Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Wartime stripes & tassels

Last week I showed you a floral 1880s dress with a modest but-revealing silhouette, and some rather unusual trim choices.  It got compared to everything from real-life steampunk, to Star-Trek does 1880s, but  overall, the lace insets and velvet bows were NOT a hit, and the dress scored a pretty dismal 6.1 out of 10.  Slightly better than the week before, but hardly brilliant.  Can  this week’s frock do better?

This week I’m showing you a dress that  has many of the same themes as last week: a  demure and almost restrained silhouette, a simple fabric, and a few touches of quirky trim.

This Harvey Nichols dress from 1916 (from the Helen Larson collection that the FIDM Museum is hoping to purchase – hop on over to their blog to read about and support their fundraising efforts)  is typical of the mid-teens WWI influenced fashions.  The dark colours reflect the dye shortages (Germany was the primary dye supplier for most of the world immediately prior to WWI), the shorter, fuller skirts a  more practical silhouette  and conservative mindset.

While the restrained colours and simple shape are very much a product of the times, so are  the whimsical details that bring a bit of interest to the outfit, without compromising practicality, or using a great deal more fabric.

The perky  little collar and cuffs add colour while using very little dye, the tassels add movement, and the dress takes full advantage of the stripes placement across the pockets and belt.  Finally, an extravagance of buttons gives interest to the back view.

What do you think of this bit of wartime luxury?  Elegant and fun, or drab and childish?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. I would wear this in a second. The stripes on both top and bottom go in the right directions to flatter me, and I look best in full skirts.

    I’m less sure about the “quirky” trim. I could have done without all of it. But I don’t really mind the buttons or the tassels below the waist. I think the tassels on the collar points look odd and should not have been placed there. I’d also like it better with a sash or belt, but that’s easy to remedy.

    Overall, a 9.

  2. This I love. The placement of the stripes is gracefully done, and the trimmings are done with restraint. Although normally I might be discomfited at the placement of the tassels on the collar, the horizontal stripe muffles the “pointing to nipples” effect of the tassel placement.

    Whoever selected the accessories did a beautiful job as well!

    9 of 10

  3. Elise says

    I have a pet peeve against wedding dresses with buttons ALL the way down the back. This dress also seems to have buttons ALL the way down. Ugh. And I get the need for a little levity with tassels, but not my favorite part.

    Man, do I love the silhouette.


  4. I like it. I don’t really like all the buttons, and I wouldn’t necessarily wear the tassels, but for this dress the tassels really work. 8/10 for the buttons.

  5. I dislike a lot about it: the tassels, the boring placement of the stripes of the bodice, the buttons, the strange shoulders and the weird pockets. The bottom half is nicer but still: 2/10

  6. Julia Ergane says

    I love this dress — and the hat! I would wear both in a second.
    My rating: 10/10

  7. Rachel says

    Stripes, yes. Pockets, yes. Skirt, yes. Big contrasting collar and tassels and a line of buttons that would make sitting down very uncomfortable – nope. I don’t mind bows quite so much, but I have a hard time liking tassels.

    Also, while I like the sleeves, and I like jaunty shoulders, I don’t like the sleeves and shoulders together, especially in the same fabric.

    Could be much worse, but I don’t love it.


  8. I love it. I want ALL the tassels. Have been looking at images of this one for a year or so and consider making a heavily inspired outfit to correspond with some other 1910’s stuff I made last year.

  9. I love it, the stripes are cleverly used and the pocket and collar shapes are super. The tassels are cool and I think would look better without the necklace someone threw on the display, I personally don’t think that necklace works with the dress. I too don’t like wedding dresses with buttons all the way down, and don’t care for it on this dress or even the color of them, something that went better with the fabric and a smaller scale up the back would be less jarring to me. I do love me some stripes!
    9/10 (1 off for no button love)

  10. Ooh, I like this dress a lot. I’m not crazy about the tassels on the collar points, or the buttons down the skirt, but I looove the pockets and the silhouette. I’d definitely wear this. 9/10

  11. I love this piece:) In fact, I love it so much I’ve been inspired to cease my silent lurking. I don’t know, but apparently I can’t contain my love of tassels. I’m not sure if there’s a customary self-intro for new commenters, but I’m a musician obessed with period performances who stumbled into historical costuming to get that much more historically accurate. I also really, really like tassels.

