Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Peach, peonies and pastels in 1906

Last week I featured an 1860s dress in ever-so-fashionable aniline yellow, with black lace.  The dress elicited a very divided response.  A third of you thought it was gauche and garish, a third of you found it absolutely glorious and golden, and the rest of you could admire the bravery and the fashion-forwardness, even if it was a bit too wasp-y not WASP-y for your tastes.

The balance of adoration, abhore-ation, and mild in-period appreciation gave the dress a 6.4 out of 10, which is the lowest we’ve had in quite some time.

This week I have gone as far from bold, garish, and outré as possible, to the almost obsessively delicate, subdued and detailed fashions of the first decade of the 20th century.

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company,  Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company, Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

This dress from the Indianapolis Museum of Art is made of peach pink silk, embellished with a profusion of pintucks, shirring, ruching, three-dimensional ribbon flowers, velvet detailing, and almost photo-realistic appliqués of peony flowers.

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company,  Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company, Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

The bodice features the classic 1900s drooping pigeon breast, with the sheer silk revealing layers of detailing.  The waist is emphasised with a fashionable swiss-waist inspired corselet effect, highlighted with velvet.

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company,  Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company, Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

From a distance the dress might look quite simple, all the detailing blending together into one whole, but the closer one gets to the dress, the more packed it is with embellishments.

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company,  Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company, Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

There are shirred panels of fabric opening up to form godet effects, and appliqués on the hem, over ruffled underlayers, so that no part of the dress lacks interest.

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company,  Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

Day Dress in silk and silk velvet, ca. 1906, Girolamo Giuseffi (American, 1864-1934) G. Giuseffi L.T. Company, Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1986.405

What do you think?  Overwhelmingly embellished and frilly, or the perfect example of Edwardian über-feminism?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

56 Comments

  1. With the minor exception of that oddly diagonal “cord” on the bodice, I think this is superlatively lovely. I can almost feel the whispering movement of the fabric, and the color is something would be at home in a summer gazebo in a fancy garden. The amount of embellishment may be profuse, but overall the profusion is beautifully managed.
    I would love to have both the figure and the occasion to wear it. 9.5 of 10.

  2. I love the color. Peach is lovely, and it looks great on me, too. It also works for an airy dress for summer, as an alternative to the more common whites and pastel blues.

    I’m also fine with the basic silhouette. This gown lacks the “pouter pigeon” profile that I associate (and loathe) with Edwardian fashions, and the tight pointed waist, highlighted with peach velvet, is very graceful and appealing.

    But the rest of the ornamentation? The ruching on the sleeves is so unbalanced that I suspect the dress is either damaged or has been badly placed on the mannikin. Even if I ignore the sleeves, there are way too many criss-cross tucks, nubbins, and lace applique flowers–so many of them that it begins to take away from the light, airy, summery feel of the dress. Too bad; I wanted to like this dress more. A 6 from me.

  3. Rachel says

    This is probably more tasteful – and took more time and effort to make – than last week’s dress, but I like it even less. The color’s all right, and the skirt’s shape is lovely and probably even lovelier in motion. But I hate that “heap of handkerchiefs/pile of dead jellyfish” effect of the bodice. The cut makes the body look segmented. As for the embellishments, it’s all too much and saccharine.

    Last week’s dress was at least arresting and memorable. This one is so cluttered that I can’t really focus on individual elements, and when I don’t even like the first-glance, overall impression, there isn’t much left to work with.

    3/10

  4. Kathy says

    Rachel,

    I totally love the “pile of dead jellyfish” description. I wasn’t wild about the dress from last week but this one is too insipid.

    2/10

    • Elise says

      It’s a great description.

      I think this saving grace for this dress is that it is only one color–can you imagine how it would have looked with many many colors of trim?

      The garland is so funny, and would have really caused problems with the chest. It’s like those one-shoulder dresses, where one breast is ruched, while the other is straight: Like Kate Winslet’s Oscar-winning dress.

