18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Princess Wilhelmina in green

Last week most of you loved the redingote with its feathered trim, but your reaction to it was fascinating depending on whether you read my description of it as having feathered trim as actual feathers or not.  I rather think that sometimes I should leave things purposely very vague so that the ratings are reactions to what we perceive, vs what we know (but which is the purer truth…?).  Anyhow, manky feathers or elaborate feathered silk aside, the redingote rated a rather nice 8.5 out of 10.  

This week, for the transition from outerwear to green I present Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Prussia, Princess of Orange in a brunswick of deep green checked silk with a pink silk hood lining, cuffs and revers.

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Her stomacher appears to be made of the same pink silk ribbon as the bow that ties the hood of her brunswick, arranged in an overlapping lattice pattern.

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

The only accessories Wilhelmina wears are a black ribbon around her neck, and a lace cap on her powdered hair.

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

The details of the painting are quite magnificent.  You can almost read her book, and the turn of her slim sleeves (the same sleeves that caused such commentary in the stripey zone front jacket we rated a few months back) is quite obvious thanks to the checked silk.

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina of Orange by Johann Georg Ziesenis, 1768-69

Wilhemina of Orange was a strong, ambitious woman, considered to have been the de-facto ruler of the Dutch Republic, holding more influence and power than her husband, William V of Orange.  They ruled at a volatile time in Dutch history: they were removed from power, returned to power with the help of her brother, Frederick William II of Prussia, and then removed again when the French Revolution changed the balance of power in Europe.  Wilhelmina was much luckier than Marie Antoinette, as she lived out her days in safety in England.

Her character certainly shows in her direct gaze, but it is her frock we are interested in today.  Is the mix of masculine inspired brunswick and girlish pink too much?  Or does she balance the different aesthetic elements in her outfit more successfully than she balanced the opposing political factions in the Dutch Republic?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Daniel says

    “OOOOO!” I went, and leant forward to look at it better. The green and pink are such a fab combination. That green is so vivid! And so lusciously verdant. And the pink is so salmony and just POPS with the green. Plus I am adoring the idea of a full length redingote brunswick with matching petticoat and pink waistcoat/stomacher beneath. That’s something I don’t remember seeing before, Brunswicks are usually knee length so this looks quite long. The ruching is yummy and the overall simplicity is just gorgeous, the way it allows the beautiful silks to be themselves.

    It’s quite excitingly fresh and new and not a “seen it before” type thing in so many ways. And it’s really rather gorgeous AND I would love to see it made up today – it would make the most marvellous modern fall/winter wedding dress with minimal changes to the cut, wouldn’t it – using the hood instead of a veil. I can’t give it any lower than ten out of ten!

    • Daniel says

      I REALLY am loving this the more I look at it. It is positively bravura. Elegant, understated, yet gorgeously cut and in the most wonderful fabrics and colours. It’s extravagant and quite regal and yet at the same time looks really practical, which I love.

    • Elise says

      My thoughts exactly! The days are cooling in the northern hemisphere, and all I want to do is wear that exact shade of green and arrange myself on the sofa in a sedate room. And snuggle my dog. (my dog comes to work with me, so let me get a quick cuddle break before I come back and give the rating)

      Ok! Back! 10/10. Obviously. Beautiful colors: Green, Pink, a little Black with a powdered hair.

  2. Thingymabob says

    10, 10, 10!

    This is just a fantastic outfit. With such restrained trimming it could have looked plain, but what trims there are are so fantastically fluffy that they instead set the gown off perfectly. And that green silk is just so gorgeous and goes really well with the pink. And I really like the closely fitted sleeves – they just look so much less awkward than the two-part frilled sleeves that are typical on Brunswicks.

    I do think it would be a bit odd, though, to claim that this dress is too frilly for a masculine style, given how fluffy and colorful menswear at that pont (and especially given how restrained this dress is in comparison to many Brunswicks).

    Also, thank you for putting up such excellent detail shots! It’s a really great portrait and I haven’t been able to find proper high-res pictures of it before.