    The dress itself is lovely- a bit minimalist, a bit fantastical, much as I view the best currents in modern fashion to be. Did I mention how much I love tassels? The collar is a great shape; I’m a newbie, so I’m not sure if it’s a historical or menswear reference, but either way I find it interesting. The tassels, in my mind, do not become tacky nipple pointers, particularly due to the fact that the stripe placement leads the eye in the opposite direction. The shoulder detail is the only part I have reservations about- it looks a little too much like a pinafore to my taste.

    Buttons down the back are totally awesome (and, yes, my wedding dress did feature them). I wonder if these might be real ivory or celluloid that has yellowed with age?

    The hat is absolutely fantastic. Great shape and visual movement. The pink gloves are hideous, though- they look like they ought to be flesh, but strangely discolored, as if their wearer had prosthetic hands, which, given the wartime context, becomes rather disturbing. 9/10, point removed for the gloves and shoulder detail. I’d love to make/ wear it if I did more 20th century performances.

  12. I like it, tassels and all. They’re an amusing touch that mitigates the severity of the stripes. I’ll give it a 9.

  13. Claire Payne says

    I agree with Elise. Way too many buttons down the back (I have just finished the buttonholes on a 1953 blouse so I am not feeling the button love right now). Tassels are rarely a good idea in my opinion and I am not a fan of black clothing in general so I am sorry to give it 5 out of 10. The 5 is for the silhouette which is rather nice. Gosh I am grumpy this week! Apologies.

  14. Heather says

    Adorable but I love almost everything from that time period. I would have liked the buttons to be black or white though, they are a bit distraction (yes, even from all the stripes!) as is. The tassels are goofy but add a bit of splash. 9/10

  15. I love this and want to make it. I love stripes. I think if I leave off the pearls I’ll feel a bit less ready to retire but otherwise amazing.


  16. I really love the silhouette and the stripes, and the tassels are fun. I’m not SO sold on the buttons, I think I’d like them more if they were closer in tone to the stripes as they are a bit brownish. The accessorising is perfect – the gloves are fabulous, the hat is divine. It’s definitely a 9/10 – a point off for the buttons not being perfect.

  17. Kathryn says

    This is *delightful*. I love everything about it except the tassels, which seem very distracting to me. But the pocket shape, the stripe placements, theskirt length, the long row of buttons, even the contrast colour of the buttons. This is almost perfect! In fact, I have a very similar cut of dress in ikat stripes in my closet that really needs to be worn more.

    Yep. I know a lot of folks don’t care for thenumber and colour of the buttons, but to me it’s the perfect way to add a bit of surprise to an endless sea of black and white. Also, it’s the deep freeze of winter in my part of the world, and it can get very easy to default to all black all the time in the dead dark of January. This dress seems like a great antidote-very wintry without being dour and depressing. Cheerful wintry. Suits my mood perfectly!

    • Kathryn says

      Oh, yes, and the collar is my all-time fabourite style of collar. It seems very ahead of its time; reminiscent of the New Look to me.

      • The New Look was actually hugely derivative of every crinoline era: both the original in the 19th century, and the mid-teens and late ’30s crinoline revivals. Dior and other New Look designers were looking clothes of this era, as well as other period styles (this type of collar also appears in 16th century and early 19th century fashions) for inspiration – as designers from most periods do 🙂

  18. Kathryn says

    Oh, fantastic! That makes sense. Thanks for sharing. This bears further investigation for sure.

  19. I loved it, and then I saw the buttons. 😛 I just can’t help it, I strongly dislike that.
    And in some strange manner, it reminds me of those hospital gowns in movies that barely cover someone’s back, now that I’ve seen the buttons. Way to ruin a dress for me, subconscious.
    Love the striking simplicity of the striped fabric, and POCKETSES – there’s wartime practicality for you.
    It’s 9/10 for the front, maybe a very subjective 3/10 for the back, so 6/10 overall?

