Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Vionnet does gold and bows

Last week I showed you an 1860s dress in buff alpaca with red trim.  I was sure  the lopsided bodice trim would be noticed, and wondered how much it would affect the rating.  While you all agreed it wasn’t ideal, I don’t think changing it would have hugely affected the rating: those of you who loved the dress liked it despite the wonky trim, and the rest of you found the dress boring, even with crazy tassels.  So the rating came in at 6.9 out of 10, which doesn’t really reflect how any of you felt about it!

I actually thought the dress was rather awesome.  It clearly had some issues (asymmetrical tassels just over the bust is not a good thing), but every time I looked at it I imagined it being worn by an 1860s superhero.  It’s  Crinoline Girl!  She’s firing lightening bolts from the zig-zags on her arms!  Whipping  her Tassels of Doom (alas, I’m not very imaginative when it comes to naming weaponry) off from around her waist and using them to knock criminals unconscious, and then imprisoning them in her namesake crinoline until the proper authorities arrive!

How could I not love it?

Since last week’s dress was a Christmas-y frock for the Norther Hemisphere, this  week I thought I should do a New Years frock that would be comfortable on a sultry summer’s night in the Southern Hemisphere.

The delicate lace overdress has been ornamented with appliqued trompe l’oeil bows, which echo the bows in the lace

The black lace overdress is worn over a halter underdress of gold lame.

The gold halter dress could presumably be worn on its own, giving the owner two looks for the price of one, depending on whether she felt like being demure or daring.

What do you think? Just the thing for a night of celebration? And would you stick to the lace overdress, or show a bit of skin in gold?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Love the gold underdress just by itself.

    The lace overdress is dramatic and eye-catching, but the placement of the two bows just below the breasts, as if they were breast-brackets, does not appeal to me. I do appreciate the gradation of bow sizes on the skirt.

    Underdress – 10/10. Overdress 8/10. Combo score – 9/10

  2. On its own, the gold lame underdress looks cheap to me, somehow (though I know it wasn’t). I like the outfit better with the black lace overlay, but there’s still something about it that disturbs me, though I can’t say just what. 7 of 10 for the outfit as a whole.

  3. Lyn Swan says

    10/10 The neckline and cap sleeves of the overdress are perfectly proportioned to be flattering. Without the overdress it is meh, but the complete ensemble evokes an image of Katharine Hepburn sipping a cocktail as Spencer Tracy leans in to hear hear her commenting on their latest movie. Love it!

  4. Emilia says

    I love this one. Racy, sultry, and I love the effect of the black lace over the gold dress. I could never wear it, but I envy the bright young thing who could! I feel like the gold underdress is so ahead of its time: it’d be perfectly at home in a 70s nightclub! 9.5 for me.

  5. 10/10! This dress is stunning. If I was that slinky, I would definitely wear this for New Year’s Eve. I love the combination of the two layers and especially the delicate top layer, with its clever applique detail. This really is a beautiful evening gown.

  6. Such a beautiful, sophisticated dress. It needs a certain kind of woman to bring it to life in a way that a static display mannequin never can. This one would make the whole room gasp. 10/10

  7. LOVE it. It’s so much more racy with the lack overlay, as those glimpses of back through the lace are far more sultry than a bare back. The grading of the bows, the cut – of the cut. How lovely that the museum got the mannequin size just right so we can appreciate its shape and drape.
    I give it a 9.5. I think it deserves a 10 except for the two bows on the bodice which are just not as right as if there was one or two int eh centre front, where bows would make more sense and be a little less daft.

  8. 9/10. I do love these Vionnet gold lame underdress designs, and actually did discover one in the V&A’s “Unlabelled Dresses” closet while working in that department, which I actually love more than this one (mainly for its delightfully ridiculous trailing gold lame ribbons) – see http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O154786/evening-dress-vionnet-madeleine/

    I love the dress, I think it is gorgeous, but not the MOST stunning example of the lame-and-sheer Vionnet trope I’ve seen, so it has to be 9/10. But it is lovely, and I love the stylised bow movement and the way they echo the movement of the overdress and the overall silhouette.

  9. Elise says

    I have a weakness for overlay. In fact, this dress reminds me so very much of my own wedding dress that I selected for this silhouette and lace overlay. Cream and white, rather than black and gold. Gorgeous. I love the movement in both dresses that the overlay provides. Imagine a woman walking into a ballroom (or down the aisle) wearing such a dress!

