Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a 1770s belle in lacy bells?

Last week I showed you Elizabeth Craven, Lady Powis, in her all-over embroidered early-Stuart jacket and skirt.  It’s an outfit that I love SO MUCH.  Everything about it makes me happy.  It’s got blossoms and berries and birds and bees and bugs and other ‘various sundrie spottes’.  It’s like Spindle’s End got turned into an outfit.  I want it, oh, I want it!  The only reason it isn’t top of my sewing list is that I would be 70 before it was done if I started today.

So, umm, slightly biased.

And many of you agreed, giving it a satisfying 13 of 27 10/10.  But some of you who didn’t agree really didn’t like it much, pulling the score down to 8.8 out of 10.  That’s OK, I still adore it!

Now, on to this week!

A confession: I just wasn’t feeling Rate the Dress this week.  We spent the weekend painting the house, and cleaning the house, and my Mon & Tue work schedule was incredibly hectic, and I just didn’t want to blog.  The post on privacy and perfection got published only because it was already written.

But it’s Wednesday morning, and I feel a trifle guilty about the lack of RtD, and (more to the point), Felicity has occupied my lap, at a moment when I don’t have much else to do on the computer.  So, courtesy of Felicity, you get a RtD!

And you know what?  I’m quite excited about it now that I’ve committed to it.  I did what I usually do when I’m out of inspiration:  pick a museum at random, and a costume term at random, and see what turns up.

In this case LACMA and ‘polonaise’ yielded this very feminine and spring-y pink and green ensemble:

At first my reaction was ‘eh, standard 3rd quarter of the 18th century pretty frock, not that inspiring, but I guess it will do’

And then I looked at it more closely and thought ‘well, actually that chenille trim is rather fascinatingly wacky’

And then I looked even more closely and realised ‘there are three dimensional lace bells on that thing!’  Not quite bell-bells, but more like flower bells: bluebells or harebells or something.  But still…three dimensional lace bells, just hanging off of it…

And the sleeves also have rather interesting petal shaped detailing:

And the stomacher they have paired it with have some rather fetching ribbon work going on:

Not to mention the shoes in a different green and white striped silk:

So, all in all, not the standard, boring dress I saw at first glance at all!

I imagine the lace bells would sway and bounce with the movement of the wearer, further adding to the layered, ornamented, embellished, all-encompassing Rococo sensibilities.

So what do you think of it?  Are the bells just mad enough to be fabulous?  Does the whole think work as an ode to perky, bouncy, über-feminine, pink-and-green, rococo-ness?  Or is it terrible and overworked and over-saccharine?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Carol Hough says

    10. That is a magnificent dress and those shoes are flat awesome.

  2. Mini Robson says

    I’m usually quite divided about 18th century dresses; for me, there is a fine line between pretty and, well, not.
    This time, however, I am absolutely taken with this dress. It’s lovely! I love the colours and the folds, and it all just goes together so well. The lace bells are fantastically unique.

  3. Barbara Stevens says

    I love it! Quite crazy but very delicious. Love the fripperies – who thought of the little lacy bells? It’s 10 on all counts.

  4. The chenille trim and lace bells are certainly wacky, and I usually have a soft spot for wacky, but the fabric reminds me of wallpaper and not in a good way. I rather like the overall style and the stomacher, but that fabric doesn’t do it for me. 6/10

  5. Thank you, Leimomi and thank you, Felicity! I was missing the “Rate the Dress,” but I figured that you were just too tired/busy to post one, then this interesting dress showed up!

    Now, the dress.

    I like the pink of the gown (though the shoes should be pink, instead of green, darn it). I like the late 18th century silhouette. But the chenille trim and lace, uh bells, are a bit much for me. 5 for the good features + 2 for originality and nerve = 7.

  6. Lugh says

    It’s definitely a bit much, but in a good way, I think. The lace bells and chenille trim are sheer mad fashion genius, and pair adorably with the fabric.

    I’m a fairly new commenter (or rather, I’ve been reading for four years, but have only actually participated in a Rate the Dress once, a year or two ago.) so I’m not entirely sure whether we should be Rating the Dress, or the Outfit… as a dress alone, I’d give it a 10 for a perfect combination of pluck, whimsy and classic mastery of fabric. But as an outfit, I’d have to take two points off– one for the stomacher, and one for the shoes. I’d like the stomacher just fine with a different dress, and slightly better with blue shoes, but even though it’s well executed and matches the colors of the dress all right, it’s the wrong texture. The shoes just have nothing to recommend them to me, and as an aside, that pink bow at the top is completely the wrong pink.

    so, 10/10 as a dress, and 8/10 as an outfit.

