18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: ca. 1790 stripey separates

Oh my!  The bright blue paisley 1900s frock last week was fun!  Some very strong reactions to the dress.  Some of you loved the fabric.  Some of you hated the fabric.  Some of you loved the lace.  Some of you hated the lace.  Some of you loved the silhouette.  Some of you hates the silhouette.  Some of you hated it all!  Even those of you who loved bits, and had a soft spot for the overall outrageousness, agreed the dress was less than the sum of its parts.  The dress rated a 3.3 out of 10, which is pretty much as low as it goes.

Cyrannetta called the lace on last week’s frock ”  a moldy overgrowth,” and I agree that black lace on a lighter pattern can be a tricky thing to pull off.  Inspired by that, I’ve picked another item which features delicate black lace trim over a patterned fabric, and it’s a Separate!

This unknown young woman wears a blue and white striped zone-front jacket trimmed with fine black lace with an ivory skirt, a sheer buffon, and a fashionable turban inspired headdress trimmed with pink and black striped ribbon and flowers.

Portrait of a Young Woman Holding Two Roses. Agustín Esteve y Marques, ca. 1790

Portrait of a Young Woman Holding Two Roses. Agustín Esteve y Marques, ca. 1790.  Sold at Southebys, 2007

What do you think?  Do you like the jacket with its lace trim, and the way the seamstress played with stripes, using them vertically, horizontally and and diagonally?  What about the stripes in the headdress?  Too matchy-matchy?  A weird contrast?  or the perfect coordinate?  And is the skirt too simple for the rest of the outfit, or a good balance against all the details?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. Love the stripes and the interesting layout of the sleeves. I found the headdress in general to be a bit strange. I guess I’d actually prefer it to be more matchy – at least a white or cream in the stripe. And, I dislike the black lace trim on the bolero. Not my fave, but not offensive either. It’s smack in the middle for me.


  2. What kind of sorcery is going on with that sleeve? Is she able to straighten her arm? Is there a gusset inside her elbow that allows movement?
    I do like all the different stripe layouts, and the lace at the cuffs and neckline is fine, but I don’t really care for the lace under her bust…it draws my eye to a weird spot.


    • She isn’t able to straighten her arm – the sleeve is cut very slim, with a curve, but the cut-in curve actually allows a much wider range of movement than a slim, straight sleeve. And she was a lady of leisure – the servants could open the door for her 😉

  3. Daniel says

    I didn’t even notice the stripes on the hat, but had a sense of overall harmony, which I suspect is due to their presence. Always rather liked this period. I think it’s very elegant and quietly understated by the standards of a few years previously. The stripes are doing some very odd things though – is this a lot more layered than it looks? Almost looks like she has a belt (with a buckle on it) that is going UNDER the black-lace edged front facings – very intriguing! – and another directionally contrasting set of stripes along the bottom hem. Fascinating!!

    Quietly elegant. She has a certain wryness about her – a touch Austenque. Rating? 7.5/10. While she has style and grace, she is absolutely unexceptionable – nothing to actively take offence at, but similarly, nothing much to knock my socks off.

  4. Zach says

    I think the dress is beautiful, but the color scheme with the hat isn’t working for me. It’s just odd all around. It would be better with matching ribbon, but I still don’t like it. The top, on the other hand, is fantastic, and I love everything about it and the skirt.

    Nine out of ten.

    Does it look like she has a mustache to anyone else?

    • Zach: I’d bet the woman did have a mustache; she seems to have the dark, dark Mediterranean hair and heavy features that are associated with a female quasi-mustache. I don’t see it in this portrait, however. Perhaps the artist left it out to flatter her.

    • karenb says

      Imagine how the poor girl would feel if she knew her faint mustache was being commented on 200 years later…

      • Hopefully she would just be confused that we’d care. Some women have mustaches. That’s the way it is. It’s a bit sad as a society that we’ve decided that natural facial hair on women is not OK. I hope the portrait girl didn’t care – the fact that it got included in the portrait indicates she wasn’t attempting to hide it.

        • karenb says

          Actually you could be right…I only thought of 20th century reactions ….with a bit of luck it was considered perfectly normal back then

          • You know, I think it probably was. Human sex differentiation is pretty hit and miss, and you get a whole spectrum of things like facial hair growth. Today we’re often keen to hide these characteristics, but in previous eras people simply lived with the fact that sex isn’t really a dichotomy and often don’t seem to have been too worried about it.

    • Zach says

      Sorry guys, I was just trying to figure out if that’s what it was, but I appreciate the new knowledge–really! I wasn’t trying to insult her, just curious if what I was seeing was actually there. I really am sorry if I unintentionally stepped on anyone’s toes!

      • I didn’t think you were being insulting – just noticing. From a 21st century perspective, it’s interesting that we do notice. Seeing as it was painted in, it indicates that it probably wasn’t that big a deal from an 18th.

    • Melanie says

      I totally saw that straight away! And decided that I couldn’t possibly rely on her fashion sense. Not loving this ensemble much – 5/10.

    • Something I thought of earlier today – it might also just be darker skin around her mouth. That is also very characteristic around the Med.

  5. The skirt balances the jacket very well. I don’t like her turban, and I’d have preferred a solid ribbon trim instead of the black lace, but the rest of the outfit is pleasingly understated without being boring. 7.5 from me.

  6. Gauss says

    I think the lace works well here (much better than on last week’s dress), and I like her outfit a lot. I only wish her hat / headpiece matched the outfit better, it seems a bit random to me.


