Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Walking in the pink, 1878-80

Last week I showed you a dress that transitioned between the 1830s and 40s.  Based on your historical preferences, some of you wanted it to be more 1830s, or more 1840s, but most of you said “Oooooh!” and gave it a 10.  Which is why it managed a 9.2 out of 10, despite  few ‘Meh’s.

Looks like we’re on a winning streak!  Can we keep it up?

Much to my surprise, last weeks dress actually received some criticism for NOT having enough trim. Some of you wanted trim on the skirt too.

So this week, I’ve gone all out on trim:

This afternoon dress, in lilac pink and puce silk taffeta, is trimless only in the sense that there are no added fabrics.  When it comes to self fabric trim, Madame Grazini  went all out.  The bodice features fishbone pleating up the centre front, framed by a faux jacket in the puce, with self fabric buttons.  The real tour de force is the skirt though: ruching, fishbone pleating, tiny pressed pleats, rosette ruffles, bows, shirring, and bustling.

It’s an excellent example of the way the slimmer natural form silhouette made up for its restraint in shape with an excess of ornamentation.

What do you think of it?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Although I love the careful pleating of the bodice, the excess of trim on the skirt makes my teeth ache, since it reminds me of nothing so much as chocolate frosting on a strawberry cake (or cupcake lining papers). I know it’s merely personal preference, rather than an educated evaluation of the period style, but if one is going to load that great a volume of frou-frou, I would prefer it to be in the same color (or at least color range).

    7.0, with the value given for the obvious skill in construction.

  2. mom says

    I always feel bad when critizising 1870s/1880s dresses – what contemporaries saw as elegant opulence makes my skin crawl but obviously the aesthetics have changed so much that it’s not quite fair evaluating this kind of fashion with a 21st century sensibility.

    So I’ll stick with 7 out of 10.
    The dress is skillfully made, a lot of thought and time went into the construction, it says shimmering rich and elegant opulence very loudly, and


    *skin crawls

  3. Beautiful fabric and such stunning workmanship. I like the swathes of pleating on the skirt and the strong diagonals. At the time it was made, it would have screamed ‘wealth and elegance’ loud and clear. While it is a fabulous piece, as a personal response, I find the volume of trimming too much for my own taste. 8/10

  4. MJ Ruisi says

    ……Well that lily certainly is guilded ,No?…..

    9…for heavy guilding….

  5. I wish I could see what colors this dress was before it faded. Now it looks drab, and a little odd–I’m seeing it as muted pink and mud brown. Pink and puce would, at least, have been livelier.

    I don’t much care for the silhouette, either. Some natural form dresses I really like, but the shine of the fabric, combined with the tightness of the bodice and the herringbone trim details, make the dress look a bit like some kind of crustacean. The train tends to enhance the effect, for some reason. However, the trim is masterfully applied, and must have been sensational looking when the dress was new, so I’ll go with a 7.

  6. Heather says

    9.5 out of 10, because that’s not my color. I love it, it’s so over the top, I’d wear it in a shot.

  7. “I’m seeing it as muted pink and mud” LOL Catherine, that’s priceless and the “crustacean” bit! Too Funny!

    Well that was the fashion, but I’ve seen prettier examples. It doesn’t appeal to me, however the artistry of the dressmaker is surely evident.
    I give the dressmaker a ten….but the dress? Well it probably cost the client a lot so, ahrg… 7/10

  8. That’s certainly spectacular. I really don’t like those colours though – puce always reminds me of how Georgette Heyer almost NEVER had a positive connotation for the colour. (And of course: “There’s absolutely no excuse for plum or for puce, or chartreuse, Think pink!”)

    I’m a wee bit distracted by the mannequin too – her head looks REALLY tiny to the point that it’s distracting me a bit.

    I like the dress. I don’t really love it. I definitely don’t like the colours much. I think if it was all one colour/shade I’d really like it, or even if there was more of a contrast between the colours, but squashed-flea and metallic lavender? Wince. 7/10.

    • Did Georgette Heyer speak French? It might have been hard to think positively of a colour when its name screams Flea! at you.

  9. I think if it was still its original colours it would be spectacular, unfortunately with the puce now being muddy brown it’s fighting with the pink. I’m going to use my imagination and re-colour it. 8/10

  10. Lyn Swan says

    Way too much for my taste. So many different elements are overwhelming…the colors are not my favorite. Skillfully made though 5/10

  11. Lynne says

    I really want to like this. The shape is good; the puce reduced the pink to some sort of order, but they are neither colours I like. The bodice is very pleasing. The fish-bone pleating is lovely, and has the plainness of the faux-jacket to set it off.

    But everything goes crazy in the skirt. It is all trim! Goodness knows what a back-view would be like. Very well done, all of it, but too much.

    7 out of 10.

  12. holly says

    Woah! Trim overload!! However, I do like the unusual colour combination even though it’s faded over time, so points for that.


  13. Lots of skills, probably hundreds of hours of painstaking work; but just too much of everything! Forces the viewer to look somewhere else, the embellishments are too hard for the eyes 🙁 I love-love-love bustle period, but this dress is a big NO, sorry :((( 5/10

  14. pinterest.compinterest.comThat’s not self-fabric trim. This dress has at least three different sort of fabrics if you go by the crazy color fading. There is the fishbone-pleated satin, the “main” fabric that’s used on the top and most of the skirt and then the trim fabric that’s now a questionable brown. Having seen purple silk fade into exactly that shade of brown before, I would wager the guess that the dress used to be all purple (something along the lines of this).