  7. Alyssa says

    What fun the dresses of this time are! Frilly and Feminine – I think it’s stunning. I love the stomacher and how it echoes the pattern on the fabric. I love how the pink bow is a bit brighter than the rest of the pink in the dress. I do wish the chenille were a brighter color to match, a green for the stripes or a blue for the flowers in the print – but I love the application and little lacey bells.

  8. At first I was thinking “Wow!” and then I notice the red trim and the pink bow and was more like “why?!” The color of the trim is pulling this 10 down several points. 8/10

  9. Jenny Wren says

    The first time there’s a nail even slightly sticking out of something, those bells are going to get shredded. Also, with them all swaying around, you’d look like a jester. Shame, because without them it’d be fairly nice, but they’re such a bad idea that this dress gets 2/10 from me.

  10. Wow, it’s delicious! I love those bells and the colours, but I just get the feeling that at any second a flock of sheep are going to come charging over the horizon and the wearer will be forced to herd them up! It’s just a bit too China shepherdess for me to give it ten, so I’ll give it 9/10. The shoes are also gorgeous.

  11. Oooh yes, I agree, uber-feminine and frivolous and sweet and eccentric. I adore the shoes. The lace bells are a bit strange though. 8/10.

  12. All I see when I look at it is wallpaper, normally I love eighteenth century, but this is just not doing it for me, possibly because we had a navy and pink version of this on the walls when we moved in.

  13. Oh that’s SO much fun!!! I love it. It looks fresh and bouncy and springy and lively. Put a big smile on my face just looking at it, after a pretty grim morning. 10/10.

    • SO MUCH JOYFULNESS. I just go back and look at it and smile all over again. I don’t know what it is about this dress, but it’s really cheered me up no end.

  14. Lucy says

    This dress has so much going for it, and then it kind of crashes. It’s like on Project Runway when Tim says they need to edit. The designer had a lovely fabric and made a lovely dress, but they couldn’t stop. They thought they would add this contrasting trim and then they thought “Ooooh! I know what this dress needs! Little hangy lace bell things!” Oh dear. And I usually like wacky and sweet! If it didn’t have that trim and the silly pink ribbon on the top I would give it a 10/10. But the trim is so bad. So 7/10.

  15. PatW says

    Love the dress, the bells are cute, but why red chenille? That red squiggle is just wrong. 8/10

  16. I almost loved it at first glance, but found the red squiggles awkwardly placed and poorly chosen in color. A closer look, revealing the bells, did not help this impression. They’re so oddly stiff and mechanical for 18th c. lace, which usually has a lovely organic seafoam texture–totally lacking here. I’m not even convinced the red-n-bells is original to the gown–was someone trying to “spruce up” the gown later and decided “hey, glaringly clashing color, that’ll do it!”? I don’t know. It worked until it didn’t.

    7/10 because it’s nothing some time with a pair of embroidery snips wouldn’t fix.

  17. Julia Ergane says

    Roccoco fun! This dress has really made my week. The only problem I have is the large pink bow at the top of the stomacher. I don’t think this could be the original (?). I would have liked a larger silk rose, blue, or green. The red on the skirt would have probably looked better in a dark green. I love those shoes ;-). And, the bells are just darling — “and she shall make music wherever she goes.” My rating: 9/10

  18. I’m completely biased in favor of most 18thc wackiness, so I freely admit this is coloring my review!

    And, well, I love it! At first glance it just looks like the picture of Spring to me. Very pastoral. The bells are ridiculous, but being made of delicate lace, they don’t stand out obtrusively….and I think they’re a good ridiculous! The only thing I don’t love is the color of the chenille; I think I’d prefer something that harmonizes with the dress a little more. 9/10!

  19. This doesn’t do it for me. Although there’s a certain joie-de-vivre in the style and color, the trim reminds me of nothing but a bonbon box, with the candy liners scattered about. 6/10

  20. I rather like it in all its quirkiness! The color is just too lovely for words. I don’t quite care for the combination of the chenille with the stomacher looking entirely different, so 7 out of 10.

  21. This polonaise is not my favorite 18th century style, but I am smiling from ear to ear and can’t stop. It’s over the top – and I love it: the fabulous colors, the funky and totally unexpected chenille trim (?!), the lace bells (?!?!), the embroidered stomacher with just enough blue to set it apart, the not-perfectly-matching shoes…altogether too much, but in a good way. As Daniel said – SO MUCH JOYFULNESS! I really can’t stop smiling. Easy-peasy – 10/10.

