Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Trendy 1820s

Last week I showed you a late 1880s Worth gown in blond  lace and creamy pink feather patterned brocade.  A few of you loved it, but most of you felt it was pretty ‘meh’ for the 1880s.  As for me, there were some things about the dress that I love SO MUCH (the brocade!  the sleeves! that bustle) that I both struggled to see beyond the things that weren’t well done (ugh.  that lace swag.  And the weird awkward level of the brocade line on the bodice) and hated them all the more for ruining the potential.  Not surprisingly, the frock only came in at a 6.8 out of 10.  Try harder Jean-Phillipe!

This week’s dress is like a sample of all the things that were ‘on trend’ (humble apologies) in the later 1810s & 1820s.

It’s the classic all-white frock, with a bit of military-inspired (maybe with a hint of Renaissance historicism)  lacing up the front.  There is more Renaissance inspired historicism in the puffed sleeves with ‘slashed’ inspired lace.  The neckline is classically influenced, taking it’s aesthetics  from ancient Greek & Roman styles.  The bottom of the dress features the classic hem interest of the ’20s, with gathered pick-ups and bobble buttons over a layer of the newly fashionable broderie anglaise.

The museum has accessorised the dress with a paisley shawl – far from the newest thing in 1820, but still quite a fashionable, high-status garment.

What do you think? Do you like the eclectic influences of the frock? Do they add interest to the plain white dress, or just make it silly? And is the paisley shawl a nice touch of colour, or too much of a clash?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. This is just lovely. The eclectic assembly of details is reined in by the simplicity of the body of the skirt and the uniformity of the white color. It is something at which I would never tire of looking, and of which I would be proud to wear. 10 of 10

    • Elise says

      My thoughts exactly: many details in one color (and especially in white) are always welcome and never overdone. (Almost never)

      9/10. There is something about the proportion I find uneasy, but I adore it And a lovely choice of accessories!

  2. I think the museum made an inspired choice; the brightness of the paisley shawl lifts this dress above the ordinary.

    As for the dress itself, I love the quasi-military styling of the bodice front, and the swagged bottom hem, but the extra lace on the sleeves and below the swagging is a bit much; it detracts from the overall design. A 7.5 (I’d give it 8, but that would be factoring in the paisley shawl which is a third-party choice and not part of the dress).

  3. 11. That dress, especially with the shawl, is just perfection. The skirt’s hem decoration is lovely, and the bodice looks comfortable but beautiful.

  4. Emily Elizabeth says

    what a beautiful example of the period! I love the white on white, it adds a feeling of simplicity to a dress with quite a bit going on. The way the swagged hem echoes the detailing on the bodice is probably my favorite part, though. I’d give this a 10 of 10 for sure 😉

  5. 3. My modern eye just can’t see much to like about the 1820s. While I like this dress better than most of the era, the fussiness, lack of a fitted waist and heavy hem trim are all just not to my taste.

  6. Ooh, I love this dress. White on white delicate details just push my buttons every time. I think the bodice in particular looks great. 10/10

  7. Louisa S. says

    I would never think of myself as trendy.. but apparently I would have been quite the early 19th century trend-devotee! I love the laced front, the Grecian neckline, and the lace at the hemline. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the sleeve detailing, trying to cram a slashed look onto a tiny sleeve looks strange to me (also, I’m biased, and my broad shoulders don’t like to wear cap sleeves). Overall, divine. 9/10

  8. I like it. I was never a fan of this high wasted fashion, but having worn it for the last year, I like the comfort and drape. I give this an 8 out of 10.

  9. Lynne says

    The white dress is understated and charming – I do like the front lacing detail. The shawl is stunning, and I would be prepared to give an eye tooth for it! If I were rating the dress alone, I’d say 7 out of 10, but with the shawl (be still, my beating heart!) I give it 10 out of 10.

  10. PatW says

    I like the bodice front, and the sleeves. I like the swags– period perfect. However, I think the broderie anglaise flounce is one thing too many. Put a plain bottom on the skirt, and I’d give it a 10/10. As is, 8/10. Shawl is a third-party decision, so shouldn’t really count, although it’s a GOOD third party decision.

    • Elise says

      Don’t we all need a good friend to offer 3rd party styling advice?

  11. Candy says

    I love this – shawl and all! The sleeves leave me a bit flat but overall I’d give it at least a 9.

