Rate the dress

Rate the dress: 1880s 18th century remake

Last week I showed you a blue-green & black 1860s dress with embroidered embellishments & a dash of Renaissance inspired historicism.  Your overall reaction to the dress was pretty positive – the vast majority of you either loved it, or felt that it was rescued from the potentially deadly frumpyness so common in 1860s dresses by the perfect colour combination and above-average embellishment.

But nobody liked the collar!

Collar aside, the dress came in at an extremely impressive nice round 9 out of 10.

I’m sticking with the historicism theme of last week, but putting a different twist on it.  Many 1880s dress took inspiration from the 18th century, but this one from the MFA Boston has actually taken an 18th century quilted petticoat, altered the shape to fit the current styles,  and used it as the entire skirt of the  gown.

The quilted petticoat has been paired with a bodice and trained overskirt of ecru silk with brocaded green and red flowers,  and trimmed with pleated silk in palest gold, and fascinating three-dimensional floral trim (I think it’s a lace, but can’t zoom enough to see if it’s lace or a very lightweight embroidered silk).  The pleated collar and heavy trim around the neckline are a clear nod to 18th century fichu.

The low, square neckline of the dress and the slightly paniered effect of the overskirt further evoke the 18th century, but the overall gown is decidedly 1880s in its silhouette and sensibilities.

It’s definitely slightly flattened and crushed with age, so you have to imagine it fresh and bouncy.  What do you think dear readers?  Has the re-use given the petticoat another shot at elegance and glamour, or is the whole thing a twee travesty: slightly too little Bo Peep for good taste?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. On the whole, this is lovely.

    The reworked petticoat is such a splendid piece of needlework that it deserves a second life, especially one that puts it in full view. The only negative for me is the ruched ribbon(?) at the hem. I don’t know why but it just seems discordant and just one design element too many.

    The placement of the floral pattern motifs of the overdress is masterful, and I wish it were possible to see the floral “lace” trim more closely, because it looks intriguing and a good coordination with the overdress fabric.

    Whether one enjoys bustles or not, it looks like the draping is also masterful

    9 of 10 (that hem trim knocks it down)

  2. Rachel says

    There’s definitely some truth behind the Bo Peep accusation, and that neckline – what did they do in an era without fashion tape? But I like square necks, and the raised collar is very intriguing. I like the fitted bodice and the panniers, and depending on how the bustle would look in its original uncrushed state, the dress could be playing with its shapes and lines very attractively. The petticoat? Love it. Such a good decision on the dressmaker’s part. But I’m agreeing with Cyranetta that something about the trim throws it off.

    Overall, I think the shape is very pleasing and elegant and the fabrics offset each other nicely, though it comes close to being too pastoral and costume-y. I’d like a less precarious neckline though and a different trim.


  3. This is my favorite fashion decade meets my second favorite fashion style, so this is a pure winner for me. It feels like a fantasy, but I’m really jealous of the women who wore it. It’s 10/10 from me.

  4. I love this blending of the two centuries, especially due to my love of 18th century. Quilted petticoat, embroidery, 18th century…what’s not to like? I give it a 10.

  5. I dislike the standing collar (could probably live with it if folded down), but the rest is LOVELY. 8/10.

  6. Joanne says

    I’m glad someone else said “costume-y” because that’s exactly what my first reaction was. Love all the details, but they don’t quite harmonize in the front. The back view is fabulous! 8.5

  7. I love the fabrics. I love the floral brocade and the beautifully quilted (under)skirt together. However, I’m much less fond of the remake of the dress from an 18th century silhouette into an 1880s silhouette–probably because I have never liked the nearly straight, stiff skirt of the 1880s silhouette. I keep wanting to see the original 1760s (or so) silhouette and being disappointed when I remember that it’s no longer there. A 7 of 10, only.

  8. Barbara Stevens says

    My immediate reaction is that I don’t like this dress. Can’t really say why – that squashed frilly thing at the bottom? It’s a no-no. The colour? Neither the jacket fabric nor the petticoat appeals at all. Don’t like the collar. I just find the whole thing a bit too much. I can admire the workmanship and skill making it, but as my father used to say of Dickens, it could have used a good editor. Too much of too many good things. I give it a 4.

  9. Overall I like it. I like the re-use of the petticoat and I think it’s done a good job of referencing the earlier era without looking like a costume. I’ don’t like the floral fabric though. Something about that combination of colours with beige background doesn’t work for me. 7/10

  10. Bo Peep is the perfect example of re-worked 18th-century.

    This reminds me…of the 1960s dress that was re-purposed for Pretty in Pink. Its a statement. I guess it’s an 8/10.

  11. Emilia says

    Oh, lordy, get me my fan and my smelling salts. That quilted petticoat is a thing of joy and beauty forever. I love the whole thing. Bo-Peep can fight me for it. 10/10.

  12. I like most of it, even the trim on the hem, but the dead flower lace thing on the collar? Ick! I have to knock 2 points off just for that

  13. 8.5

    The petticoat is gorgeous. A thing of wonder and beauty.

    They have made a good attempt at re-using it, but the petticoat is so much more a work of art than the perfectly pleasant small floral, and the gold ruffle is bordering on tawdry. Not quite, but it just misses.

