20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1930s exoticism in orange

Last week’s frock, featuring Margaret, Countess of Tyrol, in a gown that was part fantasy, part contemporary to the 14th century ruler, and part contemporary to the 16th century artwork, evoked some very interesting discussions.  It seemed the more you knew about 14th century fashion, the less you liked the frock and the liberties the 16th century artist took with earlier fashions.  Despite an impressive swathe of 10s, the historical inaccuracies, and the dud of a cape (let’s face it, no-one liked the cape) dragged Margaret down to a respectable but not exactly impressive 7.3 out of 10.

Today’s pick for ‘Rate the Dress’ is an interesting sartorial balance to last week’s frock.  The silhouette (which was generally quite popular last week) is strikingly similar, despite the centuries that separate the garments.  And both frocks owe their exotic flair to the same area of the world: what we today would call the Middle East.  But where Margaret owed her frock’s aesthetic to status and technological limitations, rather than a specific desire to reference exoticism, this week’s frock flaunts its explicitly Orientalist look.  It comes through in the challenging colour scheme which evokes images of  spice bazaars, with mounds of tumeric, saffron and paprika.  Even more obvious is the embroidered and beaded bolero, with motifs taken from Moroccan tile work.

Silk gown with beaded bolero, Germain Monteil, 1930s, sold by Leslie Hindman.com

Silk gown with beaded bolero, Germain Monteil, 1930s, sold by Leslie Hindman.com

What do you think?  Do the orange and red create a delicious frock?  Does the bolero add interest to an otherwise simple gown, or does it look like she’s wearing a bit of a courtyard across her chest?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I like the orange-and-red color scheme, and I love the drape of the fabric. But I’m less sure about how I feel about the Arab-flavored bolero and the extremely modest neckline. I think the bolero is an odd length, and would be more attractive if it was either much shorter (i.e., ended at the top of the breasts) or longer (i.e., extended to the waist or close to it).

    It’s odd enough that I can’t make myself say 8, no matter how I love the drape of the silk and the colors. I’ll say 7, mostly because the dress, though plain without the bolero, would still have that lovely and unusual set of colors.

    • Elise says

      Wouldn’t an ‘Autumn’ like Nichole Kidman or Amy Pond look beautiful in such a dress? But like you, I don’t understand why it would cut off the breasts. I agree: 8/10

  2. By the way, did you ever get around to crunching the numbers for the previous week (the “rose garlanded” evening gown)? I’d really like to know where that came out, ratings-wise.

  3. I like it, even though it isn’t the color palate I am usually drawn to. I only wish the bolero were just a little bit longer… something about the proportion seems off. Not sure I like the circles on the design either, but, well, all in all I rather like this look.


  4. Just gorgeous, though not in my best colours. I would look better in a primarily blue-red. 10/10

  5. !!!
    I want this dress!

    interesting and wonderful accessory

  6. The bolero is really an odd length; I can’t decide if that’s a bad thing and would look better hitting another place as Catherine suggested, or actually a good thing in its unexpectedness.

    The dress and sash themselves I love.


  7. Rebecca says

    I love everything about it! I would wear this all the time.
    It would fit in on the street, at a fancy party, or in a film.
    Great dress!

  8. Mel the Redcap says

    I realise it’s silly to rate dresses primarily by how good I’d look in them (:P) but… well, on anyone with a larger bust that bolero is going to look terrible. I’d give the dress a 10 and the bolero about a 5 (because it’s pretty but damn impractical) which I guess makes my combined score for this ensemble 7.5.

  9. Stefanie says

    I’m in love!
    I think you need a good figure to make the bolero work, but it looks stunning on the mannequin. 9.5!

  10. Susan says

    This would be very striking on a not-very-well-endowed, tall, slender brunette – but I think anyone else would have problems with it.

    Nice drape to the skirt; beautiful pattern in the bolero – but the orange color scheme is notoriously difficult, and the cut of the bolero makes it unwearable, or at best, extremely unbecoming for most people.

    But that flat-chested, willowy brunette would look smashing! So – 9.00 for the brunette; 5.00 for everyone else.

    Change the bolero to hit just below the bust, and I’d up that last number to 7.0.

    Change the color to blues, greens, and silver, along with lowering the bolero, and I’d make it an 8.5.

    • Kathryn says

      Actually, these colours are not just for brunettes! (Unless you count black-haired people as brunettes, which lots of people do.) This would look stunning on someone with brown skin-say, a nice, tall African lady rocking an afro, or someone from the same Middle East that inspired the dress, with her thick, black hair piled on top of her head, and some yellow gold earrings on her ears. What do you think about these colours on a redhead? Beautiful? Too much? I do love me a good discussion on colour. 🙂

      Also, I am as darkly brunette as it gets for a white person, but my skin tone is such that this wouldn’t work to well on me, sadly. Because I adore these colours-sometimes I wear saffron anyway, even though it doesn’t suit me. 🙂

      As for the dress, 8.5. Points lost due to the length of the Bolero.

      • Susan says

        I’d count all the theoretical ladies you describe as brunettes. The African lady would be stunning in this – it might be a bit much for the Middle Eastern lady, but that would depend on the lady herself.

        And yes, I expect brunettes whose skin tone tends more towards sallow than warm might not look well in these colors.