      Without the garland, it would have just squeaked by on good taste. But it’s too yucky, one braided bridge too far.

      4/10 for construction, but it lost 6 points for good taste. However, it is an interesting study on fabric–not sequins or jet beads–as trim.

  5. It’s another dress that gone to battle with a curtain warehouse and lost. No, this is simply too much for me, no rest for the eyes, just more and more details everywhere. I’m not too fond of the colour either, but I will admire it for all the different techniques that were used so it’s 3/10 from me.

  6. Ugh. Somehow, it reminded me of the tattered “dead bride” aesthetic (I haven’t actually seen that). It just doesn’t look planned at all, as carefully made as it clearly is. So all that effort’s mostly gone to waste.
    3/10

    • “dead bride aesthetic” – until I read that I never thought that something peachy and frou-frou could be scary. And now it gives me the creeps.
      2/10 for the dress (it’s suffocating) and a perfect score for the description 🙂

      • I think it might need better underpinnings to show off better (the skirt in particular, I think, requires fuller petticoats) – so I didn’t dare go quite as low, but it’s definitely one of the lowest points in recent memory for me. It might be a novel idea, to dress horror characters in pastel colours. 🙂

    • Elise says

      OMG–that is perfect! At first, I was thinking of Bette Davis in Jezebel, and her over-trimmed dress. (I couldn’t hear the film, because I was paying too much attention to the flutters)

      But then you brought about: Dead Bride Aesthetic. BWAHAHAHAHA! This dress belongs in Hot Topic better than David’s Bridal. (American Goth-lite store, and ubiquitous mid-range bridal store, respectively for those living abroad who are keeping score.)

      Maybe another good descriptor would be “Bad Etsy”

        • Elise says

          True. (Although, this is a great time to shout-out to all the superior Etsy crafters!)

          But there is a lot of bad Etsy. Maybe I should have said ‘regretsy’. Which is wonderful.

  7. There is way too much going on with all the detailed embellishments on the dress. It’s lovely in that it surely took a lot of work to produce, but that’s about where my appreciate for it ends. 4/10.

    Best,
    Quinn

  8. I simply can’t imagine the woman who wore this dress having anything interesting to say. 2/10.

  9. Laura D says

    5/10 from Gracie, my seven-year-old niece because she says she only sorta likes it. She likes the color. For me, 8/10 because I think the detail is fabulous, and a 10/10 from four- year-old Nikki, because she proclaimed it the “beautifullest” dress!

  10. Lyn Swan says

    10/10 beautiful…how could anyone have such a tiny waist?

  11. Elizabeth says

    That is the ugliest dress I have ever seen. The colour is ok, and I like the way the shoulders look, but aside from that, the shirring is unattractive and there is waay too much of it. Way too much going on in general in fact. 2/10

  12. I think this dress is darling! Love the details! I think the excessive amount of detailing shows just how much thought women used to put into their appearance. If I was an Edwardian woman and saw thei in a shop I might very well threaten my husband with joining the sufferage movement if he refused to buy it for me.

  13. Beckajo says

    This dress reminds me ever so slightly of the dress that Emily Starr wore when she starred in a play at Shrewsbury High School, was locked out of the house by her terrible aunt, and hiked three miles home on a cold Canadian night. Perhaps a bit more detailed…I don’t think even Aunt Laura would have put that much effort in to the evening dress…but marvelous. 10/10

    • Elise says

      There is a lot of love in this dress, to be sure, and you say lovely things about it!

  14. Barbara Stevens says

    I think it’s gorgeous. Certainly a dress of its time – nobody today would consider putting all that decoration onto one garment. I can assure the dislikers that wearing a dress like this makes you feel fantastic – before you know what you’re doing you’re swishing the skirt and fluffing the sleeves, turning this way and that to see all views in the mirror. Pity the poor laundry maid who had to wash and iron it though. I think we have to be very careful when we judge these dresses that we try to see them as ‘of their day’, not contrasting them with our easy wear modern clothing. In it’s day I bet it caused a fair few female hearts to twinge with envy. Peach is definitely not my colour, but I think on the right person this dress must have been stunning. So it’s 10/10 from me. (And the sleeves are not unbalanced – look at the different positions of the arms, that explains the ‘unbalanced’ appearance.)