    As a dress, the shape is pleasing, the neckline is good, the stand-up bit at the back of the neck (hints of Elizabethan and piccadils, which I rather like) are very effective. Interesting lace! I have some not unlike that.

    But just… off.

  14. Grace Darling says

    The whole outfit puts me in mind of a bedroom in the Tuilleries! As a quilter, I feel like
    fainting over the thought of someone taking scissors to such an exquisitely worked (looks like)
    Pennsylvania Dutch piece of art – which doesn’t work. Close but not cigar.

    I seriously love this style of dress and the floral fabric is heavenly. But, to me, it looks
    like the lady has forgotten to put a proper skirt on.

    10/10 for the workmanship

  15. Not a massive fan of the collar. But I love the colours and patterns on the fabric. I also love this era and the style of the dress.
    So a positive 9/10 from me.

  16. Generally I love bustle period, but this dress is a big NO. It’s too heavy, the floral fabric doesn’t match with the quilted foundation skirt :/ 5/10

  17. I think I might have gasped out loud when I saw the petticoat, it’s so pretty! This outfit sports everything I love; train, bustle, dramatic neckline, and repurposing is never wrong when the item is well made.
    I have to dock it one point for the trim at the hem, though. I think it looks best from behind, as it ties together with the collar trim, but from the front it looks too square and strickt.


  18. I like it. I think it helps that the brocade is a bit 18th century-ish, too, of the simpler kind that appeals to me.
    But I don’t quite love it; I also think it’s largely the collar’s fault. And the parts don’t quite go; it’s as if the petticoat is too shiny and light-coloured for the rest of it, which is a bit weird with its otherwise a bit… rustic? appearance (which, in its turn, doesn’t quite go with the trim). It’s just that little bit off but I very much like the overall idea and silhouette.
    And kudos to the maker for pretty good pattern symmetry even inside the drape.

  19. Ah, I see Fraulein Maria has fashioned a fetching garment using not only the floral curtains, but the quilted bedspread also.


  20. I think the overall effect is quite elegant. It reminds me of the reruns of vintage styles of today, harkening back to another time while still retaining the silhouette or print of today.
    9 out of 10

  21. I like it. I really like it. I am not a fan of reworking old textiles into something new, especially if the old textile is more than a hundred years old (as it here was the case) but the result is actually sweet, airy, perhaps a bit costume-y but so is a lot of very beautiful, contemporary high fashion.

    And while I am tempted to dock points for daring to alter an old petticoat, I won’t. 10/10

  22. HoiLei says

    Meh. Stuck between two eras and aesthetics, doing justice to neither. The quilted petticoat is lovely, but I don’t think it works at all in this ensemble. The color of the whole thing is blah. I appreciate the workmanship, but the most impressive workmanship is in the petticoat, and the dressmaker of this ensemble didn’t use it well. 3/10.

  23. Johanne says

    It took me four days to decide, but for its decade, outstanding construction, and re-use of the exquisite quilting, it’s a 10/10.

  24. I think it is lovely. It’s balanced and carefully thought through in terms of the placement of motifs. It definitely says elegant and wealthy. 10/10


  25. Belinda says

    Normally I don’t like other eras trying to do 18th century, but I think this is how you do it right. The petticoat is fantastic and so intricate, the silhouette grounds it in the 19th century in the freshest way and the floral trim (which I LOVE) is out-there enough to take it to a place that’s high fashion rather than costume. I agree with a lot of the other commentors that having the high collar at the back is a bit over-dramatic, but the neckline at the front is so perfect.

  26. Oh, very interesting – usually you see re-used silks for the main body of the dress, I’ve never seen a re-used quilted petticoat. As a whole, it works very well and I do think this is a very posh fancy-dress rather than seriously intended as a fashionable garment. It’s very pretty. I quite like it and when the flowered silk was fresher it must have looked stunning – love colourful flowers against a cream or black ground. Maybe it’s a touch twee, but it’s charming with it.

    Rating is a toughie though. Oh what the heck, 8/10.

    • I really, REALLY considered this as a fancy dress, but there is something in it that just doesn’t tally to me as fancy dress. The bodice and bustle are too exactly 1880 fashionable – where the fancy dress depictions show more attempts at stomachers and 18th century bustling. And there are SO many examples of 1880s does 18th century that aren’t fancy dress cut exactly like this one.

      I wish there was more provenance information!

      • I do own an ivory satin Elise gown from the mid 1880s with an open-fronted overskirt over a simple lozenge-quilted underskirt, so I guess it’s perfectly plausible.

  27. I’m still reeling from the 18th century petticoat. I understand the mindset was completely different, but that is one outstanding example of detailed hand quilting and the thought of it falling under scissors leaves me a bit lightheaded.

    Drama aside, however, the overall look is OK but something is still off. I agree with Daniel, in that it also looks to me like “a very posh fancy dress” and not a garment for normal wear. (Which makes the destruction of the quilted petticoat even sadder for me, but that’s my problem.)

    I like the colors and the balance of the quilting against the floral fabric. The shine of the silk complements that of the brocade. Yeah, a bit Bo-Peepish and a tad twee. But not overly so.

    Very hard to rate this one, because I just can’t stop seeing the 18th century in the skirt and the 19th century in the rest of it. In the end I want to like it more than I do.


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