Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: A tea gown goes classical

Apologies for the belated Rate the Dress post: sometimes life gets in the way of blogging!

Last week I showed you Anna of Austria, in the full glory of 16th century continental fashions.  Her score of 7.7 out of 10, while very good for the  1570s, is typical of how much we struggle with the periods fashions.

This week’s Rate the Dress pick is in total contrast to the dark colours, heavy fabrics, and restricting shapes of Anna’s ensemble.

This 1910s ensemble in loose, floating silks carries on the tea gown’s tradition of elegant deshabille for wearing at intimate gatherings at home.

The loose, draping underdress evokes Grecian chitons, and cranks up the risque potential  of the tea gown to the maximum with fully exposed arms and shoulders.

While the gowns classical influences are clear, the elaborate lace embellishments are typical of the elaborate decorations popular in evening fashions at the time.

For a little warmth, or a bit more modesty, an over-robe adds layers and modesty to the dress.

One of the things that I find particularly interesting about this ensemble is that it appears to be in a larger size.

What do you think?  An elegant way to entertain and (perhaps) show a little skin, without feeling confined?  Or is it just an over-dressed muumuu in the worst possible sense?

Best, Leimomi


  1. The lace is very pretty, as is the flower decoration on the bodice. I really don’t like how shapeless it is though. 2/10

  2. It’s lovely and graceful. My first thought was, that it’s like wearing a delicately wrought piece of silver jewelry as a dress. There’s a ‘floating’ quality about it too, as though it weighs nothing at all. I’d love to put this on. Anyone in that outfit would feel like a goddess.

  3. I’m not sure it’s comfortable to wear (some parts must glide, and you must be very careful to translucent parts of the dress). But the ensemble is very delicate, and evoques simplicity even if it looks expensive.

    I wish I could see more of the belt fabric (how is it attached ?).

    I like it very much ! 9-10 !

    (I wonder how you wash such a thing)

    • I suspect the answer to “I wonder how you wash such a thing” is “Never.” Not only is the fabric very thin, the trim looks VERY heavy. At best, an extreme careful soak, followed by a rinse under slow running water while the garments lie flat, followed by drying it flat on thick towels, is the greatest amount of washing I can imagine even considering exposing this gown and robe to.

      • It’s a rather odd garment, isn’t it? I think it is beautiful, but I am struggling a little to understand the exact influences. The draping on the underdress is definitely Greek feeling, but it is paired with an obi belt and kimono sleeves on the robe. It’s feels more orientalist influenced to me than Greek revival. Perhaps it is just how it is styled on the manikin, but it looks frumpy all together. (I don’t think the washed out hue is helping.)

        Final score 6/10

  4. Kirrily says

    6/10 love the undress Grecian style and LOVE the over layer, but together they ruin the lines of both. A 9/10 at first glance as it looks so comfortable but that changed as I looked further, so dropped to a 6.

    Great choice for discussion though.

  5. Alexandra says

    I love the dress together with the robe, but on its own it looks very much like a large tea towel with straps. Only the very pretty sheer robe and that gorgeous belt make it look like something you would want to welcome guests in, but overall I give it a 5/10.

    PS: I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and have been reading every article back until 2010 (so far, I’m still going on)… Greetings from Germany, I adore your blog and work!

  6. The shapelessness of it all gives me a feeling that she’s just stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around her. It’s an ok garment, but boring, in itself, but the overdress ruins it for me. It just hides all the shapes and the few interesting things with the dress. It’s a 3/10 from me.

  7. The embellishments, fabric choice, and color of the dress are magnificent. The bone I have to pick is the way it was chosen to showcase those three. I’ll give it 5/10 for the wonderful elements but awful design.

  8. Rachel says

    The strange thing is, when I first saw the picture, my reaction was extremely positive. I like flowy diaphanous layers, how they hang and drape and give an outfit movement. But when I scrolled down and really looked, I quickly lost my confidence in this dress. So I’m amending my reaction to a big thoughtful HMMMM.

    I’m still sold on the colors, and I like the robe, especially the front closure and the parallel decorations down the back. As for the dress itself… I like the idea of the decorations, but aside from the back view, their layout feels sloppy. The big obi-like sash is jarringly shiny.