    • I don’t mind the lot going on, I dislike that despite all the elements that could be awesome, they are put together in a way I find jarring and it doesn’t quite seem to come together even when it’s all one colour! I’ve seen quite a lot of dresses from the era already, so I think I do have an idea of what they were going for… and most of them have made a much better lasting impression on me, even when I don’t generally prefer the decade.
      That’s to say, I’m not arguing your favourable impression of it, I’m trying to explain that my dislike isn’t what you think it is. 🙂

  15. holly says

    Oh my, look at that waist!!!

    I just can’t like the dress though, too much droopy insipidness going on.

    1/10 (for the velvet trim)

  16. Far too embellished and frilly for my taste, but the seamstress’ skills are highly praised! I can definitely imagine a young miss introduced to high society in this dress during a soirée 🙂 9/10

  17. It’s usually not a color I love, but I rather like it on this one. I really love the airiness of the dress and the details, OMG the details !
    That being said, I think it lacks a focal point, a contrastign somethign somewhere, a “base”. Perhaps the relief flowers with their green leaves mighjt have provided that in the past, and I suspect some of the dimensional effects of ruching in the skirt has been lost, so the dress might have had it in the past. On this asusmption, I give it an 8/10.

  18. It looks OK like this, on a white mannequin, against a plain, dark grey background… but imagine it worn by a real woman, all flesh and blood in busy surroundings… all that intricate decoration would look like a weird rash. And much more than most gowns which were designed to be worn over serious corsets, this one, because of its shape, makes me think of crushed ribs and deformed spines.
    4 out of 10 for me, with the points awarded for the impeccable craftsmanship of the dressmaker.

  19. karenb says

    I would hate to have been the dressmaker. Imagine cutting all the pattern pieces out and working out what goes where.
    Way too fussy looking for me.

    3/10

  20. Erk, I love dresses that are not afraid to carry a lot of embellishment, but this looks like a hot mess to me. Too much going on in such delicate fabric. I do think it would have looked much better when it was new and the fabric still had lots of life in it however. I’ll give it a 4/10.

  21. Mini Robson says

    I love the trim little waist of this dress, and the texture on the bodice and skirt. I love the sleeves and the embellishments, however, it makes the bodice look a bit crowded for my taste. I’m also rather hesitant on early 1900 dresses, so that brings it down a tad for me.
    8/10

  22. That is the absolute epitome of the delicate Edwardian lady of chiffon, and I love it because of that. All the detail and all the delicacy and frilliness and frou-frou. I’m quite impressed at how good it still looks – it’s so fragile and so fugitive and vulnerable looking.

    Do I like it personally? Hm. I’m not certain. I like colour and pizzazz and flair, and while I can see a beautiful brunette laughing her head off in this dress, ruffled by the breeze with all the flounces and frills a-flutter, I think its just a bit too fussy for me, and I don’t LOVE the colour personally. I do love that all the fuss and frivolity is largely in one tone, as all this extravagance is modulated by the monochromatic nature so it’s not overwhelming unless you look closely. It’s like a whispering of untold secrets – the song of the seamstress that you have to come closely to hear and appreciate properly, rather than admire from a distance.

    10/10 as an epitome of the Lady of Chiffon – one of the finest examples of its kind I’ve ever seen. Personally? 8/10. So shall we say 9/10?

    • Elise says

      This truly is a beautiful example of trims and possibilities to be sure!

  23. India says

    Good lord! Miss Havisham lives! Why did no one yell, “Stop! Enough already!” If I had to wear this I think I’d start to feel that bits of it were coming alive and starting to grow on me. As you might have gathered, I really don’t like it. It’s so very fussy and over ornamented – everywhere. I’m also not a fan of the colour but that could possibly be age and fading so I’ll let that go. 2/10 with marks for the skilful fabric manipulation if not for style.

