Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Oh So Sweet 1825

Last week’s New Years Rate the Dress was a glam-but-slightly quirky Vionnet gown with a bow-trimmed lace overdress and a gold lame slip.  Some of you didn’t like the bows because they were bows, and some of you didn’t like them because of the under-bust placement.  Overall most of you thought it was rather fabulous, but the bow aversion  pulled the rating down to 8.3 out of 10, rather than something more impressive.

Since  the main objection to last week’s dress was the bows, which some of you dislike on principle for their connotations of little-girl saccharinity, this week I’ve picked a dress that, while it is completely devoid of bows, is in complete contrast to the sophistication and sexiness of last week’s frock by being just about as sweet as you could possibly get without covering a dress in bows.

This 1825 ball dress is pink and white, and features typical mid 1820s embellishment like heavy lower skirt trims, combined with the equally fashionable Renaissance-inspired historicism in the form of faux front-lacing, sleeves which manage to echo the hem trim and the look of slashed sleeves, and a tabbed bodice.  The whole effect is very  feminine, very sweet, and very youthful.

What do you think?  Too saccharine?  Too many elements?  Or


  1. HannahS says

    Oh dear…as I saw the top, I thought, “well, it’s not my thing, but I suppose it’s OK” but then I saw the bottom and I couldn’t figure out what I thought was so strange. The proportion? the stiffness at the bottom instead of flowing fabric? Then it hit me: the bottom of the skirt looks like a hoverboat. Although I can see a foot poking out, the dress looks like the woman should glide towards me like a robot. Combined with her vacant expression, it gives me the heebie-jeebies– *shudder* 4/10.

  2. I love it! It represents everything a young woman was expected be at the time. It is sort of busy, but that’s the 1820’s, and in whites and soft pinks it’s not overwhelming. The tabs are reminiscent of the ones of stays only a few decades before, so I imagine the Granny of any young lady who used that feature in a dress might have been a bit scandalised 🙂 I like the sleeves and the foliage at the hem. I’m a bit unsure about the bertha-like thing covering the lacing, but it doesn’t loose much by it. I’d love to see this recreated, and worn by a girl in her teens or very early 20’s – I don’t think it’d look too sweet at all. On anyone older than that it might look silly though. 9/10

    • If anything I’d say it’s a bit too long – ankle length would have looked more balanced.

  3. The hem is so dominant that it’s hard to focus on the other details. If I scroll the page so that I don’t see the hem I find the bodice rather lovely and the trim well applied.

    Scroll the page so that the hem reappears, and I’m reminded of nothing so much as the chess pieces from Alice through the Looking Glass (although I can also see HannaS’ reference of a hoverboat). If you had several young ladies dancing in skirts with similar hems, you would run the risk of turning the ballroom into a human bumper car course.

    6 of 10

  4. The effect is, as you say, very feminine, very sweet, and very youthful. I like the bodice–despite the bizarre scarf-thing that hangs over the lacing. But what kills this gown for me is the hugely padded hem area and its even odder pink silk bungee-cord trimming. Padded hems are the single biggest item that makes me dislike the fashions of the 1820s, and this particular gown takes it to a wild extreme. A 6 (the simplicity and elegance of the bodice redeems that inflated hem just a little).

  5. I love the bodice so much! But the heavy skirt trim kills it for me. I’m going to echo Catherine by giving the dress a 6.

  6. I rather liked the top-half of the dress, and was thinking I would like the whole thing, until I got down to the very puffy skirt trim. The puffiness is just a little bit too much for my taste, and causes the other wise delicate skirt to suddenly seem heavy in appearance.

    5 out of 10

  7. ekduncan.comextantgowns.comI don’t think the hem would look all that heavy: the dress is in pale pink gauze over a white silk slip. The “buillonnee” is likely quite transparent and airy. It’s only the hem itself that’s padded on this dress, according to the description in Ackermann’s Repository: http://www.ekduncan.com/2011/09/regency-era-fashions-ackermanns_13.html

    I imagine it might have looked something along these lines, but pink and plain instead of white and embroidered: http://www.extantgowns.com/2014/01/early-1820s-ball-gown.html

    I believe the weight of the trim would make the skirt twist itself quite prettily around the wearer when she danced.

