18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Out of time in 1887

Last week I showed you an 18th century fashion plate, and to a man (or lady) you agreed that it was terrible.  However, some of you thought it was so terrible that it became awesome.  And some of you thought it was a terribleness composed of lots of nice bits, just not together.  And some of you thought it was just terrible through and through.  So our galant nymph came in at 4.3 out of 10, which is the lowest rating we’ve had in at least two years!  Ah well, better to be memorable and terrible than not to be remarkable at all?

This week, despite the HSF theme being Terminology, I was inspired by the upcoming theme #20: Alternative Universe, because there is something about this particular ensemble that strikes me as being quite out of time (and look, it’s even been sold by Time Traveller Antiques!), and also because I see it as being an interesting flip to last week’s frock.

Dress, circa 1887 via Time Traveller Antiques

Dress, circa 1887 via Time Traveller Antiques

The late 18th century redingote inspiration of this late 1880s dress is quite clear, but the ensemble also has a hint of the Aesthetic influence in the ruching that holds the skirt into a fashionably slimmer line.

So, an 1880s does 1780s, with a tiny twist of Renaissanc-y fantasy.  Timeless?  Or terrible?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. Although I love a redingote inspiration, the ruched skirt shape makes me shudder and reminds me more of a toilet-paper cozy.

    I also find the bows (if that’s what they are) on the upper arms too twee for my tastes.

    On the upside, I like the combination of fabrics (linen and subtly striped silk?) and the sophisitication of the color.

    5.0 of 10

  2. I really like this! The color and silhouette are lovely. I don’t know how I feel about the placement of the shirring on the skirt – something about that proportions feels odd, and I wish it had only been done to the top of the skirt. And I hate those bow things on the sleeves. It looks like she is being attacked by giant moths.

    Otherwise, it is really nice.


    • Beatrix says

      The faded flower/wilted bow things on the shoulders puzzle me also. (Although they simply must go.)
      I rather like the restrained neutral palette of the ensemble, a warm/olive complected brunette would look stunning in this. (Wynona Ryder? Anne Hathaway? Halle Berry?)
      I can’t quite place if it’s a summer, spring of early fall outfit though.
      8/10 for being a tad blah & the withered insect doohickeys on the shoulders.

      • letthemeatcake says

        Wondering about who has an all right complexion to get away with this colour I thought of Wynona Ryder too. Her character in age of innocence would have probably found this dress to odd to wear it but colourwise it could be ok. Age of innocence is 1870s and this late 1880s anyways. By the way did anyone notice film directors like to skip the early 1870s costumewise?….the costumes in the Scorsece film are clearly very late 1870s while the novel is set at the beginning of the decade. I guess early 1870s are not sexy.
        Now I agree this dress being more experimental while romantic would be better on a very young woman. Whats kind of interesting is that even though it seems to look only backward its foreshadowing some future trends….like the pleats at the front of the bodice and only slighty arched back of the skirt are kind of hinting towards the S-silluette of the belle epoque. And those bows at the shoulders (however wrong they look) show at least a new interest in shoulders….a few years later sleeves will be slightly puffy at the top…its not really the same thing but i see a connection. Still the bows look out of place here. 7.5

  3. I find this one very Meh and subdued. Not terribly fond of the bows or the ruching or the color. Just bland all around. 5/10.

  4. I like it very much, with the exception of the bows and ruching. Remove them, and I would happily wear it.


  5. Lynne says

    I like it. I love the jacket (apart from the arm bows). The front part would seem to be vaguely military. Do you think those daft bows and the little swags they hang from are meant to suggest all those lovely scrambled-eggy decorations important officers wore?

    The slimmer line of the skirt, produced partly by the shirring, is very pleasing. I imagine this dress would suit a lot of women.

    8 out of 10.

  6. Rachel says

    Love the military look of the jacket/overskirt. I’m actually digging the ruching too. Pulled two ways about the silhouette; wide panniers have never been high on my list, but these aren’t that wide, and they do give the dress a certain grandness. I feel like it’s a dress to act imposing in.

    If the dress were in darker contrasting colors and had more understated shoulder decorations, I might be sold on it. As it is, 6.5/10.

  7. This is a mixed bag for me. I like the colours, the subdued purple and pinks are very Spring-like.

    I love redingtote and redingtote inspired bodices, but what are those bows doing? I agree with T. Sedai that it looks like she’s been attacked by moths.

    The skirts would be better without the ruching at the top I think. The ruching in the middle is OK, it makes the skirt look like it has a giant ruffle on it if you squint.

