Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: A Lanvin Robe de Style in two styles

Last week’s Rate the Dress certainly divided opinions!  You were either quite keen on tomato red with huge knee bows and  mad, random Irish crochet lace with macrame-esque trim, or totally unimpressed by it.  Most of you fell into the latter camp, but there were enough of you who thought it was fabulous, and deserved a 10, to bring the rating up to a 6.3 out of 10.

(Personally, I love it just for being so utterly wacky, but it does loose a point from me for the awkward engageantes.  And it’s on my to-make list too Caroline!)

This week’s Rate the Dress is inspired by the HSF theme of Heroes, because Lanvin is definitely one of my design heroes.  As with all my heroes, I don’t feel the need to love everything Lanvin  does unreservedly.  Every hero is human.  Every designer slipped up once in a while.

Designers are particularly fallible, because ultimately, they served clients, and their designs were customised to fill the wishes of the client.

Case in point: at first glance, these two Lanvin robe de style are identical.  Closer inspection reveals slight differences:  one is longer in the waist, with a deeper neckline, and longer, angled sleeves, and a dipped hem.

A pair of Robe de Style, House of Lanvin (French, founded 1889), Jeanne Lanvin (French, 1867—1946), 1924—25, French, silk, C.I.56.49.1 (left), 1979.122.1 (right)

A pair of Robe de Style, House of Lanvin (French, founded 1889), Jeanne Lanvin (French, 1867—1946), 1924—25, French, silk, C.I.56.49.1 (left), 1979.122.1 (right)

Lanvin’s original design still speaks clearly in both interpretations, and without her design sketches (which I haven’t been able to find for this specific dress), we can’t know which is closer to her intentions.  Or perhaps, like me, she was just indecisive, and enjoyed being able to turn both variations into working designs!

In either case, it’s up to you to rate each dress.  Are they equal par, or do you prefer one to the other?  And what will each dresses rating say about the success of the overall design?

Rate each  dress (separately) on a Scale of 1 to 10.


  1. I’m overall quite impressed with this in either format (even though either style is one I would never wear personally).

    The applique work is striking and reminiscent of Erte, and the squiggly-line bias binding is a subtle and unusual touch which I find quite charming. The contrast values seem to be well balanced, and the color scheme simple enough that the eye isn’t yanked around.

    I do prefer the one on the right for the most part, except for the hemline. It’s a personal preference, but a hemline dropped at the side only slightly reads to me as an error, rather than a design feature, but I don’t think the design would support a more exaggerated drop. I appreciate the flow and comfort of the dropped waist and looser sleeves, so I’ll assign 9 of 10.

    The one on the left reminds me more of the Mad Men era rather than the 1920s, and for some it may be wonderfully forward-lookiing, but it’s a style era that always makes me think more of restrictive undergarments and restrictive behavior for women, so I have a harder time appreciating design skill, so I’ll assign 8 of 10 mostly for the psychology of it all.

  2. The one on the right is my choice. It just looks more balanced, more elegant and more resolved overall. The deeper black hem and lower waist just work better. I also MUCH prefer the slightly longer sleeves with the extra pink rouleaux around the bottom, they make it all more resolved. Oh, and the wider, deeper neckline (but retaining the same tulle inner neckline) is NICE.

    The other is cute, but after seeing the other one, you just see it as more girlish, more modest and covered-up, more ingenue, and more Debbie Dimplecheeks. It’s still cute, but with the more natural waist, straight hem, and higher neckline, it feels like little sister forced to dress just like big sister, but not EXACTLY like big sister.

    I think the one on the right is pretty much spot on. Can’t really fault it. 10/10. The one on the left, 7.5/10, sorry, mainly for the proportions not being as perfectly resolved.

    • Elise says

      You really did describe how I feel. The one on the right gets a 10/10 for utter perfection. The girlie-girl one on the right…maybe a 7? Perhaps I got spoiled by seeing them both together–but it really is neat! It’s as if a 16-year old is attending her first outing, but her prudish aunt made her cover up, and so Lanvin made adjustments.

    • The one on the right gets to be paired with a seriously fabulous wide-brimmed organdie hat and cute Louis-heeled satin shoes. The one on the left gets flat-soled Mary Janes and one of those big hair bows that’s sort of wilting at the edges.

  3. Also, what’s this I see? You LIKED a dress with honking massive weird-as fringe, or at least didn’t knock a point off for the fringe? 😉 I am stunned.

