Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Summer Whites of the 1870s

Huzzah!  We have a winner!  Last week I showed a court dress in black satin with gold embroidery, and, with only 4 out of 30 votes coming in at anything but a perfect 10, the dress scored a truly spectacular 9.8 out of 10, which is pretty much as close as I think we’ll ever  get to a perfect 10!  (such a change from Charles of the week before, who actually did better than I thought – 6.3 out of 10, for “Fantastic outfit, wrong wearer” as HoiLei succinctly put it.)

This dress is inspired by the recent weather: it has been HOT.  Not too bad in Wellington, but I spent the weekend in Hamilton and it was 30 degrees and 60% humidity, and I had models in period dress, and there was a lot of discussion about how you handled that kind of heat historically.

Here is one example of how:

Superficially this dress is the complete opposite of last weeks: light cotton instead of heavy silk, white instead of black, an overall  impression of lightness and informality instead of grandeur and formality, covered-up rather than revealing.  And yet, as you look closer, some of the same themes remain: restrained colour schemes with elaborate shaped embroidery for impact; simple silhouettes with just a bit of ruffles to create the impression of feminine delicacy, layers that create the desired fashionable silhouette.

These two dresses may be a quarter of a century apart in date, and at least a dozen degrees apart in weather-comfort, but they still aimed for many of the same things.  Can this weeks’ frock match the last ones score?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Overall, I love it and covet it. The fabric looks like it would feel heavenly in summer’s heat, and the shape is graceful.

    I do deduct a point for the one thing that seems discordant to me — the scale of the embroidery motifs seems overlarge. I’m sure it’s something due to personal taste, but it acted like a very little pebble in one’s shoe — not big enough to be a real problem, but just enough to be noticeable.

    So, 9 of 10

  2. This is lovely! I am a huge fan of (and collector of) the lingerie dresses of the 1890s and early 1900s. This looks like it could be a very early nod toward that trend. I love the ruffle at the bottom. Such a flirty little detail.

    The embroidery is a bit large on the skirt but I think the tone on tone sets it off well.

    I would give it 9 out of 10.

  3. I usually look at these outfits as dispassionately as possible, even when drooling and squealing about them, because I don’t think about them on me. But THIS, I would rock this in a minute! It has so many design elements that I love to wear, and I love how it is all put together.
    A tenner from me!! 10/10. Dix points.

  4. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    Cool, comfortable looking, elegant, and very pleasing. I like what I see. I’d like to see it accessorised as I think there’s a belt/sash missing, so I have to give it 8/10 for not being complete, and for having untapped potential.

  5. holly says

    I know this dress is going to rate highly with a lot of people. I want to like it, but the heavily embroidered skirt puts me off. If only it had mirrored the yoke! As it is, 6/10, those points for the more balanced embellishment to the top half.

  6. Rachel says

    There’s something overblown but dressing-gownish about it, and having that one pattern when the dress is broken into so many sections is a little monotonous. But I definitely like it. I mean, look at that neat little notched neckline. I think my only big sticking point is the seam (?) down the front of the bodice. As a design element, it’s placed well, drawing the eye down and bisecting the bodice, but having this plain white line adds to the unfinished feeling of the dress.


  7. It’s a pleasant enough frock, and I like the style of the embroidery. I’m not bowled over by it, though; the 1870’s silhouette looks a bit off with the lightness and informality (though that might be because of how the dress is being displayed). A 7 from me.

  8. I like it. I like the embroidery a lot, and I think it works well with the light muslin fabric. The only thing I’m not sold on is that long peplum/short overskirt thing (a polonaise?), which to my mind looks like it doesn’t quite belong on this dress. 9/10.

  9. Since the 1870s is my favorite time period, and I’m a huge lover of lovely white, I am perhaps a little bias, but oh my goodness, I love this dress! The colour, the shape, the tight little waist, I just can’t get enough! However, while I still love it, I do feel as though some of the embroidery looks a bit odd in places. Particularly, I can’t help but find the big spots on the sleeves a bit misplaced.
    However, I still really love this dress, and still give it a nice 10/10.
    (I would love a light dress like that for this horrid Aussie weather!)

  10. Kaela says

    I love it! It’s delicate but subtly ornate, casual fabric but stunning execution. I covet it and want to wear it. 10/10

  11. Bartimaeus says

    It’s beautiful, I’d wear it now if it was mine! 10/10

  12. Emilia says

    Absolutely charming, and the monochromatic, clean white keeps it crisp and fresh. I think I’d have to see it in a full outfit to really get a feel for how it would wear — hat, earbobs, etc — but as it stands? Just lovely. 9/10

  13. Julia Ergane says

    This is definitely for lounging in the loggia — just lovely. 10/10

  14. Lyn Swan says

    10/10 Just lovely. Embroidery, delicate cotton and flattering style. Ah…summer will come again!

  15. Elise says

    I really like it. Pleasant and charming, as others have said. Would it have been worn in a hot climate like India or the Caribbean? A few decades later, and it could end up on Indian Summers. 9/10. I really like it.

  16. Hearthrose says

    That dress is a vision. A vision. 10/10.

    LOVE. Love the embroidery, the shape, the details.

    -swoons happily-

  17. India says

    I want to like this dress but the more I look at it, the more it says “housecoat” rather than “day dress” – a very lavish housecoat but a housecoat nonetheless. I’m also not sure about the heavy embroidery on the light cotton and, of course, it’s not helped by having one of my least favourite fashion silhouettes. Then again, that (possibly) missing sash, perhaps in blue, might have made all the difference by breaking up that vast expanse of white. I’m hedging my bets here so it’s a 6/10.

  18. I love the simplicity and lightness of the dress. It still retains the structure of the era from whence it originates, but has a lighter, airier feel to it, making it perfect for Summer in my opinion. 10 out of 10.

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