    • Johanne says

      I concur. This dress is delightful. 10/10

  22. Isn’t it amazing how, when you point something out, everyone suddenly sees it? Now the chenille trim and lace bells are bringing the rating down for some people.
    I like it. I think I like it as much as I can like a sweet, poofy 18th century dress, myself. And the chenille and lace bells actually help, because they’re fairly simple yet idiosyncratic, as 18th century trimmings go, and I like that.
    It has a bit of “me” in it, even though not in a way I would have come up with myself. And I like that, too. It’s like someone took a look at my likes somewhere very deep down, not even limited to dress-related likes, and then pulled them together in a dress I would never deem to be my style if described overall. (Things like what kinds of flowers I like = usually wild growing meadow types which this seems to evoke a bit; and the fact that I have such a deep liking for bells that I wasn’t even fully aware of it myself until I looked at this.) It somehow feels like the personal bias is perfectly justified: like it was made for a person with similar tastes to mine who just happened to live in an era that did like saccharine, poofy, over-trimmed dresses…
    So, with a full acknowledgement of that personal bias, 9,5/10. Not a full ten, because it’s not quite an instant ooh; the chenille trim does clash a little.

    • By the way, this reminds of a question I’ve been pondering for a while: did all these 18th century (slightly or completely) dusty pink fabrics start out life as that shade? I love the shade, as much as I otherwise don’t tend to associate with pink much. So I was wondering if it’s a shade that actually was popular at the time, or if it’s a case of retroactive association caused by the aging. (Much like medieval/Renaissance furniture is now very dark, even though it didn’t start out life that way – well, maybe that’s not the best example for people who don’t live with countries that have that history. :D)

      • That mid-range pink shade is pretty popular in fashion prints–my best guess is that it was a popular shade at the time (with, IMO, good reason!)

  23. I love it, it is quite bonkers in the best way. It must have been a lot of fun to wear, or maybe it wasn’t, which is why it is in such good condition and never got worn. I wonder who thought, hey let’s make lace bells! And put this chenille on it! How these decisions are made. It’s fascinating.

  24. *grabby hands* I wants it! It’s pink and green and stripy and has a print and trims? Why have I not re-created this yet?

    10 out of 10.

  25. mom says

    Oh what a delicious, fun pink cupcake of a dress – LOVE it. It is so short that you can skip about in it, presumably to milk your cows in your very own fake farmhouse dairy or some such. The delicate pastels are fresh and feminine, and the red squiggly trim pattern creates some visual punch to keep it from getting boring. The only thing I don’t like is the blue lacy stuff on the stomacher – really doesn’t fit the overall colourway.


  26. It still makes me smile from ear to ear when I see it! I have absolutely NO idea why, but it does!

  27. Beckajo says

    10. 10 10 10. I saw this post on Facebook and actually dreamed about the dress last night, a lovely dream of spring and lambs and shephardesses. It’s delightful.

  28. Ooh, thank you Felicity! Cats have a rather wonderful habit of being in the right place at the right time, don’t they?
    I love this dress so much! I might be wrong, but could it be that the ‘lace bells’ might have had some sort of herbs in them to ward off fleas? I’ve heard of little vials with some sort of flea repellent in them handing from the inside of the great pannier dresses, and so perhaps this might be a same concept, just made to look decorative?
    This dress for me would be a 10/10, but I think that the hot pink trimming clashed just a bit too much, so it’s still a high 9.5/10.

  29. It’s a happy. pretty little dress and I love it.
    The chenille is a little too bright, just tone it down a bit because it fights with that glorious stomacher. I still love it.

  30. Belinda says

    Looooooooove! Not 100% sold on those bells, but everything else is awesomely darling and perky and fun. Especially love the contrast ribbon in the stomacher! 9/10

  31. Lynne says

    I tend to have faith in Daniel’s judgement, but this time we part ways. When I was a gel, dressing tables (anyone still have one?) had skirts. The tables could be oblong or kidney shaped (very trendy for a while). This kind of striped fabric had a revival at the time, and this was the kind of thing one would use to make a swagged skirt for one’s dressing table. Easter Eggs (made out of rock-hard icing) also came in similar colours and patterns. One could push the boat out and have bobbles and trims and squiggly bits as well as the floral stripe on either the table or the egg.

    You see my problem? The dress makes me twitch. The shoes are wonderful.

    6 out of 10.

    • Actually all that sounds like even more pluses to me…. it’s just so much fun. Silly but fun.

  32. I’ll be honest, I hate this. Someone said wallpaper, and that’s exactly what I’m thinking of. Also, the awkward length, I wouldn’t wear that length in any time period. The shoes are fabulous though, so I’ll give it a three, simply for the shoes. 3/10

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