    • Elise says

      I thought very ill of the skirt until I read your post–it WOULD make swirls interesting on the dance floor, and daring, too, because if you twirled too fast, then the skirt would wrap tightly around your lower half and show off your legs!

      I also thought about feather-trimmed dresses and coats in the 20s and 30s, that created a similar hemline.

      Interesting post! And I’m not rating, because I’m overthinking it.

    • Lyn Swan says

      Thank you for the links Sarah…I learn something new every time I log onto the Dreamstress!

  8. Sweetly pretty. The hem is fun, but just a bit too poofy and meringuey to take seriously. All I can think of is a Dalek gliding effect.

    I’m more intrigued by how whole sections of her hair, including her parting, appear to have transformed into pink ribbon.

    5/10 – it’s neither one thing or another, I normally like 1820s dresses but this one just leaves me a bit indifferent.

    • On the other hand, the more I look at her hair, the more I LOVE it. It’s got something quite avant garde about it, like the substitution of ribbon for hair/curls makes it appear to be dyed two colours, Quite pre-punky. The hairdo gets a 8/10.

      • Yeah, I love the hairdo, too, though I wouldn’t put it in those terms. 😀 It looks like flat-lying curls, too, in an almost, um, pre-1940s way.

  9. So cute. I love the fashions of the 1820s, and can accept the wadded hem for what it was – an interesting and transient fashion feature. The bodice is just gorgeous. Like Sarah, I’d love to see this recreated. It reminds me of Cynthia’s Easter ball dress in ‘Wives and Daughters’. 9/10

  10. JessieRoo says

    Sweet and pretty-just the sort of dress for early spring. The thing is, it’s pretty in spite of, rather than because of some of the detailing. A gentle hint of puff at the hem would be so much nicer, as would a more careful combination of the bodice details. I do love the roses and foliage around the hem though, and I would totally wear that hair style if only I knew how to wrangle my mess of ringlets in to a semblance of order. On the whole, I think this dress would be quite nice on a girl who was more interested in the goings on than her appearance, but the sort of girl who thinks she is the hottest thing around would be ridiculous in it.

  11. As much as the monstrous hem thingy reminds me of the huge fluffy dusters that clean and dry your car in the automatic car wash (I don’t know if this is the correct word), I just can’t rate the dress because it would be unfair – the dress is shown as a drawing, not the real thing, and the saccharinity of the young lady would very much influence my impression of the dress, so no. But oh my god, the hem!

  12. HoiLei says

    Ha ha! All the hem comments! One appeal of the padded hem is practical: much like a corded petticoat, it keeps the folds of the skirt from getting dragged between the legs when you walk.

    I can see Sarah W’s point about it looking lighter in person; it’s hard to draw sheers and frothy stuff. But the pink cords at the bottom look to me like tongues sticking out, or an abstraction of a part of the anatomy found nearer the middle of the body. Like the top of the dress was made by Little Bo Peep, and the bottom was decorated by Georgia O’Keefe!

    I like the gothic stuff going on up top, and the wacky hair… the ladies of the time were probably getting tired of the Regency ‘little white dress”! And I like the waistline creeping back down to a natural position but not yet being made to look minuscule.

    7/10 from me.

  13. ceci says

    Dalek indeed….and how could the leg be positioned to have that particular slipper angle? Slightly creepy, but her hair is fantastic.


  14. Kathryn says

    Hahaha, tricksy!

    First off, the hairdo is awesome, I love it. Second, despite it being very girly and very sweet, I have much less of an objection to this dress than last week’s. Again, it’s not wholly rational, but I do think a dress intended to be girly and sweet, for a girly and sweet wearer, is just fine. It’s not to my personal taste, but for someone actively cultivating that look, it has merits. It’s mostly when bows are slapped onto a dress for a more mature, powerful or even vampy woman that I recoil. That said, I would like this dress rather less if it had a big ol’ bow stuck to it somewhere.

    Anyway. The dress itself is pretty good. My brain wants a loose ruffle rather than a tacked-down sausage roll at the hem, but I suspect that is not period-accurate. And I do forgive the sausage roll somewhat, because the rose trim would be rather spectacular in real life. Despite the crazy hem, and wonderful hair, though, the dress seems a little dull. Maybe if it were done up in a small floral print? Or narrow pale pink stripes? All in all, middling. 6/10

    • Kathryn says

      On second thought, a loose ruffle wouldn’t complement the sleeves as well. And a oatterend fabric wouldn’t be all that period accurate either, would it? Does someone know better than me about that?

