Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1890s Puffed sleeves and stripes

Oh my, oh my…last week’s daisy decorated dress…!  Well.  I don’t think we’ll ever have another dress that will be compared to 1) a hornet’s nest, 2) a skin disease, 3) flaccid jellyfish parts, 4) potato chips, 5) zits waiting to be popped, 6) 1930s costume design for 1820 (for an original 1820 dress), 7) 1820s does 1860s, 8) B movie mad-scientist created things, 9) Daleks.

Yes.  Daleks.

Oh, but lots of you still love it and gave it a 10!

I guess it depends on whether you have  trypophobia  or not (the amazing things we all learn with RTD!)

So the overall verdict for the potentially creep-inducing dress? 6.9 out of 10 (which is what happens when you have a dress that a lot of people love, and a lot of people hate).

(I, by the way, totally loved it, and if I didn’t have to sleep I would recreate it!  Even at the risk of creeping everyone out).

This week I’m going to avoid any potential trim & embellishment issues by showing a dress that basically has no trim.

When you see ‘Day dress in striped cotton’, you assume the garment will be quite informal, but this  outfit uses unusual fabrics and colours, and a combination of almost severe cuts and fashionable excess to take a cotton frock well away from ‘knock around the house’ territory.

This day dress is made from a heavy black cotton with raised lines of red and yellow stripes, which create a changeable, almost shot effect to the fabric.

The dressmaker has made full use of the stripes, arranging them in chevrons down the front and back of the bodice, and running them through the huge leg’o’mutton sleeves (Anne would love them!) so that they form another chevron on the inside of the arm.

To make the cotton fabric even more formal, it’s been paired with a black velvet at neck, cuffs, and waist.  Sadly, the original velvet from the waist and neck has been replaced with blue velvet at some point, and in the process the original back pleats of the waist have been re-done, and not to the dresses benefit.

What do you think?  Does the dress do a good job of combining simplicity and extravagance, in fabric, colours, and cut?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Wow!

    Although the size of the sleeves makes me somewhat nervous (being prone to clumsiness I can just imagine wielding them as accidental weapons), the mastery of their construction can’t be denied. I don’t think I have ever seen such a remarkable job of chevron alignment, and the fabric itself provides drama with the maximum amount of dignity.

    I’m happy to ignore the “updates” mentioned and give it full marks for its original form – 10 of 10

  2. Oooh I love this, the colors, the stripes THE SLEEEVES!

    Only point of critique is the way the patterns are placed on the skirt, I think that could have been more exitingly done.


  3. Deanna says

    Ooh! This is elegant, despite looking just a little bit flamboyant to my modern eyes. I don’t generally see both qualities in one dress. I find the changeable effect of the stripes quite pretty, and they highlight the bodice shaping nicely. Those sleeves! I feel quite in sympathy with Anne. But I suppose I’ll have to keep longing, because I doubt I’d ever have anywhere appropriate to wear such glorious sleeves 🙂 I can easily imagine all the velvet in original black, and deduct just a bit for the re-pleating. 9.5

  4. Rachel says

    The colors and fabrics are so luxurious – very opulent but at the same time very restrained. I think it’s the sort of dress that would complement its wearer rather than overwhelm her, but it still feels very rich and grand.

    At the same time though, I want there to be more going on in the dress. It still looks like a blank slate to me. The detail shots are gorgeous, but from a distance, it doesn’t leave very much impression on me.


    It has a slightly gothic vibe – a vampire schoolmarm or Mrs. Danvers could easily wear it and so contribute to the general eeriness of the universe – and the sleeves look a little oversized, but on the whole excellent, especially the way the fabric is matched on the bodice front. Lovely stuff, and wonderfully daisy-free.

    9.5 out of 10.

  6. It’s beautiful. The giant sleeves has kept me away from this era, but when they are made up like that I’m totally on board with them. 10/10 from me.

  7. Much love for the dress, not so much love for the sleeves. If the dress had slimmer sleeves I would give it a 10. As it is, 8/10. Beautiful piecing work.

  8. jo mimms says

    gorgeous. 10! I love the choice to play with the fabric stripes – it gives the dress an elevated style for a day dress. I could see the miss or madam wearing this for morning calls. As Anne of Green Gables was wont to say, the “puffiest puffy sleeves” only would do. You could not be in high society without them during those years.

  9. I absolutely agree with mom on this one – I can picture Mrs Danvers wearing this dress. I love the sense of drama it creates and it is done so simply and effectively. The fabric is stunning and I particularly like the way the stripes have been placed on the bodice. I also appreciate how the clean lines of the skirt and bodice haven’t been messed with at all with any trimmings. But for me it is the shape and cutting of the sleeves that really creates the drama. I think this dress shows just how much effect you can have with the way you cut and use the fabric and patterns. 9/10

  10. Hi Leimomi! I’ve been ghosting your blog for months, and absolutely loving it. I have not sewed for years, but am quite interested in fabric + dresses… clothes, frankly.

    10/10. The geometric yellow and violet on the bodice caught my eye, the colors are quite striking together and it seems surprisingly modern. The raised blue collar is resplendent, and the back bows are so cute and slightly silly.

    About the very contentious sleeves, I think they complement the nipped in and slender bodice. All in all, I love it with my heart and soul.

