18th c. dress, and her outfit is one of my costuming goals. I love the color combination just because of how it shows that the lower classes would wear their nicer clothing items regardless of how well they matched everything else in their wardrobe. They didn’t have the money for a series of ‘best’ bonnets that would go with a variety of outfits. It shows her ingenuity and yet concern for looking fashionable for those she’s serving. Another thought could be that maybe the cap was a hand-me-down from her mistress, and that’s why she didn’t have much choice in the color. After all, it was common for the wealthy to give their unused clothing to their servants. I love going on about possible backgrounds of the characters in paintings. It’s like solving a mystery.

    My only heart ache about possibly making this costume is that, unfortunately, my summer coloring gets completely washed out by such an autumnal mustard yellow. Otherwise, I’d go all out with this outfit.

    I would LOVE to wear that jacket as ‘everyday’ clothes. It would look lovely with jeans or a pencil skirt or even Dior’s ‘new look’, etc. Similar to Emma Stone’s jacket here:


    Pardon the gossip website source. I couldn’t find this picture anywhere non-gossipy. 🙂

    Anyway, back to the painting. I love how clean and crisp everything is. The white fichu and apron I think look funky due to the profile shot, similar to what some of the other commenters were saying. I love all of the colors, and find the pink cap charming. Her feet aren’t proportional to the rest of her body, which bothers me more than the pink cap. Ha! However, I think that’s just taking artistic license by painting the ideal of the era. I love how you can still see the folds in her apron, and how massively practical her apron is. It’s a nice contrast with her very unpractical shoes, which show a certain level of fastidiousness. She probably doesn’t like getting her clothes dirty, which is why the apron would be so large. This avoidance of soiling her clothes comes from her being very concerned about being the fashion ideal of the era, which would explain the shoes and cap.

    It is kind of reminiscent of another servant painting where the maid is in the kitchens and yet is wearing a frilly shot silk petticoat and high heeled slippers.

    All in all, 10 out of 10.

    • Elise says

      Or someone driving a beat-up car and wearing a cheap tank-top while carrying a Louis-Vuitton purse!

  17. I love the whole ensemble. If you look at where these colors fall on a color wheel, the balance is amazing. I look horrible in any yellow and this mustard yellow, in particular, but the ample, bright-white fichu, would separate my face from the yellow enough for me to wear it. I’d make and wear the entire outfit, as is, because it’s an accurate representation of period tastes (and the jacket is absolutely to die for). I really love the pink cap, it restores the pink to her face that the yellow and white might have drained from it. I adore the lace overlay and frill on the cap brim, and the pale blue ribbon around it is so sweet.

    This one gets a full 10/10 from me, an 11/10 if it’s allowed.

  18. This is perfection, except for the pink hat. Any other color… But otherwise I love it.


  19. 9/10
    I love how simple and practical the majority of the garments are. But then she has this pink hat. To me that’s like she saved up her money to get something pretty, then wants to wear it regardless of what she’s wearing just to show she can afford that.


  20. I don’t mind the pink cap, but I really don’t like that pink with the mustard jacket. Apart from that, I love it. She’s so elegant, and well dressed, and she’s proud of it. I love how she’s so dignified and stylish, even though she’s not wealthy. 9/10.

  21. Amie says

    I love this, the soft drap of her collar, the apron, sleeves, The back of the jacket. Part of why I think I like this so much is the mystery of it all. Why is that hat on her head? Was is because the painter wanted it, or her choice? How did it come to the young. Lader, is it. Even hers or is it borrowed? As usual, I am over thinking things. But this depiction of a working class miss is wonderful. Her skin is luminous. And I have no problems with the colors of her various cloths. Thanks for this rate the dress. 10/10

  22. fidelio says

    I have always loved this girl, and her chic little get-up. Even with the bonnet that doesn’t go with anything else she’s wearing.

    I wonder if it was a present from an admirer?

    9.5/10. Because that cap just doens’t quite go with the jacket.

  23. ewa says


    The pink cap is too much, but otherwise the colors and the cut of the outfit make it an elegant working ensemble.

  24. I like the jacket/skirt/apron combo. Even though the pink cap doesn’t “go” with the mustard/charcoal, I personally think pink should be allowed a free pass to be added to any outfit. 10/10.

  25. fidelio says

    Looking at this again, I thought I’d mention that on my monitor, the jacket has an orangey tinge, and the skirt tends to be a sort of dark French blue–my monitor is not anyone else’s monitor, nor is my monitor correct, and I’d want to look at the original in person, but I wonder if those are the correct colors if we’re not getting a sort of complementary colors effect, which always makes for striking contrasts.

  26. Sineuve says

    I love this painting and the elegance of the outfit.
    It totally deserves all 10/10.

    Ok, I don’t care for the cap much either, but I don’t think a simple white one would have made for such a popular painting. It adds so much interest!

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