Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a 1911 sailor style walking suit

Some week’s Rate the Dresses spark  interesting conversations, and learning, and links to interesting articles.  And some week’s rate the dress reactions are really quite boring, and nothing at all of note gets said.  And then there are weeks when all my RTD fantasties come true, and there is poetry, and the dress gets compared to Miss Havisham, corpse brides, Cthulu, samplers….

Let’s just say that if you haven’t actually bothered to read the comments for last week’s rate the dress, you’re missing out!

The dress itself was rated 10/10 by 1/8th of the raters, and 2/10 by 1/6th of the raters (with only one person giving it a straight 1), with the rest of the votes almost as polarised on either end of the spectrum, giving it an overall rating of 5.7 out of 10.  Even lower than the yellow dress!

This week’s outfit tones things down a lot: going from garden party froth, to sailor-inspired street simplicity, and from nipped waist, to straight silhouette, despite the mere  five years in age difference in the garments.

This walking suit in striped silk, with plum silk collar and cuffs and button trim gives a nod to nautical fashion with its collar, while staying far enough away from standard sailor styling in colours and the rest of its trim to make it city appropriate, rather than strictly seaside.

The sophisticated, restrained colour scheme also shows the move from Edwardian pastels, to the natural tones and exotic orientalism that would characterise  teens fashions.

What do you think of this very restrained, mature take on a usually youthful style. Do you find it elegant? Sophisticated? The perfect way to acknowledge the newest styles without being prisoner too them? Or is it too boring, too unwilling to commit?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. What makes American silk particularly specific? I’ve heard of “French silk” which I always take to mean fabulous Lyons brocade and “China silk” but never “American silk”

    I like this suit – I love the purple colour – although it IS kinda boring in isolation. But on the right person, with the right accessories, it is going to look fabulous. But this really needs accessories and context. Otherwise there’s not really an awful lot I can say. It’s very tasteful and decorous and very nice but I can’t rate it much above 6/10 in isolation.

    • Sarah says

      It’s probably just the origin of the silk, not a reference to a specific weave or finish. Though, Cheney Brothers silk (produced in my hometown) was quite well known and widely used in its day. Apparently, Connecticut has an excellent climate for mulberries, and hence silkworms.

  2. I like this one, overall. Nice color scheme, elegant style. My only nitpick is that the rows of button holes and buttons on each side of the skirt is excessive. An 8.

  3. plantingoaks says

    Maybe it’s the past two weeks talking, but this is fantastic.
    So modern looking! So neat!
    Unfortunately, only 7/10 overall, because ugh, who invented the pigeon breast again? I think it may be less forgivable in this style than in miss havisham’s last week.
    And I agree on excessive skirt trim.

    • Elise says

      Like you, I appreciate so much of this dress….except for the awful pigeon breast. But then, I remembered that the lines of this rate the dress are so similar to the lines of bleeding-edge fashion right now! (Really: top-heavy shirts and straight-leg boyfriend jeans), and since that new silhouette is starting to appeal to me, maybe I should reevaluate the dress…

      But when it comes down to it, I really don’t like gathering in striped fabric, so 7/10 for me. There is so much to like about it: The whisper of sailor collar and sailor-trousers with the skirt buttons, the way the stripes enhance the straight line of the skirt, and a color rich enough to look elegant, and not drab. But the pigeon-breast…sigh.

  4. Hmmm. I love the color scheme, and the styling from the front is nice – I’d prefer it without the waist peplum (I suspect it’s meant to be tucked in anyway), but the wrap style is very sophisticated and intriguing.

    But the sailor collar spoils in for me. The angled sides don’t flow right, and it almost seems like an afterthought – like the dressmaker couldn’t figure out a better way to finish the collar. It doesn’t ‘go’ for me. So I’d rate this dress a 7/10, I think, based on the front.

  5. Tegan says

    Oh what a delight! It is so crisp and cute and jaunty! I want this in my wardrobe so I can wear it everywhere. Loses one point for being silk — I LOVE LOVE LOVE silk, but a suit like this I’d rather be linen or cotton so I could wear it on the boardwalk in a seaside town.


  6. mom says

    I do like it a lot: understated, elegant, nice details, a bit of variation from the “nautical” colours. On the wrong kind of woman (very fair-haired and pale) it might look boring, though. So I imagine a very lively, quick-tempered dark-haired woman with an impressive hat wearing it.
    Seen from the back, the sleeves look slightly “off”, maybe the pattern could be improved.


    • It definitely needs an impressive hat and a brunette underneath it.
      I’m not a fan of these narrow skirts and I think this one gets overwhelmed by the top; I keep imagining it with more of an A-line shape, a la cca 1917. So 7/10 from me.

  7. Mack says

    This dress is way too austere and prison matron/crotchety grandmother for me to like it. Although, to be fair to the dress, its mostly because it is such a drab set of colors. It beg, beg, begs for accessories to save it from being so boring. The top also bothers me, as it is reminiscent of a drawstring sack full of potatoes. It just looks odd with such a simple, yet elegant skirt. The detailing is beautiful, and with a different silouette, I may have felt differently about it. I give it a 5/10, because even though it’s hella boring, the execution and buttons on the dress are very nice.

  8. 10/10 It’s super elegant and very fashionable. I prefer brighter colors, but this subdued brown would be favored by most people and less subject to individual taste, so I think a lot of people would wear it themselves. I love the simple lines but yet there are interesting details, like the buttons. It is tasteful yet not boring.

