Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Walking in blue, ca 1884

Last week I showed you a forward thinking and backwards looking tea gown.  It was quite a divisive garment.  Some of you appreciated the way the flowing fit would flatter a fuller figure, but others found the design confusing and unresolved, or disliked the colour.  It got a lot of very high scores, and a lot of very low scores, evening out at 7 out of 10.  I suspect it might have rated higher if we could have seen it on a mannequin that was really the shape of the original wearer.

This week we’re sticking with the theme of slightly alternative fashions, with an 1880s walking dress with a bit of inspiration from the Aesthetic movement.

This dress intrigues me because it almost looks like the mythical Regency dress-made-from-a-sari, only 70 years late.  The metallic trim around the hems works with the cobalt blue to  give the dress a slightly exotic feel.  The trim is so unusual for a garment like a walking dress of this period, that I’m almost inclined to think it’s a later addition, although it is perfectly incorporated into the construction of the dress at every point (and certainly coordinates well with the parasol they have paired the dress with).

In addition to the parasol, the dressers have given the mannequin some shiny red gloves, and a jaunty straw  hat trimmed with dark red velvet rib and some red flowers.

What do you think about the frock?  Do you like the combination of the slightly relaxed impression given by the Aesthetic inspired gathered bodice and looser sleeves, with the exotic and glitzy trim on a daytime frock, or would the designer have been better to have stuck with an old classic, like nautical inspiration?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(the dress, btw, is doing the rounds of pinterest with a caption that claims it’s the work of Callot Soers (which didn’t open until 1895), no link to the original source, and other incorrect information, so if you happened to  see it, now you know the correct info).


  1. Grace Darling says

    Hmmm…..lovely splash of Jack the Ripper blood-red gloves and waist band there!
    Intriguing dress indeed!


  2. Kirrily says

    10/10 love the dress. The colour is beautiful, with small but exotic trim. Wonderful with the red gloves and belt, but I suppose is just the way it is styled? I imagine the wearer as young, sensible, efficient and smart, but with a curiosity about the world and an urge to explore, all mixed with a great sense of humour. It’s all there in that outfit!

  3. Everything from the chest downwards is beautiful (except the color-uncoordinated gloves and the ribbon at the waist which both appear to be additions by the museum) but what is going on with the moire silk and the oddly placed ribbon at the shoulders? 8/10

  4. Emilia says

    This one is pretty glorious and seems so chic, the sort of thing a feisty bluestocking heroine with a taste for fashion would wear. I love it. . Not sure on the red ribbon belt, I would have gone darker, but it doesn’t kill the look for me, not at all. 9.5 out of 10

  5. I don’t like the short red gloves (or the 3/4 length sleeves, for that matter) but I’m assuming for purposes of rating that the gloves were a museum addition.

    The dress has nice lines, but I’m struggling with the awkward combination of shorter sleeves with the full, more formal-looking skirt. A 6.5 from me.

  6. I like the combination of red, gold, and blue. (This applies only to the dress itself, not the accessories) I’ll give it a 8/10.

  7. Absolutely love the unusual trim and the fabric – one can almost feel the flow of it, yet it avoids looking like lingerie-in-the-street. The red accessories I find distracting — the color too bright and saturated, drawing the eye away from the trim (which should be the star). I like the use of moire on the bodice.

    9 of 10

  8. A strange combination of fabrics – the yoke looks awkward and draws the eye in a negative way. I can appreciate the nod towards exoticism, but this is a bit odd. 6/10

  9. 8/10. I really like it, I think it’s kicky and chic and looks perfect for a summer’s day or even wearing in India. The red gloves do clash a bit, but I think in a fun way, they give the ensemble personality and lift it all up. Love the hat, but not so sold on the chunky, clumpy parasol which looks more like a walking stick-umbrella. But it all works for me – VERY much an Amelia Peabody type outfit wouldn’t you say, that could be her swordstick parasol….!

  10. Rachel says

    I like it. The Moroccan blue is lovely, a little uninteresting, but the trim makes up for it. The tucks and gathers are so fluid. My main sore spot is the belt. I like the placement, I like the width, I like that it’s not the same as the trim – but I think it needs to be a darker red. I like blue and red together, but here it almost looks like a placeholder belt until a slightly better one can be found. (But it does justify the bright red gloves, and I have trouble saying no to bright red gloves.)

    I’m not fond of the shinier fabric on the bodice because I don’t think it adds much, and the matte blue would just look better. But I like how the trim at the shoulders suggests dress-straps even though the bodice is completely covered.


  11. Barbara Stevens says

    I suspect this dress is actually made from a cotton sari. But surely they could have used cotton at yoke level – the moire silk just looks wrong, and why the tiddy little bits of trim on the shoulders? I don’t like the accessories at all – they take the eye from the dress, which is a pity, as it is really rather smart. A walking dress you could actually walk in for a change. I would have liked to see the back view as well, I think it too could be interesting. And I do hope that high collar is lined, or it could be rather scratchy on the neck. A darker belt/sash and gloves would have been better, and the glove length looks wrong but I can’t think of a better length. I guess we’ve got out of the habit of seeing gloves as an essential part of an outfit, and that’s why they look odd. I would have given the dress a 10 except for that odd moire yoke with the weird bits of trim. So it’s an 8 from me.

  12. 10/10 I love it. I get so excited by clothes that show a move towards women getting stroppy about their own agency and I love the colours, the fit, the whole caboodle.

  13. The silhouette of the dress really appeals to me, though the combination of different reds for the trim is a bit bothersome. 8 out of 10

  14. I dislike this style of skirt and always have but I love almost everything else about this dress. I like the colour, the sleeves and the trim (except the red trim around the waist). I really like the bodice. The brocade? is lovely (it makes an interesting and not too over-the-top decoration) and the pleats are fantastic. I also like the bits of ribbon across the shoulders. I think the gloves and hat are entirely wrong but I’m ignoring those.

    So given that you can hardly have a dress of the time period without that style of skirt (and it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen) and because I’m hoping the waist trim is a later addition and can be safely ignored as a terrible mistake and because love the rest of it so much 9/10

  15. India says

    I do like the overall style and drape of this dress. It manages to be stylish but also as practical as it was possible for a pre-twentieth century dress to be. I particularly like the trim. It’s unusual enough to add that extra bit of interest and give a lift to what might otherwise have looked like just another plain, blue cotton dress. However, I can’t help feeling the sleeves let it down. I’ve never been a fan of three quarter sleeves. They always seem to me to be neither one thing nor the other – just look at the awkward expanse between glove and sleeve on the mannequin …. and full length gloves would hardly solve the problem either, especially on a cotton dress. 7/10

  16. Julia Ergane says

    I really like this dress — even the sleeves. I’m not an expert about gloves and the various lengths. Personally, I would probably have just carried them as they are a nice accessory and pop of red. I almost see this dress as being from the Indian Raj or Egypt (definitely the nod to Amelia Peabody!). My rating: 10/10

    • Oh yes!! Amelia Peabody would have approved of this dress, although she probably would have gone for Burgundy red, it being Emerson’s favourite colour. I LOVE those books.

  17. 8/10 – what many other people said. I would wear this in a heartbeat, myself. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but I would totally wear it!

  18. Robin says

    This dress resembles a 19 th century holoku’ except for the red belt and gloves. I like it. The color is lovely and the trim adds a nice touch

  19. Alyssa says

    9/10 – the silk in the bodice shaves off a point for me. Everything else is just grand!

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