19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Pink bows at the masqued ball

Last week I presented a 1920s frock with lace and geometry, and you didn’t like it much.  In fact, what you really didn’t like was the only part I found interesting: the lattice.  But I can’t tell you exactly how much you didn’t like it because I used my weekly maths adding quota up on marking student papers, ‘kay?

This week, I present a masquerade themed Rate the Dress.  We can tell it’s a masquerade costume because she has a mask.  Also, she’s at the masquerade, and it’s called Venetian Lady at the Masqued Ball.

In addition to a mask, our pretty Venetian is very fond of matching: she’s got a profusion of picot-edged pink bows which perfectly match her pink skirt, and the delicate pink piping of her bodice.

Even her black mitts are trimmed with matching pink ruffles.

La Venitienne au bal masque (detail), by Joseph-Desire Court, 1837

La Venitienne au bal masque (detail), by Joseph-Desire Court, 1837

The only things that aren’t pink and black are her white undersleeves, and her mad feather-bedecked hat.

La Venitienne au bal masque (detail), by Joseph-Desire Court, 1837

La Venitienne au bal masque (detail), by Joseph-Desire Court, 1837

So, dear readers, there are two important questions to answer here.  First, what do you think she is dressed as (I have my theories), and second, what do you think of her extremely well-coordinated ensemble?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. As to what she might be portrarying with the costume? The striped hat makes me think a figure out of the Commedia del Arte.

    I suspect it’s pleasing, but I keep getting distracted by the profusion of ribbon bows, like she’s being attacked by a flock of butterflies. I do like the ruched cuff to the mitts.

    7 of 10

  2. Jenny Wren says

    My first thought was commedia del arte, too. Maybe La Signora?

    And I love the dress. Especially the hat! I’m a sucker for ostrich. I’d give it a 9.

  3. What a coincidence! I just pinned it two hours ago and thought it was pretty 🙂
    Honestly, I have no idea who she might be portraying but I love the dress. Especially, the combination of black fabric and pink details on the bodice. And that hat, which is gorgeous. I’d give it 9.

  4. I suspect a commedia del’arte connection as well, but I don’t know enough about commedia del’arte to guess at a particular character. So I’ll go on to rate the costume itself.

    The woman is beautiful, and the colors well-suited to her black hair and pale complexion. As you say, all of the pink components match perfectly. I like the hat, absurd in shape though it is, but there are too many ribbons and bows for me to like the ensemble effect–it looks too gaudy and childlike. If you removed the bows from her sleeves, and left the rest, I’d probably give it a 9 or 9.5. As it is, 7.5 from me.

  5. bandykullan says

    I have no idea who she might be, my first thought was simply a circus tent, but commedia dell’arte sounds plausible. The hat and bows make me think of it being something 18th century inspired though.

    As for the dress I love it. To be perfect it would have to loose one or two bows on the sleeves, the hat isn’t a hit with me either, but otherwise I like it a lot so 8/10.

  6. Lylassandra says

    I usually hate pink, but I love this look, especially the mitts! I seriously doubt her hair matched her clothes that well in real life, but wow, lovely. No idea who she is beyond the aforementioned commedia guess. 8/10 for just a tad too many bows.

  7. Having trolled through Wikipedia a bit (and acknowledging that doing so doesn’t make anyone an expert at anything), I have a theory about who she is portraying.

    She is an inamorata, one of a pair of “star-crossed” lovers. These go under a number of names; Angelica and Isabella come to mind. What clinches it for me is this snippet from Wikipedia:

    “The Lovers never wear the masks which are characteristic of most of the other stock characters in the commedia dell’arte.”

    And lo! Our Venetian lady does not wear a mask, but conspicuously carries a mask in her hand.

    • See, to me the carrying the mask immediately disqualifies her as an inamorata! Of course she’s not going to wear it: the artist wants to show her face!

  8. holly says

    If our Venetian Lady had ever visited Harajuku, Tokyo, and seen the Gothic Lolita girls there, she’d know EXACTLY what she wanted to wear to the ball.

    Black + pink = 9/10

  9. Lynne says

    I’m going to lower the tone. My first thought was, “Chocolate! And the box might be nice for ribbons when I’ve eaten both layers.”

    Take away all the pink – including the skirt – and the hat, and it would be fine. I accept that it is a costume, and for that reason I will be a bit more generous: 6 out of 10.