  24. Julia Ergane says

    This looks a little bit like the dress my Grandmother wore in the formal photograph with my Grandfather (maternal side, they were a generation older than my paternal Grandparents). My Grandmother wore her hair ala Gibson til the day she died. Anyway, except for a few strange things on the bodice, I rather like this dress. It does remind me of a number of French Impressionist paintings. My rating is 9/10

  25. Helene Illervik says

    When I saw the first photo, it was a thumbnail, and I thought”what a lovely dress!”
    Seeing the big photos unfortunately made me change my mind.
    The thing that really makes my grade so very low is the criss-crossing and the almost short jacket look of the lose fabric on the bodice. The sleeves are a bit over the top as well.
    There’s just so much going on that I don’t even know where to look, my eyes just wander around.
    It reaminds me of the embroideries women used to make to show all the stiches they knew, and how to put the stiches together, how to do the alphabet and so on, I don’t even know if these are common in other countries, so I hope you understand what I mean.
    I will give this dress a 5 for the enormous amount of work it must have been to put it all together, and for the summer-y peach colour.

    • Elise says

      YES! English-speakers call them “Samplers” (if you are an L2 English speaker). They are not done anymore, and I don’t know how many people know the concept, but it looks like (if you are not from an English-speaking country), that our worlds have something in common, and that’s just swell, and something neat about this blog: joining interesting people together.

  26. mom says

    Oh dress that didst a lady’s figure grace
    (and made her husband groan about the bill),
    at least the rose-hued fabric does not daze
    the shudd’ring viewer; frighten her and kill

    Her will to live, her joy and endless passion
    (unlike a yellow peril I could name),
    her long devotion to the Goddess Fashion –
    but still she thinks the dress is somewhat lame:

    Is this the dress that stole about a score
    of bawling babies’ lovely smockéd dresses?
    Made them into a gashtly wrinkly wall
    of shirred, frilly, rose-strewn, pinkish messes?

    Is this the villain dress that smashed its way
    at midnight dark into a dry goods store,
    With greedy fists grabbed ribbons, velvet, nay
    Entire drawer contents, looking for yet more

    Unholy stuff to heap upon itself?
    I’d frankly leave it on its shelf.

    4/10
    Frankly, I’d leave it

    bled with the pinpricks of a hapless seamstress

    ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

  27. mom says

    Sorry about the last three lines, forgot to delete them in the throes of poetic passion. 🙁

    • I rather liked the ending…! Not the rhyme tracking, but the last line has something.

  28. HoiLei says

    The dress looks like a beautiful prison.

    I’m not a fan of the silhouette: it’s that puffed-out bosom with drooping sleeves and constricted waist over tilted hips thing that so evokes its era, but at the same time makes my joints ache just imagining trying to climb into a carriage or sit or relax. Photos of elegant ladies of the time always look so unnaturally erect and squished.

    The detailing is exquisite, and I admire the skills of the dressmaker, but as frothy and feminine as the chiffon looks, the shape reminds me that this was for a lady of “leisure”, who didn’t have the privilege of comfort in her undergarments.

    5/10 because I equally love it and hate it.

    mom’s sonnet, on the other hand, gets a 10! I love the mental image of raiding a haberdashery to steal ribbons!

    • mom says

      Thanks! 🙂

      I could also picture it, the possessèd Cthulu dress from the dawn of time stumbling about in the dark haberdashery, howling in its insanity with unfulfilled desired for frills and laces while grabbing as much of the stuff as it can. Lovecraft should have written about it, I think. It must be the visceral pink and the strange webby loops and bits that conjure up images of ancient horrors. Oh dress, I am sorry. Nobody should look at you and think of dread Cthulu.

  29. Lyn Swan says

    I love that we can look at the same thing and all see something very different. Each time I visit Leimomi, I learn something new or rethink something I thought that I knew. By the way, while I do understand the negative comments about this dress, in my minds eye I see a lovely summer frock adorning a beautiful young woman.