    10/10 of course!

    Now…to dye my wedding dress so that I can wear it again…

  10. Rachel says

    Oh wow, this is lovely. I love how the halter neckline plays off the broader shoulders of the overdress. I love the black and extremely pale gold, and how intricate the overdress is. I love the long swooshy lines. I love how I can’t instantly tie this dress to any specific decade in the 20th century. I love the high trim waist. I love that the skirt is full and full of movement without being fluffy. I love the underdress solo. I love the high neckline with the dramatic back. I love the bows.

    Actually…I love some of the bows. The skirt bows much more than the top bows. Those top bows are awkwardly placed. As for the skirt bows, I’m not crazy how they’re chopped in half at the waist.

    But I love the idea of the dress, and a lot of how it actually turned out.

    9/10, points off because of them bows.

  11. Ann Seabolt says

    I love it. I can just see one of the chic 30’s film stars wearing something like this. Myrna Loy or Katherine Hepburn would have looked fabulous in it. The placement of the bows doesn’t bother me. I give it a 10.

  12. Kathryn says

    I feel so, so bad saying this because this dress is awesome in a lot of ways-e gold, the drama, the contrast between overlay black and gold, the presence of an overlay at all (usually one of my favourite things), the shape of the cap sleeves, the halter….on and on it goes. So I am being TERRIBLY unfair and irrational when I give this one a 2/10.

    I hate bows. I HATE them. I’m sure I’ve shared that feeling here before, and now I’m sharing it again. They almost always take a woman who is stunning, full of personality and a person to be reckoned with and…turn her into a twee five-year-old. Scathing, I know, but bows have that effect on me every time. *sigh*. Sorry, Vionnet. I normally love your work.

    • Elise says

      Hahahahahaha! I loved your comment. I personally dislike bows, too. But my wedding dress (similar to this dress) had a similar descending pattern, so I have it a pass.

  13. With the overlay it’s lovely and I like the placement of the bows. One in the centre of the top would have been so little girl, right on the breasts would have been too obvious, under is a nice touch. Don’t like it anywhere near as much with just the halter neck gown so I’m just going to mark for the whole thing.

  14. Barbara Stevens says

    My initial reaction was ‘how lovely’. Then I looked again and those bows on the bodice and at the waistline leapt out and poked me in the eye. The bodice bows are unnecessary, and I would have thought that as the bows are described as appliqued someone in Vionnet’s workshop would have noticed the bad placing and fixed it. I too have difficulty with bows on grown women, and would prefer some other ornamentation. 8/10 because of the bows.
    Somehow my imagination then pictured the skinny plain Wallis Simpson in this dress and now it is spoiled for ever.

  15. Lynne says

    10 out of 10.

    I love it. The lace over-dress with the wider shoulder looks so smart and stylish. Lyn Swan put it well. Kathryn Hepburn would have looked stunning in this.

    I don’t mind the under-bust bows. In fact, I think they work quite well. This is not a dress for a woman with a large bosom. Even the under-dress is cut for the smaller busted.

    Face it, this is the most beautiful dress I’ve seen in a long time.

  16. Claire Payne says

    Hmmm….interesting. I love the lace overlay although I would prefer it without the bow motif. I also love the idea of layering, especially two different colours. I like the silhouette of the lace overlay too. I wouldn’t wear a gold lame halterneck on its own or hidden under an overlay so that reduces my score to 7 out of 10.

  17. Strangely, I actually like the bodice bows, because I can see how they emphasize the 1930s shape…
    … although I don’t really like it as a design element as such.
    And I think I feel the same way about a lot of these Vionnet bow dresses I’ve seen from this era. They are very much of the era, but I love them less than other designs of the era.
    But they’re still pretty exquisite.

    • (… now I think about it, they’re not all bows. Now I’m trying to figure out what the unifying thing between they actually is. Lame? Why did I think it was bows?)

    • Elise says

      Wasn’t there a Lanvin on here with a big giant bow?

      I think the bow is hilarious because I can imagine a Victorian-born mum saying “why don’t you dress it up with a nice bow? I am paying for it, after-all” The daughter, saying “bows are super duper naff”, and so proceeded to make the dress as sleek as possible–by making the bows 2-dimensional.