    But I like the robe, and the dress’ simple lines, soft colors, and mix of flowing lines and lace decorations is (potentially) very pleasing.

    Can anyone explain why the dress appears to have a floral design on the front of the bodice in the first picture? It doesn’t look like part of the sash, but it vanishes everywhere else.


    • Comtesse de Chambord says

      Well spotted!

      This dress has been one of my favourites for a while, although it does look a bit disappointing without the robe. 9.5/10

  9. Emilia says

    I weirdly like it. The dress alone is nothing special, even unappealing, but the robe really adds something. I’m picturing some delicate pink roses tucked into a dark psyche’s knot to go with, maybe some coral or cameo earrings. 7.5 out of 10, the underdress really doesn’t work for me and I wish the designer had used some of that vertical line in the back on the front, a hint of the classical architectural elements. But a solid 7.5, an 8 depending on how well the lady wore it.

  10. It strikes me as being *too* informal–all of the layers appear to be transparent. Layering them, as this outfit does, prevents raw indecency, perhaps, but creates a peek-a-boo effect that is too erotic for all but the most intimate company. Perfect for the boudoir, but a little too risque for tea.

    As for whether I think it’s beautiful, the trim is gorgeous, but gorgeous trim does not necessarily a gorgeous outfit make. I agree with the commenters who think that the unevenness of the layers make the outfit look sloppy, and are not evocative of grace and movement. I see that the Met calls this an “evening” ensemble, and I wonder what it really looked like in wear. Judging by what I see here, however, I call it a 5.

    • Tea gowns weren’t actually worn for tea – more often dinners at home with family and closest friends, where you still might want to look elegant, but felt like being a bit more relaxed. So this is exactly in the scope of a tea gown. 🙂

      • I wish I could see it with the appropriate undergarments….As it is, I’d want to be *very* intimate with the friends I’d wear this in front of, even at home!

  11. It’s odd. The assymetry is odd. I’m not impressed, much like Catherine above me (we do have similar opinions very often). 4/10

  12. I love EVERYTHING about this. The looser fit would be so comfy, but the layers, sheer fabrics, and embellishments bring a major luxury factor. I give it a 10/10 and I want one!

  13. My general reaction is confusion, because it seems to be an assemblage of elements that, each taken separately, are appealing, but mashed together are discordant (the obi sash mushing the verticality of the underdress, for example).

    It may be an effect of aging, but the color seems dusty to me, and I’d prefer less greyed pastel.

    Interesting, it is, but 7.0 for the confusion.

  14. Diana says

    `10/10, yes it is a thin and floaty but remember there would have been a corset under it. So it was delicate and somewhat avent garde but not as exposing as it looks on that dress form.

  15. Rosalind says

    I think it’s a lovely piece. Looks very comfortable, yet elegant.

  16. Hmm. As far as I can tell, the over duster has slits on the side to let the obi like wrap through – leaving the front to hang free but defining the back. I like that. I love the sleeves and the gold and ivory combo. It’s like crumbling olf french chateau in the best way. Right up my alley.
    I am not loving the underdress quite as much mostly because I keep imagining getting that bit at the bottom caught on everything. So I don’t find it restful. And I want to know where the random bit of floral embellishment on the front panel sprang from! So annoying!
    I really don’t like the way they have presented it from the front as the middle section looks like a hot mess. The drape sits at just the wrong place to the “obi” middle, which looks loose when I think it ought to be firmer looking or tidier.
    So I say 7. I want to reimagine the whole idea a bit to make it work how I suspect it is meant to, but without further evidence that it is the museum’s presentation at fault, I’m sticking with my 7.

  17. I love these pieces – so Oriental. I would wear this very happily.

  18. Barbara Stevens says

    Knowing how great is the relief when I kick off my shoes after a hard day’s shopping, I can imagine the relief of being able to loosen the strings of my stays and change into this loose garment. It is a very intimate garment indeed – certainly not for entertaining any but the closest of friends or relatives.
    I think it looks beautiful, but where, as so many others have asked, does that piece of embroidery on the front go to? Is it perhaps attached to the sash?
    Just the dress for reclining Sarah Bernhardt on chaise longue, or leaning gracefully against a handy grecian pillar.
    10/10 from me, and I wish it was mine.

