Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: red, white & blue Empire

Ok…so…last week’s Doucet evening dress…I did NOT see that coming!  In brief, the dress itself was generally very well reviewed, but the embellishments got an…interesting reaction.  Personally, no matter how hard I squint, I don’t really see it, but I can see where people are coming from when they say the scale of the bows it a bit off.  With a few very high marks, and a few very low marks, and a few in the middle, the dress came in at a fairly disappointing 7.1 out of 10.

I’ve really been getting into Regency/Empire historicism, and more informal 1810s fashions (sadly, that’s not a hint as to what my historicism sewing project is), so this week’s Rate the Dress is a 1810s outfit with a little bit of historicism, a little bit of exoticism, and a slightly more relaxed feel:

Portrait of a Lady (possibly Caroline Bonaparte-Murat, Queen of Naples) by Robert Lefèvre, 1813

Portrait of a Lady (possibly Caroline Bonaparte-Murat, Queen of Naples) attributed to  Robert Lefèvre, 1813

This painting, usually attributed to  Robert Lefèvre, shows a lady, possibly Napoleon’s younger sister Caroline Bonaparte-Murat, Queen of Naples, in a white day dress with a subtle dotted pattern, and an interesting collared over-robe.  Her standing collar gives a nod to the late 16th century, and her coral diadem, which matches her necklaces and bracelets, to the ancient Greeks.

The kashmiri shawl that ‘Caroline’ casually lifts adds the final fillip of casual luxury to the ensemble, adding to the desired impression of a wealthy, cultured woman.  If this is a portrait of Caroline Bonaparte, the more informal Southern European styling and presentation would make sense in 1813, when Caroline and her husband were attempting to distance themselves from Napoleon as he declined in power following the disastrous Russian campaign.

Caroline or no, what do you think of the outfit?  Do you approve of this version of luxe casual, circa 1813?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.  


  1. I like everything about it except for the almost Elizabethan ruff collar, which just seems disconnected. The shawl I covet.

    8.5 of 10

  2. Though I’m not sure exactly why, I like this ensemble. It’s very color-coordinated, with the coral parure, the white-backgrounded Kashmiri shawl, and the blue overrobe. The blue is a very attractive shade, which enhances the costume as a whole. I normally would dislike the frothy, ruff-like collar and cuffs, but they work on Caroline (if that indeed is who she is). A 9 out of 10.

  3. Buttercup says

    I’m not a fan of this dress. There’s too much going on and it seems to borrow ideas from everywhere. The fit of the dress looks a bit odd in the boobs department too. I do like the shade of blue though. I’d rate it 4 out of 10.

  4. I love coral jewelry. I love it I love it. I don’t own any, of course, because it’s terrible for the environment, so I just take deep pleasure in admiring it where I can. The shades of blue and white set off the coral to great effect. The sitter’s complexion is lovely. 1810 is usually when regency styles start to lose me, but those same fashion elements look correct here. 9/10.

    What sort of styling makes it “southern”? Anyone know? I want to know!

  5. Charlotte says

    This is a pleasant combination, with all the details well pulled together. The collar ruff is particularly beautiful, as is the shawl. I think the over-robe would be better served with out the sleeves. 9/10
    With little to polarize, this dress is drawing few comments. Do you find that this sort of reaction influences your choices for Rate the Dress towards more extravagant pieces? I enjoy sewing everyday work historical clothing, but they do not have the “wow” factor of the fancy dresses we all love to look at.

    • I never quite know what people are going to react to with Rate the Dress! I think this is a really interesting portrait, with quite fascinating clothes, but I guess others don’t, and that’s OK!

  6. I love the delicacy of this outfit. The blue of the over robe is one of my favourites and I think the ribbon tied in a bow sets it off beautifully. It looks so simple but looking closer the details show it to be much more expensive or luxe than first glance. It’s what I imagine a queen would wear in less formal situations. Along with an elegantly simple parure for everyday wear. Although Naples was a centre for coral jewellery trade so perhaps it’s just a subtle advertising poster? 10

  7. Esther says

    The ruff seems fussy, but the rest of the outfit is lovely. 8/10.

  8. Julia Ergane says

    This is one of the prettiest dresses of the era I have seen. 10/10

  9. Adriana says

    I love everything about this ensemble and would love to replicate it someday. It just all goes together perfectly. I love the coral accessories and the blue robe with the silver silk bow fastening is just dreamy. I think she wears it well. 9/10

  10. It looks comfortable and graceful for lounging around or just sitting around writing your diary/letters in. Very understated. The ruffles add a bit of fancy, but not so much that it’s offputting. I like the blue, and I like the softness of the sleeves. I don’t love any of it, but I like it all, so it’s a quietly approving 7.5/10.

  11. Elska Jenness says

    I have a confession to make: I hate the Regency style but I’m really digging this! I think it’s because it doesn’t resemble the type of stuff I’m use to see but I like the pseudo-Elizabethan collar and cuffs.
    I give this a Toot. 9/10

  12. The cuffs are beautiful, the materials beautiful and the color is arresting. Now, why does this period have that weird bustline? Does anyone have body parts that really fit up there? I just can’t abide this….since it is a personal thing, and I realize this is a great representation of the time depicted I will try and calm down….therefore 8 out of 10.

    • As someone who has fitted garments on hundreds of women, I can assure you there are plenty of women who do have body parts that fit up their, or easily lift to that position with historical undergarments.

      The lovely thing about period fashions is that there is that every different body type has been in fashion at one time or another. I find it very re-assuring, and freeing. And can admire them all, even if they don’t suit me personally! 😉

  13. Lalaith says

    6/10. It isn’t really something I’m going into spasms of glee over, but I suppose it’s pretty enough.

  14. I’m not a big fan. I love the diadem, and from what I can see of the shawl, it’s the best part of her outfit. The collar appears to be really lovely lace, but I can’t help wondering, what is it doing on this dress? I like the color of the blue. The sleeves would drive me batwanger, I want to shorten them for her. I’m going to give this a 4, because of the elements that don’t work together and the collar and sleeve cuffs.

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