  12. I think it’s lovely, keeping the colour uniform ties everything together and although there are some very feminine and young details there aren’t enough for me to think it’s frou frou. I feel the shawl is a little too much of a contrast though, but as that’s not part of the original dress I’ll forgive it

  13. The bright coloured shawl is a good choice for this dress. I love the sculptural details that were popular during this era, and I particularly like the bodice on this one. The Broderie Anglaise and sculptural detail on the hem are nearly a bit too much, but overall I like the hem. I’m not crazy about the sleeves. They could do without the lace, which I don’t think works very well, and I’m going to have to dock a point for that lace I’m afraid. 9/10

  14. At first I loved the bodice and the shawl has a great bright/vivid effect beside the clear white dress, so that would make it 10/10…but then I scrolled down and saw the hem, shouldn’t do that, that hem is just awfull! Ruins everything, it’s like curtain drapery with buttons, and the anglaise broiderie is alike to petticoat’s trimming, which leads me to think “Your dress is way too short , dear, your petticoat peeps out!” 🙁 In addition to the overall image I give to the dress a low rating 5/10

      • Miss Sis says

        I like the top of the gown – love the draping, tabs, faux lacing and buttons. Not mad on the lace on the sleeves (bit fussy, but prepared to forgive), then – the hem. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear! Horrid! Hate it! Pelmets and lacy curtains! And I DO normally like brodiere anglaise, but here it’s just so out of place and the proportions look all wrong.
        I think some sort of pin tucks and bobble buttons would balance things much better at the hem.

        I do like the shawl – a nice vivid contrast to the plain whiteness of the dress. So I’m going to have to give this a 5/10, for a great bodice but a lousy hem, and I feel I am being KIND with this rating!

  15. I like it, but I don’t love it, by a teeny fraction.
    Maybe I want to see it with a proper wider petticoat for the time? Or nip in the sleeves a bit if not? It keeps feeling slightly unballanced.

  16. holly says

    Bits I love; the bodice / lacing detail, the eyelet broderie hem panel.

    Bits I hate; the puffy sleeves, the draped bit above the hem panel (too much like a pelmet trim).

    Too many details clashing with each other for attention. Lucky it’s a single colour!


  17. mom says

    Must…not…look…at…lovely perfect Jane-Austenish lily-white dress…any….longer…
    because it moves 8-month pregnant self to floods of tears. FLOODS.

    Such perfection! Such loveliness! Such a thing of beauty and a joy forever (okay, until the textil conservationists cease their endless work)!

    That said, I think the contrast created by the red scarf is too harsh, wouldn’t something pastel-ish look nicer? And again, I always wonder who could actually look great in a lily-white dress – the Italian type? The English Rose? I, being blond (okay, having access to the finest blond bottles can provide) and very light-skinned, would look like a huge yellow cheese in such a thing. So who could wear this thing successfully?
    Anyway, this doesn’t take anything away from the dress’s breathtakingness, so


    Thank you, Dreamstress, for providing a moment of joy to a hugely whale-like pregnant lady marooned on a sofa with nothing to do but sip water and pee!

    • Elise says

      Bwahahahaha! I felt EXACTLY the same way, while reading The Dreamstress while pregnant. At times, it was delightful, because as my body changed, whole new worlds of silhouettes became available to me: Generally a 1920s body, suddenly, I could imagine looking beautiful in Regency! After birth, now with a bosom, I could imagine looking beautiful in anything with a cinched waist. I hope that you have just as much fun (after these next two months)

      • mom says

        That sounds great!
        For me, it’s more like…nope…would burst the seams…no way…would burst the seams…no chance…would burst the seams…oh, cool, mediaeval fake-pregnancy look! Give it to me NOW!
        but it has opened up the fascinating world of maternity wear for me. I mean, most women would not have had the money to get a complete set of maternity wear, I suppose. But many of them were pregnant much of the time. Okay, a bump fits nicely underneath a Regency gown, but how about 18th century wear? Drawstring skirts wouldn’t have been much of a problem and you can loosen the corset to some extent, but can you just leave it off in polite society? Or would you have had to stay at home, wandering about in a sort of sack until after the birth?

  18. Love it, love it, love it! The decoration, the contrast of the plain white gown to the rich red shawl, the style everything! This is one of my favourite periods and this is such a beautiful example of it. I think the white on white decoration is wonderful, if it had been coloured it would quickly become fussy, but the single colour keeps it elegant. I’m imagining all sorts of Georgette Heyer heroines in this! 10 out of 10 but I would give it more if I could!