      Actually, the bows now seem rather ironic, in this light. And I like that.

  18. Lucille says

    Ooh! It’s so pretty! It looks all shimmery and fabulous, and the bows are perfect, and the effect of the overdress on the gold makes me make happy faces that look utterly ridiculous to anyone watching me.

    The gold dress on its own actually looks boring. I can see it getting negative reviews if someone wore it to the Oscars, especially if they had the wrong complexion, because it is, despite being lovely fabric, boring.

    But gold and black together are beautiful. I would wear this, although it would look best on someone of a darker natural complexion. 10/10 stars for the utter fabulousness of the color, the simple-ish design that lets the color do the talking, and the bows that make sure it doesn’t get a chance to be boring.

  19. 8/10…because while I adore the silhouette, gold lame’, and lace, I just cannot get behind those bows, especially the under-boob bows!

  20. holly says

    perfection, if one overlooks the chopped off bow motif at the waist, which I’m going to do.


  21. Cindy says

    It’s stunning. What a fabulous combination of a sultry halter dress and a lace overdress. I want it!

  22. India says

    It’s Gertrude Lawrence having an amazingly witty conversation with Noel Coward that the dress evokes for me. Someone should hand the mannequin a long cigarette holder to complete the picture. I love the concept of the black lace over the gold but perhaps not this particular lace. The heavy, black bows are just odd and even slightly funereal in some ways. As with others too, the ever so slightly freakish placement of them on the bodice detracts from an otherwise extremely sophisticated and soigne dress. 7/10

  23. Hannah says

    I love how delicate the top layer is, however the placement of the bows on the bodice is a little odd. 8/10

  24. This is completely surreal — our (awesome) registrar intern and I just figured out that there is a version of this exact dress in a recently accessioned collection at our museum. The catch is, it doesn’t seem to have any labels and is very roughly finished on the inside. Not what you’d expect from a designer evening gown. The dress was donated by the granddaughter of the woman who owned it, who tells us that her grandmother was a designer and couturier who worked in NYC from the 1920s through the 1950s. Many of the other pieces in the collection were designed and/or made by her. What do you think that might mean about this dress??? We have both pieces, and it’s the exact same distinctive plush bow and lace fabric, so not likely a homemade copy. I can share pictures as soon as I get a mannequin over here to dress the item.

    • That is fascinating! I know that there were New York department stores that had licenses to make garments for a number of French designers in the ’20s & ’30s, and that there was a lot of replicating of designer garments, but I’m not sure how much of this happened with Vionnet. I do have a Henri Bendel (NY department store) frock from the ’20s that is a French designer replica (possibly under license) and the finishing is extremely simple. Beautiful, but not what people think of as nice finishes today.

      I’d love to see the photos when you have them (especially of the inside). Hopefully Daniel could weigh in as well, as he has far more experience with Vionnets than I.

      • Hello! Vionnet was one of the most fierce copyright defenders – she used to imprint her thumb-mark on all her labels to make sure that if a dress didn’t have her thumb-mark on the label, it was clearly Not A Vionnet.

        My guess is that your dress may be a naughty copy, but fascinating. Vionnet was really, really renowned for her Superior Finishing and making sure that all the finishes on her garments were Just So, and Spot On, and Perfect.

        There was certainly at least one Vionnet reproduction label in American fashion, although I’m not sure how that relates to the Paris line.

        I’m also sure that there was quite a lot of knocking-off in the fashion industry, often in unlabelled dresses, as dressmakers felt pretty sure that they wouldn’t get rumbled just for making one or two copies of a Paris model (after all it wasn’t like making hundreds of RTW copies….). Really fascinating find! Even if it is a knockoff, it is still of historic significance as a contemporary copy of the legendary Vionnet.

        • Having said that, I’m pretty sure I have raised an eyebrow at the insides of some Vionnet dresses, but it’s been a few years since I handled one.

  25. 10/10!! I’m 1000% in love with it. If it were a different silhouette I would wear it myself. I may be willing to sell my soul for that fabric.

  26. Emma says

    I find the black over gold effect quite interesting, really dislike the bows and don’t particularly like anything else about this one. 2/10

  27. I adore the gold lame thingy and it would look perfect with the black lace layer on top if the designer had said a big fat NO to bows, especially to bows slightly below nipple level. What is it with putting decorations right on top of the breasts? Who wants to wear such a thing???


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