Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a paisley tea gown

Last week’s rate the dress was a probably-by Callot Soeurs gown in what-do-we-call-this-bronze-blush-champagne with intricate embroidery.  A few people weren’t so enthusiastic, but most of you loved the dress – so much so it’s going to get a bit polygamous, because a number of us are in line to marry it.  (me too!).  The final rating was 9.3 out of 10.

I’m currently obsessing over paisley, because I’m giving a talk on Paisley at CoCo, so this week’s Rate the Dress is on-theme.  In fact, it manages to combine paisley with another one of my obsessions: tea gowns.

This tea gown is an example of a mid-century paisley shawl which has been re-made into a fitted garment.  This practice was very common from the late 1870s onwards, as shawls fell out of fashion as bustles came in, but the actual shawl fabric was still valued.

Though paisley shawls of the 1860s were ENORMOUS, they still don’t contain enough fabric to make a full trained tea gown, so the dressmaker has combined the wool shawl with muted lavender taffeta, which forms the front of the gown, and an inset train.

The lavender front of the gown features gathered smocking at the waist and neck, in a nod to the Aesthetic fashions which were so often associated with tea gowns.

So, how does this rate as an example of paisley, re-use and a tea gown?  Does it manage to combine elegance and comfort?  And how do you feel about the match of the lavender and the warmer tones in the shawl?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. MayravB says

    I really like the smocking at the waist and neck! It makes me think of the simple raglan sew-an-elastic-at-the-waist-and-neck dresses that are so popular, but a more elegant finish. I think the re-use of the shawl and combination with new fabric is a really nice idea, and executed well. However. I really don’t like the yellow-green tones in the shawl with the lavender fabric. It looks makes the dress look faintly nauseated to me. And I don’t like the addition of the lace at the back. It makes it look like patch-work.
    8/10 for the main idea, but minus 1.5 for looking like it ate something off and needs to lie down.


    • There is lace at sleeve and neck, but if you’re talking about the white patterning in the upper back, that’s the white centre of the shawl 🙂

  2. Although I love the tones of paisley fabric, I’m not really fond of the gown overall. The lavender doesn’t really seem to me like it coordinates very well but was just snatched off the shelf because there was enough of it, and I really dislike the appearance of the back. The oversize lace motif combined with the inset train (which seems to contrast too much with the main body) makes it look like someone overset a pitcher of lavender cream.

    The smocking to shape the bodice looks skillfully done

    I have to give this a 6.0

  3. Rachel says

    I like dresses where it looks like one dress is emerging out of another – there’s something very interesting about such stark contrast being in one garment.

    The lavender underdress feels very modern, and I like how the folds and the simple waist give it a structure that feels relaxed and natural. The paisley overdress, while a gorgeous ex-shawl, feels stiff and fusty by comparison. The two halves of the dress seem to undercut, rather than enhance, each other.

    The more I look at it, the more it grows on me, and there’s definitely a lot I like. But while it balances formality and casual at-homeness, it doesn’t quite work for me as a whole.


  4. I like the paisley fabric and in theory I like what they’ve done with it, but somehow I’m not totally sold on the final product. The lilac train really doesn’t do it for me; I get that they had a limited amount of shawl to work with, but I really think the train would have been better in paisley. In general I would have been inclined to use a different colour for the lilac parts. Maybe cream or even orange, provided it was the right kind of orange. 7/10

  5. I love this tea gown! It certainly looks comfy and warm, like something to hang out on the sofa in during the winter. And the lavender nicely picks up on the lavender in the patterned area, plus is rather unexpected as a solid color choice on first glance. Yup, I’d wear it. 10/10 as there is nothing I would change.


  6. Lalaith says

    The colours really don’t match. I shall have to give this a 3/10.

  7. Karin says

    I think it looks very comfortable and stylish. Really like the smocking. Great re-use of the shawl! 10/10

  8. Elise says

    I was in line for marriage, first!

    As for this dress, I love the effort, but find the execution wanting. If only the shawl were used in the bodice, then gathered into the train (rather than the purple), similar in style to a late 17th-century mantua!

  9. I love it! The shape is wonderful and the colours feel very calm. All in all I would love to sit down and relax in it.

