20th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Madame Gres does bold stripes

Last week you weren’t much impressed with Prince Henry’s early 17th century garments as clothes in an of themselves, especially not when it came to the breeches.  But you were very impressed with Prince Henry himself, and his ability to pull off his ridiculous outfit, and look like a kid having fun in it.  So Henry’s swashbuckling attitude bucked his outfit up to a 6.9 out of 10,  which isn’t fabulous but is more than I thought it would get!

Dress can be all about attitude, and I think this week’s selection might take a bit of attitude to pull off.  It’s quite bold and crazy, and rather reminds me of the  striped Elizabeth Hawes dress which we rated last year, and the Worth zig-zag dress that we rated two years ago.  It’s interesting to compare it to those two, as it is so similar in cut and aesthetic, but yet Gres’ dress also manages to evoke the 1840s, and is a full 20 years later in date than the Hawes and Worth frocks, but still looks fashion-forward for the early 1950s.

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

You’re really going to have to forgive the back view: the dress has a 34″ bust and a 20″ waist, and the auction house clearly couldn’t find a mannequin in those dimensions, so were unable to fasten the back of the dress properly.

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

A Madame Grès boldy striped slubbed silk ball gown, 1953, sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions

What do you think?  Better or worse than the other striped frocks?  Striking or eye-searing?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

*and yes, I know I usually skip the usual Rate-the-Dress and do an Oscars dress rating this time of year, but I’m so snowed under with The Project, and was away for a weekend of awesomeness (soooo AWESOME!), and, to be perfectly honest this year’s Oscar’s dresses are so boring that they wouldn’t even be fun to make fun of.


  1. This is some of the most exquisite handling of stripes I’ve ever seen, in any era. It’s not just that they match up, but the placement flatters the figure.

    I might describe it as Gibson Girl meets Star Trek, but that is far snarkier than intended.

    10 of 10

  2. Katie says

    7. I think the layout of the strips are flattering but I do not love the colors.

  3. Elise says

    If I’m not mistaken, aren’t these colors the colors of the Hawaiian islands? If that were the case, I can easily imagine this evoking the court dress of the medieval era on a person who wishes to represent something.

    So 9/10 if there is symbolism, 6/10 if not. (I don’t care for the colors)

  4. Brenda says

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
    1. Love the shape of the full, flowing skirt
    2. Love the stripes (but not the V formation on the bodice so much)
    3. I highly suspect that the photographs are not accurately representing the true colors of the dress, but judging from the close-up of the garment tag, I will say that I like the color combination

    I would venture to say that someone today could get away with wearing something like this to a formal event. I totally would!


  5. I wouldn’t wear it, but I do think it is masterful in its use of the pattern.



  6. Johanne says

    Am in love with this. To me, it is the simplicity of the bodice that allows the stripes and colors to zing. Much better than the Worth and the Elizabeth Hawes that you referenced in the posting. For high glam occasions you could turn it back to front! Well, maybe not. Thank you for this.

    You are so right about the Oscar gowns this year. Perhaps we’re remembering the previous years through a haze of time, but 2014 gowns were blah.


  7. I love it, but you would definitely need a strong character to pull it off, this isn’t something for a wallflower. 9/10

  8. holly says

    oh so close to a 10, but the cut of the front bodice bothers me; that black V at the top seems an angle off. otherwise, perfect; I wish I’d seen someone wearing it last night at the Oscars!

  9. I think it’s very beautiful, though I can imagine it’s a dress you either love or hate. I want it.

    While I do like the colours and the cut and the fact that it’s so bold and striking, my favourite thing about it is the way it echoes Minoan fashion. From the front, the stripes on the skirt and at the sides of the bodice are very reminiscent of Minoan/Mycenaean dress.


  10. Tracy Ragland says

    I love the colors and love the drape of the skirt. My problem is that the bodice shaping over the shoulders makes this look like a Starfleet uniform. And that just isn’t good. I can give this only a 5 out of ten.

  11. Lylassandra says

    I like the back soooo much better than the front. That brings it up to a 6.5/10

  12. The color spoils it for me. Looks like a bad Mexican blanket. Not loving the shoulders, either. 5/10

  13. It’s an impressive dress for a woman who is not built or colored like me (I’m imagining it on a tall, slender, dark-haired woman with pale skin and an attitude). 9 of 10 (because it’s definitely not a dress that will look wonderful on everyone).

  14. I like it! I’m not passionately crazy about it, but I like it. I agree with Lylassandra above that the back is better than the front (that square cut back…) 7 out of 10

  15. Lisa says

    What a striking dress. I’d love to see it move as the wearer walks, I imagine that the points in the front, hidden here, would look wonderful.

    I personally don’t like the neckline of the bodice, mainly because it wouldn’t suit me. On a woman with a small frame however, it would provide her with a strong, dynamic form and the geometry of it suits the stripes perfectly.

    I’m impressed and would wear it in a heartbeat had I a smaller bosom and narrower shoulders! 10/10

  16. Land girl says

    This a Grace Jones rather than a Grace Kelly kind of dress. The more I look at it the more I like it. Those colours in a dark room would look rather better than in a bright light.