  10. Daniel says

    4/10. That’s my immediate reaction. In some ways it’s a nice outfit but in other ways – it’s a very silly one. Even as a masquerade outfit it’s not quite daft enough to be enjoyably silly. I do like the black bodice and pink skirt and I do like bows but they are just sort of stuck on pretty much anywhere they could stay stuck. The ruching on the gloves is overkill. I THINK I like the hat, but at the same time, it sits on the head at a very unpleasing angle, just makes me feel awkward looking at it and wondering how it stays there. A forward tilt is saucy, a backwards tilt has exactly the opposite effect. She’s a pretty girl and it’s a very pretty dress under the stupid bows and ruching, even if it does look a bit like a 1980s party dress (black velvet/satin corset bodice and strongly coloured skirt? So 80s…)

  11. I LOVE pink and black!!! 9.5/10. Half a point deduction because I would shorten the tails on the bows on the sleeves.

  12. I love pink. I love bows. I do not love this dress. I need all but the center bow to go. 7/10.

    I thought of a shepherdess.

  13. I love her gloves. I love the hat. The dress is pretty, but wow, what a lot of bows! I have no idea who she is trying to dress as, so I hope there will be a history lesson forthcoming to educate me. 8/10 from me.

  14. Ryette says

    I love this, even if I have no idea what she’s dressed as. I LOVE IT. 9.5/10 because I find the hat sits strange on her head.

  15. Belinda says

    Hmm. My first thought was gothic Lolita too… then Neapolitan icecream. But both of those are modern things, so I think I’ll agree with the general consensus of something from the commedia dell’arte.

    The mitts sans ruffles with another dress would be to die for, however I wouldn’t go near the rest of it with a barge pole. I totally agree with David, it’s like the 1980s only without the shoulder pads… *shudder*
    The only thing that saves it is that she is so pretty.
    3/10. Ick.

  16. Wild, isn’t it? I like it. It’s nice and fun! The pink ribbons complement the black nicely (especially her hair), and the white on the hat and sleeves brightens it up a bit from the rest of the dark black and medium-dark pink. While I’m not big on the pink ruffles on the mitts or how thick the white and pink fabric on the sleeves looks, I’m willing to look past all of it since it looks alright when you take in the whole outfit. I wish there was more of the skirt to see; it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the front.

    Eight out of ten!

  17. Makes me gag. Sorry but it is just overwhelming pink, ruffle-ly and saccharine sweet. Definitely want to hurl.

  18. Surely it’s a portrait of actress Melianie Lynskey???
    I actually think the name of the painting tells us – I don’t think Court is painting a Venetian woman but a woman dressed as a Venetian. 🙂
    I like it -it’s dramatic and OTT, which is how a masque costume ought to be. Black and pink suits Melanie a lot.
    I’d give it an 8.

  19. This was rather difficult to form an opinion on.
    I love black, but I’m not too crazy abut pink. This is a nice pink though, and it compliments the black well.
    All the bows must go! There are too many of them and they are detracting from the impact of that gorgeous narrow piping. The mitts are wonderful. The hat is nice too, but it really, really needs to be pushed forward.

    I don’t know what she is dressed as, but all her poofy skirted black-and-pink-ness really reminds me of Jillian Venters.


    7.5/10 Because the bows could be removed and the hat adjusted very easily.

  20. I think she’s going for Ruben’s wife or another Cavalier/17th C figure. You can see a similar color arrangement in this 17th C portrait:

    Complete with the pink bows. The hat and even the “spaniel” like curls on the side look vaguely 17th C.

    Being a huge fan of pink and black, I have to give it a 9/10. Points off for only being vaguely 17th C. 🙂

  21. Phew! Definitely got hit with the frill-stick.

    Waaay over the top, but that is excusable and even expected. Isn’t a costume supposed to be costumey? 🙂 Pluspoints for fulfilling the brief.

    That being said, it’s too much for me. I don’t even want to be in the same room as the portrait. Points deducted for too much pink drowning out the otherwise elegant dress itself.

    All in all 6,5 / 10

  22. I’m with Isabella. I see lots of Cavalier influence in the sleeves, hat, and numerous ribbons, as viewed through the lens of 1837. Bet it was a 10 at that time.

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