  7. The dark lace on this garment looks more like an actual design element, perhaps because the base fabric is more of a contrast. I actually enjoy the stripes in differing directions, but I suspect that if the contrast value of the light to dark stripes were more pronounced, the use of stripe direction might be headache-inducing. Because there’s a lot of visual interest in the top, I like the restfulness of the skirt.


  8. I rather like it. The soft colors (pastel blue, creamy white, and even the pink and soft black in the ribbon on her head) work well together. The zone front jacket is cute, although I’m not sure what is going on with the stomacher area. I love the addition of the lace, very awesome, and very common in Spanish costume -which I’m guess she is. 😉

    Yes, she does have a slight mustache.


  9. holly says

    The jacket is beautiful and I always love a shaped sleeve. I give it top marks. However, it’s let down by the skirt, which adds nothing to the outfit, and I think she’s swamped by the headdress. Those bring it down to:


  10. Not a fan of the hat, and I wish the skirt had stripes too. But the top and jacket are pretty interesting. Overall I like it, but I wish it had a few tweaks.


  11. I like the whole jacket/skirt ensemble, but the headdress is not really in keeping with the rest. I do think that maybe the artist took some liberties with the sleeve stripes though, doesn’t look right to me.

    • brighton-hove-rpml.org.ukCompare the sleeve stripes in the painting to the ones on extent garments, like this jacket, and you’ll see that they are exactly right – the sleeves are cut in a curve, allowing them to be very slim while still giving the wearer some arm motion, so they change from diagonal to straight with the curve.

  12. Belinda says

    I think the only thing I dislike about it is that funny band of vertical stripes across the zone, and perhaps the odd growth of flowers at the top of her turban. Otherwise, I think it’s divine; that contrast lace trim is a winner! 8/10

  13. fidelio says

    Are the ribbons on her cap striped or a check pattern?

    I find it interesting that even though her outfit here has a lot in comon with what French and British (and other Euopean, and quite a few American) ladies were wearing, she still looks SPanish, and not just because of her coloring.

    I can take or leave this lace, but it’s a charming ensemble. 7, I think, because as Daniel says, it’s nice but not amazing.

  14. I like the stripes, love the lace, love the cut. Not feeling the turban, primarily because of the striped ribbon. Would have preferred the ribbon on the turban to be either the same stripe as the jacket or in a solid. So I will give it an 8/10

    On an unrelated note. I finally got over my fear of my sewing machine. I hemmed a dress (I’ve never even done that by hand), and I did it on the machine, and if you look close, you can spot the mistakes, but non-sewers don’t notice it. Up until now my only sewing was by hand and consisted of sewing on buttons, fixing ripped seams, and hand sewing trim onto Halloween costumes. Not ready to make fabulous things yet but taking my first real sewing step, I’m feeling a little proud.

  15. I love the 1790s, and stripes, and black lace, and big, froofy hats.

    All of these are quite awesome on their own, but together they don’t quite work. The hat is perched a little too high on her head. The pastel blue stripes don’t really go well with the black lace. I’m also not too fond of the way the stripes are oriented, except the sleeves.

    Those are my only 3 complaints.


    This is much, MUCH better than last weeks use of black lace.

  16. karenb says

    I like the overall effect and it’s pleasant to look at which is a relief after last weeks awful dress. It’s not wonderful but I like the softness of the colours and the lace looks dainty. Not so in your face.
    The hat is a bit big but she looks fine in it and I like the colouring.


  17. Ratti says

    the black lace trim might be part of mourning dress requirements.

    • Interesting though, but I think it’s very unlikely in an 18th century context. Mourning wasn’t nearly as proscribed as it would be half a century later in the 19th century, and there is never a period when black trim would turn the patterns and colours seen in her outfit into acceptable part-mourning wear. Instead I suspect, as Isabella has pointed out, that’s the black lace is late 18th century Spanish taste manifesting itself.

  18. I love stripes and 1790s too, so this appeals to me. There’s nothing wrong with the sleeve stripes as they’re cut with a curve, so no way around the diagonal stripes. The built-in belt is different, but belts and sashes aren’t unusual so it’s not that out-of-the-ordinary. If it didn’t have the Spanish influences, I’d probably say 9/10, but I’m not digging the black lace.


  19. 7/10 seems a nice balanced score… It’s not breathtaking, but it’s interesting for its time, and still quite toned-down in spite of being the less classical version of the 1790s dress, so overall, I like it quite a lot.

  20. Emma says

    I love the skirt and I love the jacket. I would prefer it without lace though and I dislike the piece of lace that crosses the bodice diagonally – it looks kind of tacked on. Overall though, I really like it. I really dislike the turban though. 8/10

  21. I really like this one. I love the clever use of stripes and I’m a sucker for a zone front. 8/10

  22. Oh my lands! The stripes on the sleeves are just too awesome–the diagonal to straight transition just hits a brilliant sweet spot for me for some reason.

    Unfortunately, her head is gift-wrapped.

    Still, 8/10.

  23. Brenda says

    1)”Do you like the jacket with its lace trim, and the way the seamstress played with stripes, using them vertically, horizontally and and diagonally?”
    I do like the play on the stripes. The contrasting black lace is a little more subdued, which makes it look more intriguing here than in the 1900’s black-lace-on-blue dress. However, it still seems somehow mismatched with the rest of the bodice.

    2) “…is the skirt too simple for the rest of the outfit, or a good balance against all the details?”
    I think it’s a good balance against all the stuff going on in the bodice and headdress, which is a LOT.

    The striped headdress is fine…I think it barely works because the skirt is so plain.

    7/10: Not quite “wow” but I give it points for the creative use of the stripes and being able to somehow pull off the black lace

Comments are closed.