20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Paquin’s pale flower

I’ll be perfectly honest with you.  I was NOT expecting you, on the whole, to like last week’s Rate the Dress.  I thought all of you would be calling curtains and poof and froof and Miss Havisham.  I mean, it had puffed sleeves divided by puffs with triple rows of ruffles at the edges, and layers and layers of puffed skirts, all surmounted by a puffed sash.  But you loved it!  Perhaps all that paleness made the puffiness work, because it came in at a respectable 7.7 out of 10 (not bad for a dress that did, in the end, get compared to curtains & Miss Havisham).

This week I’m sticking with pale, but going outside the date perimeters of the Historical Sew Fortnightly with a 1950s gown (though Massignac was the designer for Paquin from 1945 to 49, so I question the dating slightly).

Colette Massignac for House of Paquin, 1950s

Colette Massignac for House of Paquin, 1950s or 1945-49

This dress reminds me of the moonflowers that used to grow wild all along the roads growing up Hawaii.  They would bloom at dusk, and fade early in the morning.  Massignac may have been using the exact flowers as her inspiration: evoking a fragile night bloom for a delicate evening gown, using a pale colour to glow against the dark of night, and adding rows of diamantes or sequins to further catch the light.

What do you think?  Would the wearer of this dress be the blooming belle of the ball, or sad, wilted wallflower?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(and, as always, extra bonus points for anyone who can identify what collection this is from.  I’ve searched and searched, but all the sites link back to commercial sites that are using other images from collections I recognise, without crediting them, and their links send you to shopping sites).


  1. Love, love, love it! The swoop of fabric hugging the shoulders, the crystals sprinkled across the skirt, the contrast of the crisp taffeta with the softness of the chiffon. It does look like a flower in bloom, but the monochromatic color doesn’t detract or overwhelm the wearer. Imagine it interpreted more literally, with the taffeta in green and the skirt in red. It would totally change the dress, but not for the better. I love the restrained use of the palette.

    The shape accentuates the wearer’s figure and the floral theme is evocative without being overtly sexy. The eye is drawn across the figure so that you want to notice every detail. I can just imagine it in moonlight or by candle light, the sheen of the taffeta creating a slight glow, the crystals glittering. This is one of my favorites in quite a while. 9.5 out of 10, because I have yet to see perfection, but this is close!

  2. Brenda says

    Beautiful! I just wish the skirt wasn’t so…crinkly. Or perhaps it’s the sequins that I don’t quite like. But I love the curvy, flower-evoking shape of the dress. And the monochrome works because of the different textures.


  3. Zach says

    I…like it. The skirt is beautiful, though I would have preferred it without the white whatever-those-are that come down from the waist. I suppose then it would just be beautiful and not really as interesting. I suppose that’s the thing with a lot of high end fashion. I also don’t care for the collar thing. I do appreciate how it looks “appropriate” for the time it’s from (at least I think so). I still like it, even though it isn’t my favorite piece ever.

    Seven and a half out of ten.

  4. Top half- yay!
    Bottom half- groan.
    I think it’s too much of a costume villain kind of dress.


  5. I have mixed feelings about this one.

    I rather like the bodice–it’s shaped and sexy without being excessive and over-the-top. The pleated skirt is interesting, but the weird petals (panels?) extending over it from the bodice give the gown as a whole an unpleasant costume-y feel. Call it a 6.

    • Elise says

      Exactly. A costume-feel. It looks like something I saw in Stratford Ont. for Kiss me Kate–just beige. The green and red one, however, would have been beautiful on-stage.

      I like it-but only for posing. Not for moving.


  6. holly says

    I would love to cut off the last foot or so of fabric, have the dress ending mid calf and get rid of those bottom loose pleats. If you do a scroll down/up, you’ll see what I mean.

    Sacrilege, I know! However, perhaps when it was first made, those pleats were much sharper and echoed the upper part of the dress.

    However, I love the bodice detail, and the colour, so it’s an 8/10 for me.

  7. fidelio says

    It’s interesting, but I keep thinking about cephalods. I’ll have to ponder this and rate later.

      • Simone says

        Agree – my first (and only) thought was ‘octopus!’
        Blergh. 1/10.

  8. Make the satin top black and you’d have a new dress for whoever is cast as Ursula in the Little Mermaid musical. For that reason, I’m giving it a 5 of ten – I just can’t see anything other than an octopus sitting on some fan coral!

  9. sciencenewsforkids.orgIt’s interesting, but I don’t like it much.
    It would have looked amazing as a sketch, but on the real life dress the skirt is too limp and shapeless. It would probably work better if it were more sculptural. The skirt panels are curved just like a banana skin.


    I do kind of like the texture of those petal thingies. They look perfect for filtering tiny particles of food out of the sea. Turn it upside down and it could almost be one of these:


  10. I don’t like it. Something about it just looks strange, maybe costume-y, maybe its just been hanging on a mannequin too long and some of the sculptural qualities aren’t meshing as well with the flowing parts as they might have when the dress was new. I had to look for Google images of moon flowers to see if I’d like it better with the flower in mind. I think the flowers themselves are quite gorgeous, but the dress…not so much. 3/10

  11. I kind of like it, but the bits going down the skirt remind me very much of skeletal fingers lying on the frills of fungus. Possibly the colour doesn’t help; it would have looked much better in a steel blue.