        A redhead….hmm, I hadn’t considered how this dress would look on a redhead – but think it would have to be someone with the deepest of auburn hair, rather than a strawberry blonde, to get away with wearing it. A redhead could have only the slightest sprinkle of freckles, and have very pale skin with no ruddiness, to wear this effectively.

  11. I absolutely love the simple silk gown. The bolero is too much a literal representation of tile work to look like it should be worn. Taken all together, I can only give it 6/10.

  12. Daniel says

    OMG, I’ve never actually seen a Germaine Monteil dress before – and I LIKE it very much. It’s a shame that the dress is not better cut around the armholes as I don’t think you should be able to see it behind the armholes of the bolero. The colouring is fabulous. I love the spiciness and vibrancy of it, and it hangs and flows beautifully. The bolero isn’t exactly subtle, but I really like it as an accessory in itself and am imagining a matching clutch bag to tie it all together.

    8.5/10 from me – it’s not perfect, but I really like it a lot – and I normally dislike orange!

  13. Lynne says

    10 out of 10. Want. Not for myself, but for a tall, slim red-haired younger woman! What a knock-out of an outfit! That bolero is brilliant. The square motifs, the way it comes up to the neckline, the straight line round the bottom make it so stylish. The usual round sort of bolero is okay, but there is the problem of the neckline underneath and the way it relates to the rounded shape – it can easily end up looking like that dreaded thing of my youth, worn over your summer frock if it got cool. This one even manages to be sexy, without exposing a thing. The way the hem of the bolero comes at the nipple line gives it a real charge – higher or lower, it would have been a yoke or a cardi!

  14. holly says

    How extraordinary! This dress is around eighty years old yet it reeks of modernity. It would not look out of place on a red carpet, which goes to show you can look fabulous without needing to bare the flesh (sheer lace panel dresses, I’m looking at you!). So, from me 10/10

  15. Just because I adore 30s silhouettes I want to give this a 10. But I can’t. Because there are a couple of things that get to me – not least of which is my urge to pull it off the dummy and press it properly. Then there’s the orange peeping around the bolero at the shoulder. Admittedly, both of those are probably just down to the display, so in order to not seem that I’ve deducted points just for presentation, I’ll agree with all of those who questioned the bolero length as well. Yes, the 1930s silhouette that I love looks best on girls built like 12 year old boys – which I most definitely am not – but anyone who isn’t making walls jealous with their flatness is going to look at least slightly awkward in this, I think. But it is pretty. And those colours…Gorgeous. 7.5/10

    • Kylie, it is sunburst pleated. Those creases are actual pleats. Pleating doesn’t hold terribly well in silk, and after 80 years they have softened somewhat, but they are meant to be there 🙂

  16. The dress is great, but the bolero finishes in a weird place and I don’t think the circles work (though they would be worse a … bit lower down).


  17. I love it, the bolero actually looks like part of the dress from a distance and I think it lifts it from pleasant to gorgeous. The contrast of the waist tie is genius. I would happily wear that even though the colour doesn’t suit me.

  18. Sue H says

    This is totally gorgeous! Elegant yet playful. 10/10

  19. Lisa says

    Love the colour combination and the sweep and fall of the skirt. The bolero? Not so much. Agree with all of the above comments re fit of the bolero, it looks far too heavy for the silk dress and ‘plonked’ on top. If the bolero fabric were extended into a long coat of some sort, it would work so much better. 10/10 for dress sans bolero, 6/10 for entire ensemble.

  20. Zach says

    This one is very pretty! There’s something there that I don’t love, but I’m not sure what that is. I feel like if you messed with it too much, it would ruin the appeal it has, you know? I love the colors and the Middle Eastern influence.

    Soooo… Nine out of ten!

  21. fidelio says

    The dress itself is wonderfully cut, and the colors work so brilliantly together–the black from the bolero might help keep the orange from being too much of a challenge. I can see this being made with someone specific in mind.

    But then there’s that bolero–between the odd length, the neckline, and the problem with the armhole, I wonder if a customer didn’t show up with the bolero as a souvenir from a trip and have the dress built to go with it, or if Monteil didn’t drag it back home herself and go to work with it as her starting point. it would explain a lot…

    8/10 because that cut! those colors! that contrast! that slight off-note!

  22. Love it! Could never have worn it, even when I was young, and I think the bolero would look dreadful worn by anyone but the most willow-y of figures, but oh, that slinky drape, and that sash in a colour I’d never have dared put with orange! I do quite like the bolero (I’ve always loved that sort of work) but I agree with Lisa that a long coat would have been better – in fact, it would look utterly sumptuous! 9/10

  23. Brenda says

    For the most part, I love how exotic the dress is and the bright colors. However, the bolero and the red sash just don’t work together. One of them has to go. Also, the bolero, while it goes splendidly with the orange, is a bit too short and I would have liked it a lot more if it were longer.


  24. Lylassandra says

    I usually hate orange, but wow! Stunning! The beading drops a little low on the bust for my taste, but I’ll give it 9/10.

  25. karenb says

    I dont love it at all. bolero odd length and a bit like cushion fabric.
    Dress too clingy. Wouldn’t be able to eat anything before wearing it.

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