  19. Georgina says

    I love this dress. Do you think the military-inspired decorations are a reference to the somewhat recent victory at Waterloo? I give it an 8.

  20. Much as I love this period, and also love monochromatic gowns, there’s something about this one that doesn’t quite work. I feel like the waist seam needed finishing/a belt or piping or something. Also, the presentation kind of makes it look chilly and cold, like carved marble or a plaster cast. Having said that, I can see it looking so much better in another presentation. The shawl is gorgeous and kind of demands all the attention, rather drawing away from the dress. I’m gonna say 7/10 but I think presented another way this would be a very easy 10/10.

  21. Julia Ergane says

    LOVE LOVE LOVE The only thing I would change would make the Broderie Anglaise not as wide. Still …. the rating is 10/10 (I would make it a 12 if I could!)

  22. Kimberly R says

    I loved the dress & shawl pairing…until the broderie Anglaise. It was gilding the lily. I’m giving it an 8/10.

  23. Lyn Swan says

    White…too much, but lovely none the less. Well executed but a bit boring. 8/10

  24. Kit says

    Well I quite like the sleeves, the skirt is tolerable, and the bodice is really rather lovely. But I can’t help thinking that they would all look so much better if they belonged to three separate dresses. Aesthetically they seem to be heading in three quite different directions with only a scattering of buttons to try and get them to play happily together. It is quite amazingly white, and with the right hair and accessories, and some suitably glittery, flickery candlelight, it would be just the thing for the virtuous heroine in many a period drama. Particularly one who finds herself in a deadly draught and who borrows a very warm shawl too late to avoid a sudden chill, a delicate cough, and a moving death two scenes later. 6 out of 10.

  25. Barbara Stevens says

    Love it all except that broderie anglaise. A self- fabric plain bottom on the skirt would have looked much better. The broderie just looks extra and awful – lovely lace but not here.
    I think the contrast colour of the shawl is a but too harsh – a lighter pink would have been a better choice, but that is immaterial to the rating of the dress itself. I think it’s an 8/10 – the broderie anglaise stops it being a 10.

  26. Kim says

    I like the front lacing, the neckline and the sleeves. I like the red shawl. I don’t like the heavy bottom swag nor the lace hem.
    I also think that this dress was not worn more than once or twice because it is white — it would draw dirt from the moment it left the laundry. So, I give it a 7.

  27. JessieRoo says

    Each of the details taken separately is lovely, but they don’t quite work together. I’d like this dress better if the lace on the the sleeves and hem were replaced with a more tailored detail like pleats or piping. 7/10

  28. The lace on the sleeves doesn’t make sense until you look at the hem. At that point, the dress all goes together as a whole, so I would say 7 out of 10.

  29. Very nice. I love the simplicity of this gown and really like that’s it’s just a cotton dress. 9 or 10

  30. Kirri says

    Love this dress! The sleeves, the neckline, the military front, the hem detailing… A 9!
    And a 10 with the added colour of the scarf which lifts it without overwhelming it.

  31. The dress really has a white canvas quality to it. So being from Bavaria the first thing I saw in it was its profound potential to be a (quite posh ) “Dirndl”, which is basically the Bavarian and Austrian folk costume. So for that it needs a matching “Schürze” (the apron worn with the Dirndl) which gets tied up in a bow at the front. Then of course it should be worn with traditional Bavarian accessories displaying a high quality of craftmanship like jewellery, buttons, shoes, hats and so on. The shawl could be made of some Austrian/ Bavarian lace or a simple cotton with traditional embroidery. Combined with the apron that decorative “gathering up” of the skirt would have to go but the way the skirt hem is treated like lace is lovely and can stay. But even like this it’s very nice. 8/10

    • letthemeatcake says

      I think what comes closest to the shawl traditionally worn with a Dirndl is the so called “Trachtentuch” and it often features typical prints and usually a fringe running along the seams. I don’t know if they are triangular, but if they are not they should be folded cornerwise.

    • mom says

      But the (waist)line is all wrong for a dirndl dress. Mine always had bodices that actually reached down to the waist and then there was that ginormous skirt. With this dress, the waistline is too high and the skirt doesn’t start with a million tiny folds right at the waist.

      Apart from the line, though, I agree, it could be quite a posh wedding dirndl, especially if it was made from some beautiful cream coloured jaquard weave. You could have the apron and blouse in the same colour and wear very light-colored jewellery and shoes and wedding bouquet.

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