    I’ll give this a 6/10

  8. 10 out of 10 – This dress is amazing! I love the colors and the stripes. It reminds me of Victoria Everglot from the Corpse Bride.

  9. This one isn’t terrible; it has a lot of good points. It has a lot of bad points, too–so many that they nearly cancel each other out.

    Good points: the redingote overdress and buttons; the striped underdress; the lovely delicate color.

    Bad points: The stupid bows on the sleeves; the shirring on the skirt (just on the bodice would have been fine, but shirring the skirt too looks weird); the lack of a strong color accent.

    What I think should have been done. I think the redingote part should have been a darker shade in the same color range–a mauve, perhaps, or a rose pink. The skirt should not have been shirred, and the arm ribbons should go. As it is, however, a 6.5 for excessive blandness.

  10. Grace Darling says

    I really like the colours and the over-dress. Seems to be a dress that a young miss, age 16-17, would step out in.

    The shirring on the skirt at the waist looks like something went wrong at the seamstress and everything else became a fix for a ‘blooper dress’.

    The bow looks like a dead canary. :-{


  11. This is my favorite fashion decade doing my second favorite fashion decade, so of course I love it. It’s not perfect, the ruching at the knees is quite distracting, but still a solid 8,5 from me. It got less marks for the rushing and bows at the shoulders.

  12. If a book was attacked by moths, triumphed, and then became a dress, this would be it, yes? The ruching seems remarkably page-like, and now I want to know if it has gold lettering down the – yes, the spine.
    I quite like it, though it could certainly do with having the carcasses of its fallen enemies removed from the sleeves. 7/10.

  13. Dora says

    I’m not crazy about some of the details, but it’s a good variation on the beautiful 1880s silhouette and I love the military/menswear inspiration. I imagine wearing this would make you feel fabulously put-together, capable and in charge as you stepped into the TARDIS. 8.5/10

  14. Hi!
    Should be a brighter dress in a different color-combination, this is too dim, too pale, nothing special :/ I don’t like the bows on the shouldres either, on the neck or on the cuff would be a better place for them. Also I have some problem with the shape of the skirt, perhaps the dress-stand has this very odd shape or the correct petticoats and bustle are missing, or both… The gathering in the skirt just wont help on it 🙁

  15. My first impression is that I like the dress, but it so oddly put together. I think a 7 out of 10 does it justice.

  16. juliaergane says

    The only things I really dislike about this dress are the shirrings and the sleeve bows, otherwise it is quite lovely. Could the dress have faded over the years? My Rating: 8.5/10

  17. holly says

    minus points for the shoulder sleeve bows. what?


  18. I like the colours and fabrics – both individually and together, and I like the cut. But I don’t really love it and I don’t like the insect bows at all. If they were actually insects I’d award points for sheer chutzpah, but as is I’m giving 6/10.

  19. I saw the top and I liked it.

    Then I scrolled down and saw the ruching at the waist and thought it looked meh.

    Then I saw the ruching at the knees and it fell instantly in my opinion.

    The jacket is great, and it has some good bits, but someone went a little *shir* crazy (sorry, the pun was right there and I couldn’t help it. I’ll go sit in the corner.)


  20. Sue H says

    3/10 – 1790’s was about change – this is a constipated interpretation.

  21. Johanne says

    Modified shape of the dress worn by the model in Tissot’s ‘On the Thames’ (1874) painting which is excessive in every way but achieves its purpose. I like everything about this dress, i.e., design, materials, subtlety of color, cuffs, collar, size of buttons, ruching. The bows are a sad addition. The rest is snazzy.


  22. It’s the kind of dress that would be worn by one of those sepia historical mannequins intended to represent a ghost from the past, with matching sepia hair, hat, accessories, and everything else. Its very colourlessness makes it haunting. The detailing is really nice and I think this is very much a dress that would enhance the wearer rather than overwhelming her. Very tasteful and unobtrusive and unexceptionable. I’m seeing early Amelia Peabody, actually! But ultimately, rather forgettable, despite being nicely done. So. 6/10.

  23. I’m sorry, I don’t see anything about this one I like. It is a blah colour and an odd shape. I can’t find anything I like, maybe the buttons? At best 2/10 from me.

  24. Like others: weird bows, weird ruching, somewhat odd colours (maybe faded?). The skirt, the way it is, looks like they either ran out of thread mid-shirring, or had too much left after shirring the top, so they added more rows in the middle. 😀 Maybe it’s the placement smack in the middle of the skirt.
    Love the redingote inspiration. Like the stripes. I think with a more balanced skirt shape, this could be stunning in its own subtle way, and I like subtle. 7/10

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