  20. Very elegant. Well-placed stripes are always a good thing and the contrast collar and cuffs and the tassels make sure the whole look doesn’t get too severe. I don’t particularly care for all those buttons. By the look of it, most of those on the skirt aren’t even functional…

  21. Khatt in L.A. says

    Lovely dress overall-especially the interesting use of the stripes in the design. I’m also loving the bodice’s Elizabethan doublet feel with the simple skirt(though I do see the pinafore resemblance mentioned in the comments too). I can understand the use of the tassels on the collar to bring some cohesiveness to the dress but I’d rather they’d been left off. The buttons on the back would’ve looked better if they had picked up the black in the fabric-one could see that they’re there without being quite so bold a statement. Nice accessories save for the gloves-pink’s not the right color here-maybe black or a natural color instead. In all, I’d have worn a dress like this back then. 8 out of 10 (points off for the tassels & too bright buttons)

  22. Wow. I have to give this garment a 10+. I would wear this right now. I love the high collar, the stripes on black and the tassels. It’s stunning.

  23. I love love love this! Especially the tassels, they add a bit of fun to the rather prim stripes. Not completely sure about the buttons, but I could get used to them.
    9.5/10 (for the buttons)

  24. I love it, so much that I think if I ever get around to doing bespoke outfit for doing steampunk, this will be my inspiration.

  25. I love this – you can imagine a young woman self-confidently stepping into a position left vacant by a soldier; it looks fresh, confident, no-nonsense, yet attractive. A little bit fun and quirky, too. I heartily dislike the tassles but I can see that something playful is needed to give the dress a fun twist. At least we are spared tassels at nipple height, well that’s something. 🙂 The buttons don’t match the dress. Still, the overall effect is lovely, so 9/10.

  26. Kirrily says

    10/10 just love this! ‘She’ looks so capable but fun, someone I’d want to chat with over tea before she returns to her writing, because of course she writes, perhaps even for a newspaper – is it the stripes? – or perhaps she edits, something marginally acceptable which thankfully she was encouraged to take up by her forward thinking family. But she doesn’t only work, she laughs and and thinks and dreams, and sews!

  27. Kirrily says

    Not sure how autocorrect changed ‘talks’ to Ali’s!

  28. Lyn Swan says

    This dress is stylish and it would look good on a variety of body shapes. I could wear this dress now, with my matronly shape and size. While I am not usually a fan of stripes at all, however the use of vertical placement on the skirt and sleeves with horizontal on the bodice front and back adds subtle interest. The pockets and collar and tassels are just enough.
    9/10 I love this look.

  29. Rhona OSullivan (faerierhona) says

    I like almost nothing about this dress. It looks drab, the tassels don’t go, the waist is unflattering, the buttons awkward and ugly and the length too short or too long.
    It gets a 3 for me but only that high because the stripes in different directions is interesting and I like the shape of the top

  30. bovine queen says

    The tassels are a big turn-off for me; they look like pulls on a window drape. I love the hat and skirt, but the pinkish color and cuffs remind me of a reproductive problem I’ve seen with cows (sorry..). I do like the number and placement of the buttons, but wish they were of a different color – too much contrast. I give it a 6.

  31. I like the fabric, and the pockets, and the bodice. I don’t like the skirt shape, the collar, the tassels, or the buttons. Overall I think it had potential to be very nice, but it’s got lost somewhere along the way and turned out frumpy – largely due to the way the skirt is constructed, which is a problem I often have with dresses from this era. 5/10, for potential and for the fabric.

  32. holly says

    That pocket detail is a great one to steal and reuse. I love the length of the fuller skirt, balanced against the square lines of the bodice. 10 from me.

  33. I really like it! The stripes, color, and silhouette are all appealing. I could do without the large tassels but that is the only thing I done care for.
    My rating: 9 out of 10

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