  3. I love the details of it, though that color green with that pink is verging ever so slightly on sickening. VERY slightly. Over all I like it, since I LOVE any feminine, frilly dress with a hood. 8 out of 10

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  4. I really like this dress! I think the pink and green are unexpected and yet compliment eachother so well, and the longer I look at this picture the more beautiful details catch my eye. I think it’s actually quite tasteful, especially for that time period. A 10 out of 10 for me!
    I am curious as to what she is reading, though.

  5. Emily says

    LOVE it! The green and pink are each of exactly the right shade to complement each other exactly, and it manages to combine simple elegance with a little bit of decoration. I would love to wear this!


  6. The cut is perfect! I love shaped sleeves.
    (The stripey jacket sleeves were only weird because the grain was going the wrong way. I also think that the feather trim on the reddingote looks mangy no matter what it’s made of. Silk worms count as dead animals too.)
    The only thing I don’t like is the color combination. The salmon pink is an okay contrast to the green, but it’s not a combination I would wear. If I were to make this costume I would do it in black and red, or maybe black and dark purple.

    I can’t take a full point away for not liking the colour scheme.

  7. Zach says

    I really can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said! Everything about her outfit is beautiful and cozy! The stomacher is especially pretty and cool.

    Ten out of ten from me.

  8. After a struggle with installing a printer to a new Windows 8 laptop and have it print the way I want it to (I lost, and resorted to printing from the older XP computer instead)… yeah, that sounds blah, and I desperately needed a pretty pretty historical frock to raise my mood, and this did not fail.
    I LOVE that stomacher! So clever, especially with the checkered green – just enough of a similarity with the intersecting straight lines and just enough of a difference with the colour and shapes, to tie it all together nicely.
    That said, the revers are just a tad too big to work for me. I think it’s the way they’re invading her sleeves on the painting – and given the detail of the painting, they most probably did in real life as well. Make them just a tiny bit narrower, and this is a 10. The way it is, I think it’s a 9/10, because it looks like those metallic bits must keep poking her and those tassels get in her way whenever she moves her arms just a little bit forward.

    And, wow, yes, detail: see that lacy edge under the brunswick’s front opening? And the inside detail?

    (Also, she gets a little insignificant plus from me for having a dog that looks kinda “natural”. You know, no fluffy little thing that looks more like a mop than like a dog. Yes, I’m a cat person.)

  9. I don’t care much for the contrast of deep green and deep pink (especially with powdered hair), but I like most of the styling details (the turnbacks with silver knobs, the simple tonal trim). I’m not sure about the folds near the neckline that look like a folded-down hood. But overall the dress manages to radiate the power of Wilhelmina’s forceful personality. A 7.5.

  10. Not a fan of the pink contrast or the black collar. Love the green color though. And the cut of the dress is pretty. I think if it had been a different color combo I would have liked this dress much better.


    • I suspect that the black “collar” is really a broad ribbon tied around her neck; such ribbons were a popular adornment during this period.

  11. Okay, I’m going to be the odd one out and say….it looks like she raided the local bedding store and used a comforter to make her dress. I am normally all over the pink/green combo but the “squares” – whether it’s a print or quilted that way- screams bedspread to me. It has more in common with Carol Burnnett’s famous curtain dress (a spoof off of Gone with the Wind) than it really should. Even the pink lapels look like more like the edge of my old bedspead than a dress/outfit.

    Sorry! 4/10 because it has a hood.

  12. Lisa says

    I’ll join Isabella in saying that this doesn’t do it for me. I really don’t like the green/salmon combo and think that the puffy revers looks like its growing ever further outwards, a bit like a sea sponge and the frippery under and about the buttons is all a bit lichen-y.

    I do like the natty silver buttons and the hood, and the green colour on its own is non-offensive.

    3/10 from me

  13. Melanie says

    I admit I’m on the ‘yuck’ side of this one. I feel mean saying that, because clearly a lot of work went into this. Some poor little
    child-seamstress lost their eyesight to the intricate trimming, only for me say ‘she looks like a pigeon in a quilted army jacket with a hoop skirt’ 350 years later, but there it is. 4/10.