  30. Kate says

    Love it! It’s such a lovely colour, and the details are stunning. 10/10

  31. It’s sculpturally interesting, and I sort of admire it for that. The peony appliques are beautiful. Overall though, there’s just too much going on. 4/10

  32. It’s insipid and too much froufrou, the fabric doesn’t have quite enough body to support all that extra fluff. The sleeves and bodice are way too much and the skirt just isn’t coping.
    2/10

  33. KitE says

    From the shoulders up and the waist down this dress is lovely. When it was fluffy and new and the height of fashion I think it would have held its own next to all of the other turn of the century frou-frou and opulence. But from the shoulders down to the waist it does look a bit like the seamstress went to war with the bodice and lost. In close up it’s possible to see stitching and construction details that would have been hidden so perhaps the bodice did once look a little less muddled? And I do wonder if that troublesome Swiss Waist effect was a little less ‘tubular’ on a more curvaceous figure and corset?
    I’m sure it was distinctive and much admired when new – and the needlework is marvellous – so 8 out of 10.

  34. Mack says

    I love this dress- i would WEAR this dress! The detailing has me absolutely enamored. I think the only thing wrong with it is the color. It sort of looks like the same color as a new born baby, and “new born baby flesh” is just a little bit creepy as a wardrobe color choice. I vote 8.5/10 . Any other color – seriously, ANY. OTHER.COLOR. would have gotten a 10/10 from me.

  35. JessieRoo says

    This dress would look so much better over more appropriate petticoats, but what it really needs is a lot less detailing, especially on the bodice front! That crossover bit just looks awkward, and the velvet appliques on the skirt are too heavy and distract from the light, floaty effect. I do like the color, and all the pin tucking though, so maybe a 6.

  36. This is the first time to weigh in on an antique dress. It is a wonderful dress from a seamstress’s point of view (10); I can only imagine the work involved in all of these embellishments. But it is definitely over-the-top – way tooo many frills for me(2). I do wonder about the agony the woman was under after being trussed up by the corset. Also…I think the average woman in 1906 was probably NOT wearing a dress like this. They were probably glad to have one or two cotton dresses and maybe a pinafore or two. I would expect they were working extremely hard taking care of children and doing lots of manual labor with gardening, sewing, spinning cloth, etc.

  37. I love the detailing and all the fabric manipulation, but the waist line looks all wrong to me. If the same techniques were used in a later teens dress I think I would love it.
    6 /10

  38. It’s okay, but a little too average fore me. If someone asked you: ‘Darling, what was Louisa wearing again this morning?’ You’d probably answer something like, ‘Erm, a dress. Peachy? Frilly? Long? What’s for supper?’ It’s rather nondescript and there’s too much going on, for me. Still, I like it and it’d be nice if I was middle aged and going to Constance’s for tea, or something.
    I give it a 6/10.

  39. I LOVE the poetry! Humm, it may be the only good thing about the dress. 10+ for the poetry, 2 for the dress, it’s way over the top.

    Yes, it’s exactly like a sampler Helene. The dressmaker had many needlework skills and it appears that they’re all displayed on one dress. It looks like a salesman’s sampler…”you see, this is everything we can do for you”….ok.

  40. letthemeatcake says

    I really like this dress…if this would reflect the character of the woman wearing it she would be like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight” : complex, delicate….and not really entirely fit…almost manipulated by society but gorgeously looking. I see her being handed a cup of tea staring at the fire place feeling utter distress about her emerging “madness”. Nah hon’…don’t worry, you’ll be all right….But as it seems it was pretty easy to control a wife who allows herself to have some thoughts on her own back then: Just give her some ghost stories and tell her she’s mad. that’ll do…the dress reflects something beautiful, complicated and gentle but almost to so much to survive…anyways for the sake of eye candy I give it a 8.5

Comments are closed.