      Perhaps rather than patterend fabric, what my brain wants is a bolder constrast colour than pale pink for the trims. Which would take this dress a little out of ‘sweet’ territory….hahah!

  15. Rachel says

    Too wedding cakelike.

    The lacing in the front is oddly interrupted. The ribbons on the sleeves are overkill. But I don’t really dislike it until I see the muffin-top hem. The roses and … inner tube of pink puffiness really kill it for me.

    It’s not an ugly dress at all. In fact, it’s quite pretty, and would maybe be a bit toned down in real life. But I don’t like it, so I guess my rating comes down to whether the prettiness outweighs my dislike.


  16. Emilia says

    I irrationally hate those sausage roll puffs on Romantic period dresses. Haaaaaaate. The colours are fine, the top is even cute. But that bottom monstrous growth kills it. 4/10.

  17. I’m pretty sure the illustration is out of proportion and I would actually quite like the real dress.
    But to rate the illustration on its own merits… eek. Hoverboats and car bump chases just about cover it. Plus I’m weirded out by the lacing covered up by the bertha. 4/10

    • Plus I’m weirded out by the lacing covered up by the bertha.

      This! I’m not sure why the white bertha/ribbons/whatever it is are going over the lovely faux pink lacing. Take that bertha away and the dress would look much better – the pink lacing would match the pink on the sleeves and the pink in the hem of doom which would bring the dress more together.

      I really like the flowers above the hem detail. I think that that with maybe a more subdued hemline would have come off a lot better. The hemline right now looks like one of those “futuristic” drawings of what fashion will be like after the 1980’s. If it were just diamonds of the puffs in pink or just triangles of ruffles, this would help the dress a lot.

      As is, 5 out of 10 because I don’t hate it but I don’t like it either.

  18. This wouldn’t be so bad for me, except for that funky hem. The flower embellishments are reasonable, but everything below that is weird. 5/10

  19. bovine queen says

    I really like the heavy hem! I can envision it swinging like a bell as she elegantly walks. The little sleeves match the hem and the gloves add to the elegance. I don’t love the ribbon shoestring bodice, but it’s OK; the pretty neckline and lovely hair make up for it. I give it a 9.

    • Yes, I can imaging the hem “swinging like a bell as she elegantly walks” too, except that I think the swinging motion would detract from the elegance. Ah well, everyone’s tastes are different; that’s what makes Rate the Dress so much fun!

  20. Lucille says

    It’s interesting, but I don’t like it. The thing around the hem looks like those things they used to tie onto babies when they were learning to walk, and the shoulder-waist ratio is frightening. Also, the collar thing covering the lacing is simply nonsensical. 3/10, because it could conceivably be worse.

  21. This looks like it would never work in real life. And if it did, the bottom would have an unitentional but distinct naval theme. 6 out of 10.

  22. Emma says

    I love the bodice (except for the thing covering up the lacing) and the sleeves are pretty. In fact I love it until I get to the hem. For such a sweetly delicate dress it just looks unwieldy and overdone. 6/10

  23. Grace Darling says

    The 8-pronged star pendant is like the one in the movie “The Patriot” that Mel Gibson’s character
    gives to his new daughter-in-law.

    Really odd dress. 2/10

  24. bovine queen says

    oops….I posted this because my original comment didn’t show up til much later!!

    • That’s because you’re using email addresses that my spam blocker doesn’t trust. Sometimes I find your comments in spam, but I don’t always get to it before it’s automatically cleared.

  25. Lyn Swan says

    Oh my goodness…I am distracted from the dress by the lively conversation about it! I find myself looking forward to the regulars and trying to figure out whether or not I can predict preferences and comments. Keep it up! I think 7/10 for me I quite like the bodice though, a bit too much embellishment with, as Sarah said, the “Bertha like thing”. I do like the sleeves and foliage embroidery + flowers at the hem, but am put off by the puffy hem…actually the hoop at the bottom seems too rigid…a bit like hula hoop. I always (as I have said so many times before, which that I could see the real thing. Fabric is so different in the real world than in photos or print.

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