  12. Lynne says

    I … like it. But. I would like to like it more, but I think it might be the fault of that slate-blue model, that scary arm reaching down the skirt. It accentuates the octopussiness. And the top isn’t sitting properly.

    I really like the skirt, and I can imagine it in motion when the wearer was dancing. Could be really lovely.

    8 out of 10.

  13. karenb says

    lovely, lovely lovely….I love it. I would hang it on my wall and just look at it.

  14. Belinda says

    Oh oh oh oh! I wish I could give it a bazillion out of ten! I want this dress! There’s something oddly classical about it; my first thought was some kind of classical sea goddess via a Handel opera… but now that you’ve mentioned flowers I see cactus flowers as well as sea anemones and lionfish. And yet it’s still very feminine… oh I wish my skills were up to making a copy! I just want to put it on and sing tornami a vagheggiar in it!

  15. I am not MrsC, I am a completely different person (see I am wearing a beard!) and I give it a 10 too! 😉

  16. Daniel says

    I’ve always suspected this was Lou Claverie ( at Paquin 1949-53) or possibly even Alan Graham, but his designs for Paquin were usually much simpler and more American. I suspect it’s from an auction house – Kerry Taylor, maybe. (Dang, I’m GOOD. Just did a quick Google – regardez! http://digsfrocksandbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/and-speaking-of-jean-desses.html )

    It could also be a Paquin London dress. If they worked like Worth, Paquin London may have had a completely separate designer to the Paris house (like Elspeth Champcommunal and Owen Hyde Clark were with Worth London, instead of Roger…)

    I have a feeling the original design for this dress, if it’s a Paris model, might (just might) be in the V&A as they have a vast archive of Paquin and Worth design books from 1890s-1950s. (Worth from 1920s, Paquin from late 1890s, both through to 1950s) Although I’ve tried to track down a couple of 50s Paquin dresses I have through the loose Paquin designs from the 50s and had little success. (one is a simple brown taffeta dress, the other is a black satin evening dress with a very intriguingly draped flame-orange chiffon bodice) Maybe they are in one of the bound volumes, but I THINK the V&A’s later Paquin designs are all loose drawings.

    Anyway. This dress – as with the feathery Balmain – has probably aged a bit in the passing years, so it isn’t how it would have looked when new. It was probably a wow when the tulle was super crisp and flaring and starchy. It is still very lovely but I’d say it has to be a 8.5/10 from me as it’s not totally perfect – the black shadow down the fastening or fold of the bodice actually slightly winds me up, much as I like it.

    And for drooling and gawking at:

    Claverie designs for Paquin in V&A:

    Alan Graham ditto:

    And Massignac:

  17. Lisa says

    Love the sculpted bodice (I’d love to see how it sits at the back) and am a huge fan of pleats so the main fabric of the skirt is my idea of heaven. The delicate palette is the perfect foil for the detail and textures of the garment and I could also see it working in a very dull, soft-gold, delustred satin.

    But those elongated sepal-like things, hmmmm. I can see where they were going with the extension of the bodice structure into the skirt where it would contrast with the lush pleating and beading but the execution isn’t 100%.

    That said, I’m still going to give it a 9/10 for sheer daring! It would absolutely be at home on any present-day red carpet.

  18. missjoiedevivre says

    I like the bodice. I like the pleated bits. The rest is a wee bit too Cthulhu like, but not in a good way. 7.

  19. Nope. The top half is lovely. Put a long stream lined plain skirt from the same material under it and it would be classy. I kinda like the crinkly part of the skirt (it appeals to the kid in me) but really, the tenticles give me the creeps. Get rid of those and put on a strapless top made out of the same crinkle fabric and I might like it better. It would have to be strapless to keep it from looking like a girls princess costume.

    4/10 It gets a 4 because if you chop it in half and make 2 dresses out of it, I might like them better.

  20. No, don’t like it – the way the tentacles drape with the skirt seems odd to me and they don’t really work with the skirt fabric anyway. I’d have liked to see it worn by a person, I agree that the slate blue doesn’t do anything for it. I like the bodice detail better – for me it would have worked better with a skirt of the same fabric, all very plain. 4/10

  21. Hmm. I like the skirt, but I don’t like the bodice. The skirt has brilliant use of texture and colour, but the bodice looks clunky to me with the way those thick layers of fabric bend around each other. 8/10 for the awesome skirt.

  22. 6/10
    I love the sequined/diamante-d soft “petals” at the bottom. I’m intrigued by the bodice. I do not like the way they blend, though – those pointy things just do not work quite well with the softness of the skirt. I think they would have to be even curvier to make the transition smoother… This way, they look somewhat like a clunky origami – you know, when you try to make something delicate and it does not come out quite as well as imagined.

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