  9. Rachel says

    I’m digging the collar/cuffs, both the color and their big blocky cut. I love all of the buttons – very sharp and precise. But the little peplum at the smallest part of the waist interrupts the severity and makes it a little playful.

    Colors? Not really sold on the beige, but it’s not a problem. What’s stopping me from really liking it is the floppy blousy top. From the front it’s okay, but the side-view bothers me. And then the more I look at the front, the sloppier it feels. That could just be an issue for that one picture, and on a real person it might fall differently. Still, I think I’d like the bodice with a snugger fit. Yeah, you’d lose some of its relaxed casualness, but I also think it would be playing to the suit’s strengths – simplicity, shape and structure.


  10. Barbara Stevens says

    Love the skirt, it’s elegant and I really like the button detail – beautifully executed and crisp. But the top! Oh dear, what happened? This looks like an outfit designed by two different people – if it was a home made outfit I’d say someone chose top and skirt from different patterns/pictures and didn’t take enough care to make sure they were complementary. Don’t like the top at all, and I agree that it should probably be tucked in – that peplum is just messy – and worn with a self fabric belt if the skirt does not have a decent waistband.
    I think it was made for a woman with a bigger bust than the mannequin it’s on – look at how the buttons on the bodice hang down. I think they should be flatter on the fabric than they are – a bit of padding on the torso might make the bodice look a whole lot better.
    So to marks out of 10 – I’ll give it 7, because I love the skirt, but feel the bodice could do better.

  11. holly says

    A much more pleasing effort. Still, those droopy buttons detract from the otherwise crispness of the garment.


  12. I too find the top a little too blousy and feel the peplum should have been tucked in, but aside from that I love it! The overall shape is flattering, the details are gorgeous (those buttons on the skirt, swoon!)

  13. Oh, I want to love this – the tailored skirt and the detailing down the sides are fabulous, and I love sailor-inspired everything. But – while I don’t despise the pigeon-breast style as such, this one just looks sloppy, and at odds with the sophistication and tailoring of the rest of the suit. So maybe 6/10 – it has potential, but it just doesn’t quite work for me.

  14. It’s always fun to see just how much fashion changed within a decade back then 🙂 All the alterations, innovations, etc. went into to form the latest popular style 🙂 This dress is very simple, indeed simplicity on it’s pink! I can imagine this dress had a belt or sash around the waist to hide the blouse edge, alas it’s gone now, might have given to the dress an essential “kick” and finished look. 6/10

  15. letthemeatcake says

    Actually I’m not really keen on the silluette. While exploring new bodice shapes might have looked progressive at the time I don’t find this puffy jacket flattering from today’s perspective. I’d prefer it as a simple column. Nicely fitted around the shoulders and arms, without being restricting, a straight, short jacket with the skirt remaining as it is. So basically closer to that no nonsense shape that would eventually evolve into the classic Chanel suit.7/10

  16. I want to like it, especially compared to last week. But this one just barely goes meh to me, so it’s just a plain 5/10.

    • Billye says

      What brandykullan said. Meh. But 4/10. That blouse just bothers me.

  17. letthemeatcake says

    More specificly : a columnar dress underneath, not just a skirt and the jacket much shorter keeping the silluette straight

  18. Very nice! Apart from the puffy blousiness (verging on gaping) of the top and the somewhat uninspiring colour, it’s gorgeous. I particularly like the skirt trim. And I agree with above commenters: a hat of awesomeness is required. 7/10

  19. Hearthrose says

    7/10. The details on the side of the skirt are to die for. The color scheme is not, and I’m not excited by the pinstripes.

    I’m wondering about the pigeon-fronted bodice on that mannequin – it’s rather dreadful, isn’t it? Something is wrong there, it doesn’t look like period photographs. Do you think the original owner was about 2-3″ taller from waist to shoulder? Nothing is lying quite as it ought, even with “pigeon front” in the fore of my mind. So ??? But I’m not taking that into my rating. 🙂

  20. MJ Ruisi says

    …I believe terms such as “Handsome” and “Mannish”might be accurate(neither implies un -attractive)….

  21. JessieRoo says

    i have soft spot for jaunty teens styling, and sailor outfits in general, and like almost everything about this outfit, though I agree it would look better with a little less fullness in the bodice front. But, honestly, what I like best about this is that I don’t get a back ache just from looking at it! 8/10

  22. Julia Ergane says

    Fusty — is that a word? It really does not do much for a woman, either colour wise or figure wise. I guess if you worked at a bank or Wall Street — but, I don’t think women women did back then. Oh, well. My rating: 3/10

  23. Johanne says

    I am wracking my brain for a reason to dislike this dress in any way. Nope. It is beautifully wrought, handsome rather than feminine (which can be a very good thing), serviceable while elegant with clear, strong lines. Good job to the designer and tailor or seamstress.


  24. I really like this. It is SO sophisticated and stylish. I would happily wear this, and I give it an 8/10. The extra 2 could be gained by it having the wow factor, such as a bit more colour, or some more interesting elements. It is so crisp, which works well with the small pigeon breast and narrow waist.

  25. Celandine says

    I almost love this. I agree with other commenters here, that the pigeon-breast is a little too much so, that the peplum should be tucked in, and that it needs a dark-haired “handsome” (rather than “pretty”) woman with a really massive hat to carry it off — especially a hat with white ostrich feathers! I really like the color combination, wh. is very sophisticated. I wasn’t so sure about the button trim on the skirt, but if you take it away, the whole ensemble looks top-heavy — maybe part of the problem is that the buttons look so droopy? But on the whole, 8/10!

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