  19. Barbara Stevens says

    Oops – just after I made acid comments to the other person in this house about proofing before posting, too. ‘Reclining in the style of Sarah Bernhardt’ it should read.

  20. Love it. The asymmetry, the Grecian influence, the delicate fabric, the ingenious construction of the over-robe, it’s all elegant and dreamy. 9/10

  21. I like it apart from the faded moth colours, but I do like it. I think it looks very graceful and comfortable and exotic and very flattering for a larger woman. Also curious about the disappearing sash/floral detail. The draping on the underslip looks a bit clumsy without the sash to camouflage the awkward hitch-up.

    7/10, because, dreary beige chiffon.

  22. It has a kind of cubist feel, a little like some of Mondrian’s work, and the colour palette makes me think of Georges Braque. Given the time period I suppose it may well have been influenced by the cubist movement.

    I think it’s beautiful. Just the right mix of classical elegance and (1910s) modernism. I’d love to know who owned it. 10/10

  23. Thank you for the weekly “rate the dress” – I always look forward to Mondays on account of it! I really appreciate this feature of your blog because one would have to be blind not to realize how much effort, time, research and love for the subject goes into each and every of them!

    Anway. The dress. My first reaction to the dress was boredom. Very white, very floaty, quite conventional, yawn. I looked at the details for a bit and really appreciated the floaty veily thingy that might just hide a tiny embonpoint of a Lady Who Lunched (a little bit too often and too much) and the silvery trimmings of the coat. But the coat still looks like a bathrobe, sorry. And the ensemble still bores me, sorry.


  24. Stacey says

    This dress would be EXTREMELY flattering on me. Not just because I am plus sized, but because it is cut specifically to minimise the troublesome spots I have, and to emphasise the nice ones. I am positive that the dress model that they are displaying it on is several sizes too small, despite their best efforts. You see this a lot with “plus sized models” where they have a size 12 model who is wearing clothes that start at a 16, so all the structure of the garment disappears because it’s not being filled out properly. Imagine, if you will, a more filled out bust, a relatively high waist coupled with a round tummy, and likely a high-hip in the back. This is known as the figure 8, which is a variant of the hourglass. Suddenly that drapey mess in the front lays perfectly and prettily rather than hanging, and all that grace that it seems to lack on the dress form becomes apparent. This is gorgeous and interesting, and nearly everything I like about my own personal style.

    10/10, just because.

  25. Lady N. Jorgensen says

    Well I love it! The fabrics must be diaphanous and beautiful. Must visit the Met to see it. I certainly am one who would delight in lounging around on a Recamier or chaise holding forth in such filmy garments. Without stays. Without a blush ( well maybe one ) in sight. 10/10.

  26. Lyn Swan says

    I usually try to rush to the bottom of the page and post my impressions before reading anyone elses so as not to be influenced by the opinion of others. This time is just the opposite. Oddly enough, my opinion hasen’t changed. I like the idea of the gown, to co-opt a few words diaphanous, exotic, elegant dreamy…but in the end it is meh. Beige chiffon and awakward draping…even though the embellishmets are lovely, it is not enough to rescue the overall effect. 4/10 …..I think that Stacey may have a point about how the dress is displayed, on the correct size some of the flaws might be ameliorated.

  27. Robin says

    I don’t like it.. It is a dirty water color to start with and the see-through aspect really disturbs me. That is just my personal squeamishness but there it is. I’ll give it a 3

  28. JessieRoo says

    I find this outfit lovely as a whole, and as separate pieces. I’m sure it looks much better on an actual person, especially someone large enough to fill it out a little more-the under dress would nicely show off ones shoulders, arms and chest while leaving the rest of the body plenty of room to move around in comfort. The robe, with its wide sash, provides just enough shaping to make the outfit sexy without being uncomfortably/tastelessly revealing. Perhaps the front hem of the under dress could have been styled a little more tidily-though, as Stacey said, that might work itself out on a differently shaped model; and for my own person wearing preferences I might like the sash to wrap around the robe at the front too, but I love it nonetheless. I would totally wear this! 10/10

Comments are closed.