  17. Carol B. says

    So superior to the Hawes dress and I think very wearable today, unlike the Worth dress (which I do like).

    I love the colors, but then I love to wear red!

    8 out of 10 for me.

  18. L. A. Khatt says

    Given what was popular for ladies’ evening wear in the 50’s, this is quite bold! Land girl said it very well…definitely more Ms. Jones than Ms. Kelly! Both the color combination and the use of the stripes are very pleasing. It has an almost tribal or, as Stella mentioned in her post, a Minoan/Mycenaean feel to it.
    Definitely a dress that needs a wearer with chutzpah (which leaves me out…. ;-} )
    10/10 for being a standout in a era of pastels.

  19. Claire says

    I prefer the Elizabeth Hawes dress but still like this one a lot. I think a lower neckline would have looked better so 9 out of 10 for me. (You know how I love the 1950’s). Somehow I expect Madame Gres gowns to have more drape and less structure so the wonderful fit is a lovely surprise for me. Very nice indeed.

  20. Hello dreamstress :), I am so glad I am finally getting it together and start looking at my favorite sewing blogs on a regular basis. I love this dress – love the colors and the placement of the stripes which are probably quite flattering for someone pear shaped (=me). I save the images in my creative folder on my hard drive. Some day, I might get around to making a similar dress…

  21. Helene Illervik says

    The only thing I don’t like about this dress is that the stripes don’t match where the bodice and the skirt meets. Not possible to make them match, I suppose, but it irritates my eyes, pity because I love everything else about the dress, the bold colours, the slimming effect of the stripes meeting in a V.
    I would love to wear it, I would love to see it worn. I give it a 9.

    I did like the dress Sandra Bullock wore at the Oscars, it had a classic Hollywood glamour look that med me think of the dress worn by Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

  22. Love it! Superb handling of stripes, so clever. Wish more clothes had this much joy to them. Would love to wear it, but as my waist will never in a million years be 20inches even with a corset, I’m withholding half a mark! 9.5/10

  23. Daniel says

    Much as I love Gres, and I do like this dress, I’m not altogether sold on it. I don’t like the relationship between the bodice and skirt with the sharply horizontal waist seam, which cuts off the narrow green stripe quite harshly. I can’t help feeling I have seen this idea done before and done slightly better, although it is a fabulous dress. It’s a 7/10 from me, as I am slightly disappointed in my beloved Gres and know she can do, and HAS done, so much better.

  24. The colors remind me of summer in Mexico, and the stripe placement at the front and back is genius. I think if it was shown on an actual body the front V detail would look very flattering. The shape of the dress is simple enough to balance the bold stripes. Love this dress – 10/10

  25. It somehow reminds me of a very bold butterfly.
    I think the wide shoulders with the narrow waist have the potential of being really perilous to the dress. And the stripes don’t feel quite balanced somehow.
    But it’s still gorgeous. 😀

  26. I would wear this and the Elizabeth Hawes dress. I think the stripe placement on this is SUPERB! I like classic colors chosen. I give a 9.9 because it isn’t in my size! 🙂

  27. Carol butsko says

    8 out of 10
    Much nicer than the Hawes dress and while I do love the Worth dress, this one is timeless and I’d feel very comfortable wearing it today.

    Love red, wear it often.

  28. Melanie says

    Do you think it would’ve had a fuller petticoat so you can see more of the design on the skirt? Funny that people are referencing Star Trek – my immediate thought was Disney’s Maleficent the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty. That black winged effect on the shoulders reminds me of her head dress.
    It needs a raven-haired beauty like Linda Darnell to pull it off. Loretta Young maybe? It definitely looks more ’40s than ’50s to me. I’d give it an 8/10 for its boldness, but probably would not have had the guts to wear it.

  29. Beatrix says

    Love the way the panels of the skirt are cut.
    I agree with Daniel that horizontally cut bodice looks a bit clumsy.
    Agree with others that the shouldes look a bit starfleet-y.
    I also think a deep V in the front would be more flattering & ball gown-y.

  30. I love the back, the drape of the skirt and the side view, but I really don’t like the front. The colours are lovely, there is just something about the geometrical shapes on the front of the dress that I don’t like; so it is 7.5 out of 10

  31. I would like it if it weren’t for the yellowish green stripes. Red and black are fantastic together, but that squished grasshopper colour in between them looks really icky.
    If the stripes were white it would be much better.


  32. Kimi McG says

    Its gorgeous. The green stripes set off the red and black and keep it from looking too severe. And I love the shoulders. I’m giving it an 9. 🙂

  33. 8/10 This is a really elegant dress with a real presence and wow factor.

  34. Belinda says

    Wowee. I love it! It’s the perfect mix of standard red-carpet silhouette and daring awesomeness, and I love it just as it is. Can anyone else see it on JLaw or Lupita Nyong’o? 10/10. I’d give it 11 if I could.

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