    The all-purple dress though doesn’t wow me though either. I thought it would because the brown was so distractingly ugly (4/10 would be generous) but in all-purple the entire front is just too much. (8/10)

    • Actually, I REALLY love that all in one shade. Interesting thought on the fading – blue dye is certainly very unstable at times and you frequently see purple dresses where the colour has altered as the blue component of the dye has altered.

  15. It’s awesome. This style is to me the most quintessentially Victorian of all – super elaborate and textures layered with textures to make up for the TOTAL COVERAGE. I love the almost the same colours.
    I love how the design is basically – how many ways can we utilise pleats on one dress. So even though there are many elements, they all have that linear element of pleats or tucks.
    I think it is a brave thing to do, adding more and more and more to a garment and still have it work as a cohesive style. Far harder than a little bit of detail. Of course the resulting effect will not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic, and I would neither wish to wear it (which is not unusual for me) or make it (too much work) but I celebrate that it was both made, and worn, and survived.

  16. Lucy says

    There is just SO MUCH going on. I agree with what’s been said, I think if the dress were either all one color, or more contrasting colors it would look a little better. But only a little. When there is so much happening, no one thing gets a chance to shine and it feels like everything is fighting for attention. If the bodice were more plain to contrast with the encrusted skirt, or the front of the skirt were more plain to contrast with the bustle and the train. As it is it stresses me out because I feel like all the elements are yelling at me. The one redeeming value is the masterful execution of all those details. I wish I could make pleats like that. So 5/10 for skill, but lack of focus.

  17. I love the bodice, the fishbone pleating is amazing and the jacket part complements it well. I love that the fishbone pleating then continues down the skirt giving continuity between the two parts. However there are 3 colours on the bodice, the majority of the ‘jacket’ is a lighter shade of the ppuce, and it is not repeated in the skirt. I find that distracting. Also possibly that the lower portion of the ‘jacket’ is maybe a little too plain? It stands out against the rest of the dress.

    The skirt features some amazing work, with so much detail. Those endless tiny pleats must have taken a lot of time. The lilac fabric draped up to the sides has possibly been squashed by years of storage (along with all the trim and something I find very sad about museum pieces), but from reading about the natural form era these would possibly have been puffed. I’m trying to picture that in my mind…

    Favourite bits: fishbone pleating, seashell shaped ruffles either side of that, and triple lines of narrow pleats running round to to the side.

    I’m not keen on the lilac, it looks a bit sickly. I shan’t judge the puce, but my eye keeps trying to make this pink with brown trim and failing so I’m never quite comfortable with it. I would have liked to have seen it modelled with a trained petticoat, but that isn’t the dress’ fault. Overall 8/10

  18. Barbara Stevens says

    Reminds me of today’s cupcakes – mostly frosting and very little cake. Sorry, but I think it’s a monstrosity. 10 out of 10 for skill to the dressmaker, 0 out of 10 to whoever thought this was tasteful. Pink and Puce – no no no. And the hat! Words fail me. The original wearer would have had to be an outstanding beauty not to be totally swamped by this candy floss creation. As a fashion statement I give it 2/10 because I feel so sorry for it.

  19. I can’t quite make up my mind on this… I agree with some peop,e saying it is totally over the top, but that’s what makes it so quintessentially Victorian. Not a fan of the hat at all… And it is just me or does the mannequins head look too small for the body? I also think the train is impractical for a walking dress; the streets cannot have been that clean back then!
    So, overall a 7/10. I’m just not quite sure where I stand on it.

  20. I can’t shake a feeling that the photo isn’t helping it. There are whole washed out areas suggesting a harsh source of lighting.
    I actually like the skirt a lot, where over-the-top things go; it’s very well balanced with all those zig-zag lines and seashell allusions. The bodice, to my surprise, is actually too subdued and stern in comparison to it – I don’t usually go for over-the-top, but here more might be more. More of those puce-coloured pleats, specifically, and more colour alternation. As it is, the bodice looks very armour-like in comparison to the textured and drapery skirt.
    And as others mentioned, these particular colours, possibly faded now, don’t quite help its case, either. I think I would like them both in a different environment, but together, they don’t make much of an impression. I like the above-linked touched up version more, too. 🙂
    The execution of that skirt, though, is one of the best examples of bustle era over-the-top I’ve ever seen. It’s totally not my style, but very stylish nonetheless.

  21. I like the fishbone pleating. As far as the skirt goes there’s a lot going on with it, but I don’t mind the overall effect because it has so much texture. But there is such a lot of it, and I don’t really like the colours, and while I think a plain bodice is a good idea with such a busy skirt, I don’t like the way the bodice comes down over the hips and just stops. 7/10

  22. I actually love this. I think it is beautiful except for the awful color. But I have a vivid imagination and am loving it in my imagined blue. The hat though looks flattened and not at all flattering. 9.5/10

  23. I like it. It’s like a big pile of chocolate and strawberry ice cream.

    I’m not overly fond of the colours, but I think it would look quite well put together on the right person. The fishbone pleating and little buttons are wonderful.


  24. I love trained Victorian dresses. Absolutely LOVE them! While I’m all about trim, this dress just seems to have an excess amount of it between all the layers of pleats and ruffles going down the front of the bodice, front and sides of the skirt, back of the train, hem, etc. The other thing is the bodice doesn’t really seem to go with the skirt. The bodice has pleats and buttons, the skirt is all drapery, bows, and ruffles. It’s only the fabrics that pull the two together. I will give kudos to the fabric color choices though, which work well together, given the excess trim.

    7 out of 10 for me

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