    As for paisley I find it interesting how my own perception of this pattern has changed. I really disliked paisly when I was younger, associating it too much with wannabee-hippies and ugly 1960s inspired fashion. The more I’ve gotten into historical costuming and seen its uses throughout the years I’ve come to like it more and more, and now I think it’s gorgeous. I even have double sets of IKEAS paisley patterned duvet and pillow covers so that I can always have a bed made up in paisley.

    • It’s funny how our perceptions of patterns and designs can change over time, isn’t it? Sometimes I actually make myself research and make something with an element I thought I hated, because it really makes me develop an appreciation for whatever it is! I’ve even gotten to the point where I like some fringe. Only some though!

      No rating for this one?

  10. I realize the purple is picking up the purple in the shawl and I don’t mind it in the front but I hate it in the back. Likely because I don’t like things that draw attention to my butt. And I dare you not to see a purple butt crack when you look at the back again. Having the lace “pointing” to it doesn’t help. Makes me think “tramp stamp”. So I give it a 3 for economy and trying to match the colors in the shawl. 1 for okay look at the front. -1 for hacking up a beautiful shawl! That is a total of 3/10.

  11. Love the Paisley, don’t love the pleated taffeta in the back – it just seems a bit jarring. The front view is much better and I like the pick up of the lavender in the shawl pattern by the taffeta. 7/10 – the back view is not good, although I really like the way the centre of the shawl is used for the back bodice. Lace collar is a bit scrappy.

  12. sewcharacteristicallyyou.comI don’t think the lavender is completely off base. I can see how it can be pulled out of the paisley design. All the same, I don’t like it. I would have preferred a match with the green or a coordinating red/brown warm tone. I like the idea of reuse, and I think the train looks fairly nice. The front though just doesn’t cut it for me. I think I might have liked it if the paisley met in the front bodice. 5/10


  13. Robin G. says

    I like it! It is a fairly simple teagown, and as I dislike frou-frou stuff, this one gets a good score from me – 9.5 out of 10.

  14. Amie says

    I am enthusiastic about this gown. I’m amazed at the ingenuity of the seamstress to frugally reuse the shawl, marry it to a totally new and different type of fabric transforming it into a lovely garment that I am sure was worn elegantly to both host and attend other’s tea parties. I’ve got to admire that. I wish I could decider the lace a little better but it looks like it echoes the paisley in the shawl pattern.
    I do love paisley in general, and I wear it often.
    Yes to this dress. 9.5/10. I love it and would love to hear more of its story.

  15. I actually see the lavender in the shawl fabric, too, so while on first sight it’s odd, it grows on me.
    It’s not spectacular, but it’s a lot nicer than it sounds.
    (Marmota crawls out. So sorry for being so completely out of the loop these past weeks!)

  16. Adriana says

    I give this gown a 6/10. I like ingenious way that the seamstress recycled the shawl. Very well done. I also like the use of lavender as I also see lavender in the shawl. The use of smocking is fantastic. What I don’t like is the black lace at the cuff and neck. The black seems off to me. And as much as I love the motiff on the back of the bodice, I don’t like the cream color of it. It also seems off to me, I am guessing that motiff was in the shawl and they chose to highlight it.

  17. India says

    If I’d had that shawl, I’d have wanted to make a dress out of it too. In fairness time and the camera may have distorted the colours and the lavender may well originally have been a much closer match. But taffeta? Against the soft, warm drape of the shawl? The gathers at neck and waist are made stiff by it instead of being softly feminine to complete the aesthetic look. The back lace “addition” is an amazing shape and a lovely piece of itself but it’s out of place on this dress. The overall silhouette and lines are beautiful but in the end this is a dress that is so much less than the sum of its parts. 5/10 and that’s mostly for the shawl and the elegant, underlying design.

  18. I think the silhouette is beautiful, and the way the lavender underfabric peeks out both in front AND IN THE BACK is interesting and attractive.

    What I don’t like is the combination of lavender with the lovely burnt-orange-dominated paisley print. The paisley makes the lavender look like a drab gray (at least on my monitor) and dampens the impact the paisley itself might otherwise have had. 6.5 out of 10 (it would have been at least 7 except for the drabbing down of the paisley).

  19. Something I forgot to mention; I really like the way the dressmaker centered the cream-colored motif from the shawl at the center back of the bodice.

  20. della says

    My vote’s probably too late to count, but I give it a 10. I especially love the back view.

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