    Very best :),

    PS. Hi all.

  11. Heather says

    The close stripes kind of make my head spin, but Anne Shirley would be over the moon about those sleeves! Quite the eyecatcher, I’ll give it a 8/10.

  12. LOVE!! I love that it’s almost a shot-corduroy. That fabric is AMAZING. Absolutely amazing and I bet if you could get someone to recreate it today it would be incredibly popular. The perfect fabric, perfectly handled, for such a severely cut design. Fantastic. I do wish it wasn’t so bloated by an inappropriately full crinoline as I’d love to see how the skirt falls naturally. I’ll also imagine it with original velvet trimming.

    I think that fabric looks like the colours are singing in harmony, each shade rising and falling and fading in and out. Gorgeous. I think it has real presence and impact and looks surprisingly modern for its era. Has to be a 9/10, as it has to take a minor knock for presentation and another knock for the velvet replacement/interference, but it IS fab.

  13. Am I distracted by the sleeves or the presentation? Would the sleeves feel so overpowering with a better presentation or are they really just too much? I think it might be the latter. 9/10.

  14. Lyn Swan says

    10/10 I love everything about this dress. It isn’t an evening gown so not etheral…just the dress you would go to every time you wanted something to be flattering, polished, umm
    shall we say, professional?

  15. I want this fabric so much! It’s gorgeous. The actual dress is a style I wouldn’t much like in most contexts, but in that fabric it really works for me. Even with the crazy leg o’ mutton sleeves. The contrast between austere, simple tailoring and op art stripes is very effective.

    I give it 9/10. Not the full 10 I’m afraid, because those sleeves might be very well made but they’re still pretty crazy.

  16. Lynne says

    10 out of 10. The fabric is stunning, and it has been used brilliantly! All those lovely chevrons. I think the puffed sleeves are wonderful with the fabric. Yes, it is a pity about the velvet, black would have been much better, but that’s not the dress’s fault.

    So smart, so rich, so beautifully put together.

  17. I love it. It’s dramatic, simple, textured, and I have a huge piece of olive green and purple wool with just the same raised stripe effect that would make up into it beautifully if you want it.
    10. (P.S> gutted my Mary Quant time travel reference didn’t make it into the list ;-))

  18. Belinda says

    Holy guacamole that stripe-matching! Not normally a silhouette I go for, but it’s just so perfectly executed and that fabric is so excellent. And the velvet touches really raise it a notch I think. I would actually wear this, and that’s saying a lot of a dress with leg-o’-mutton sleeves. This is totally 1890s does sexy librarian.

  19. Barbara Stevens says

    This was worth waiting for! Anne Shirley eat your heart out over those sleeves. They are magnificent. Pity the poor dressmaker matching all those stripes – the cutting out must have been a masterwork, then joining all the bits together, oh my! The skirt would certainly look better if allowed to fall straight down in front as intended, but the bulky underframe does allow us to appreciate the cutting and matching. I guess the blue velvet was because it was all someone had to replace the worn black, and they just had to wear the dress again – and again, and again.
    10/10 from me, turning a blind eye to the alterations.

  20. Love! Love!! Love!!! The material is so lavish, doesn’t need any other trimming at all, the seamstress was clever indeed! 10/10

  21. India says

    Forget the dress. I want that fabric! Sigh. OK – back to the dress. Even if it were not in that amazing fabric and so beautifully pieced to make the most of it, I think I would still love this dress. Yes, the sleeves are completely over the top but it’s one of those occasions where taking something to excess can turn bad into good. In this case the sleeves have become a witty, almost tongue in cheek fashion statement, which I think someone with the panache to wear this would have understood very well. Ignoring the later alterations (because they’ve got nothing to do with the original design and dress) it’s an easy 9/10 ……. and it’s probably only losing that point because my fabric lust is making me jealous.

  22. Wherry says

    The dress is plain enough that if the sleeves were not so utterly ridiculous it would be boring. Fortunately whoever was in charge of decision making vis. the sleeves did not have any sense of restraint about them.


    (Also: that stripe-matching in the bust darts! I could swoon!)

  23. I really dislike big sleeves but this one is quite interesting. I like that it’s so plain aside from the sleeves and the stripes in the fabric. I don’t like the blue velvet but since it’s not original I’m trying to imagine it in black instead which I think would be much better. 8/10

  24. Robin says

    Okay, no one else has commented, so I will. Every time I look at this dress I see a stuffed elephant. It is histeric. The big ears, the lines pointing down to the trunk. If the wearer put one arm in front and one arm in back it would be perfect. The fabric on its own is lovely so 5 points for that and two for a sense of humor. 7 total because who wants to look like a stuffed elephant? Robin

  25. Kirrily says

    Hmm, I appreciate the skill in the cutting and matching stripes but… I just don’t like it. I don’t like the dark velvet trim. The original black would be better but I still don’t like it.

    However my main problem are the stripes. They make my eyes tired. I feel I want to rest them with a nice soft smooth cotton in grey or something. And I normally love bold or bright.

    10 for skill, 5 because my eyes hurt! = 7/10

  26. The bodice is delicious and the sleeves, puffiest of puff. 10

  27. The bodice is delicious and the sleeves, puffiest of puff. 10

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