  14. I’m not really keen on the fluffy look of the salmon trim; love the colours and the main part of the dress is lovely. Not a fan of hoods on dresses either so I’m going to give it a 7.5/10

  15. bandykullan says

    I love it. The colours, the cut, everything. The definite top piece is the stomacher made out of criss-crossed ribbons.


  16. Pink would have been considered a masculine color in those days, because it’s a shade of red. The gender assignment to girls didn’t happen until mid twentieth century. This dress was sending a message, believe you me! The military references in the front uprning are saying something, too. The details painted in this are amazing. You can see the pattern in the fabric. 8/10

    • Elise says

      Interesting to note: Almost every language on earth calls colors gradations of one another, ie blue, dark blue, light blue. BUT, almost every language on earth has an entirely different word for red/pink gradation ie rouge/rose, rojo/rosa, etc.

      Do you think they would have interpreted pink as a shade of red? That linguistic distinction really sort of separates it in the mind.

    • I’m going to have to disagree with you here. The ‘pink for boys’ thing was never universal, nor a particularly 18th century idea (the writings I’ve read on it date to the late 19th century, well over 100 years after this painting). It’s really only from the mid 20th century onwards that we’ve had a coherent gender distinction between colours across the Western world. Before that colour associations were far more strongly related to religion, status, nationalism, etc than they were to gender. Think of the jockeying in the French court for the right to wear the king’s colours etc. Her pink revers are more likely to indicate a political stance, or wealth through an expensive dye, than they are to be making a masculine claim.

  17. It’s a masterful garment, there is no doubt of that. Masterfully designed, made, and then the effect painted. She is undoubtably a ruler.

    I love how realistically thick and warm the Brunswick feels, how it would be snug even in a damp, cold wind; her hood could go up and keep her neck warm.

    That said, agree with earlier posters who felt that the Brunswick revers were a bit thick and wide. The fabric got to the maker there, I think.

    The stomacher, if that’s what it is, is fascinating; it’s beautifully designed, very clearly heavily boned, and reminds me more of the bodice of a robe de cours than a stomacher. Could this be a reference to the fact that she’s royalty?

    8 out of 10.


  18. Gauss says

    I love this! The colors are gorgeous and striking together, and her accessorizing is perfect: it’s a dress with enough elements that anything more would be too much. There’s only the smallest touch of from-frou, and she is clearly a ruler.

    10/10 from me.

  19. Belinda says

    LOVE! It’s so delicious! The best part of all is she looks so snug and warm. If I had that Brunswick, there would be no getting me out of it all winter.

  20. Saule says

    I abselutely adore this. I love the green/pink combination, the deep green colour and the sublte green lines in the fabric. I’m also a big fan of lace, so I love the little lace details in the cuffs, above the stomacher and the cap.

  21. fidelio says

    Is this Brunswick in a dark enough shade of green for it to be a Brunswick green Brunswick?

    I had to ask.

    I’ll give it a 7/10, for the previously cited problems with the lapels, although if they’re supposed to be a meets-in-the-front-to-fasten detail, that might explain why they’re so wide.

    I find the fabric interesting, along with the choice of contrast. I wonder, given the style of the outfit, if there’s a reference to a regimental uniform; jaeger* troops typically wore green, IIRC, although I don’t know if the army of the Netherlands had jaeger troops at that point. I have a co-worker who’d be delighted to see her sorority’s colors appear in a portrait of 18th century European royalty!

    *Not jaegers like the jaegers in Girl Genius.

    • fidelio says

      Here’s a Brunswick that has the revers (isn’t that what you call lapels that are meant to meet and fasten or be worn open, depending?) closed. Per Wikimedia, the date is around 1767.

  22. Mel the Redcap says

    ….She looks like a carved watermelon. XD

    5/10 because that’s honestly all I can think of when I look at that colour combination!

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