    • Yeah, I know! I’m generally a lot better with weird fringe. It’s the stuff that looks like it inspired the 1950s faux 20s dresses that inspired the terrible fringe ‘flapper’ costume dresses that I can’t deal with.

  4. Both dresses remind me of little girls’ party dresses. However, the longer-waisted dress with the deeper neckline and the dipped hem (the one on the right), rises above the “party dress” category and by virtue of those changes becomes something more interesting. A 5 for the dress on the left, and a 7.5 for the one on the right.

  5. Birdmommy says

    I also prefer the dress on the right. I can picture a grown woman wearing it, while the dress on the left looks like it’s for a pre-teen.

    8/10 for the dress on the right, and 6/10 for its little sister.

  6. M.K. Carroll says

    The details are wonderful – there is a hand-illustrated feeling to the embroidery and applique and the lovely swooping lines that is sweet and cheerful without being cloying. I think the “little sister” comments are accurate, and would think of the one on the left as being for younger girls and the one on the right for someone just entering womanhood (however one wants to describe that). The neckline on the right is too wide and low for a child during this period.

    9/10 for the one on the left and 8/10 for the one on the right (it loses a point for the sleeves feeling too overdone, which detracts from the drape and cut).

  7. Hm, I like the style in front better–the details say Robe de Style more to me than the back one. In particular, the longer waist, longer sleeves, high low hem, and the gathers that are distributed to have a flatter look at the front all say 20s to me. I give that one a 9. I would certainly wear it and like the details, though I’m not madly in love with it. The one in the back looks more like a 50s dress or a folk inspired dress, with the different proportions and equally gathered skirt. I still like it, but give it an 8 instead of a 9. To be fair, if these were intended for different body shapes they might have both been flattering and had the correct 20s shape. Hard to know at this point!

  8. Natalie Ramirez says

    Wow! These are so pretty. The one on the right is far superior from a fashion standpoint. It is perfect and gorgeous. That being said, it one of those dresses that I would fall in love with but never be able to wear. I’m short and short waisted. The dress on the left would suit my figure better if only the neckline was lower like the one on the right.

  9. Natalie Ramirez says

    Ack! Forgot my score. Right gets 10 out of 10 and left gets 8 out of 10.

  10. I wonder how much of the differences between these two can be accounted for that they might have been made for very differently sized women and yet have to share an identical dress dummy here? The position of the waist on the left is so off, so 1950s, that I feel whoever owned this had a much shorter torso than the dummy. Of course, then it’s no surprise that the one on the right looks better – it fits.

    It might also be possible that the one on the left was altered. The ration of black and white on the skirt is different for really no discernable reason. I would think that Lanvin would have kept the ratio identical and shortened both fabrics equally, so the overall look would remain the same. That would also explain why the dipped hem doesn’t exist, the higher, more modest neckline and why there is no curved dip in the bodice at the waist level. Maybe it does look like a 1950s dress because the next generation turned it into one.

    I really don’t like either one. The one on the right looks better by contrast but not on its own. The trim is actually pretty awful. 5/10

  11. Julia Ergane says

    I vastly prefer the one on the right. It is far more sophisticated in feel. 10/10
    The one on the left is just ordinary. 5/10 (It is Lanvin.)

  12. I love both these dresses. My favorite is actually the one on the left. The reason I like it better is because I know it would suit my body type better. The dress on the right needs to be worn by a tall willowy lady – and I am neither tall nor willowy. The 20’s low waist, flat bodice is not flattering on many people, and even though I like the dresses and fashion illustrations, when I see these designs on actual people I am less impressed. I like to think that these two dresses were made for people who liked the design, but Lanvin changed things slightly to suit each lady better – and if she would have made a dress for me she would have made the dress on the left. So 10 for the dress on the left, and 8 for the dress on the right (not so much because I don’t like it, but because I like the one on the left so much better).

  13. Judi Moseley says

    I wondered the same things as R. I also wonder if the dress on the right was meant to be worn with panniers?
    I do like the colors, the detailing, and the overall design of both. But I don’t prefer one over the other. I give both an 8/10.

  14. I agree that the one on the right from appearances has the ’20s look more than the other. I agree with the comments that others made about the possibility of proportion differences among the women they were fitted for or having been altered later. I like the sleeves of the one on the right. 7/10 for the one on the left and 9/10 for the one on the right.


  15. Deanna says

    I have seen these dresses before – I always thought it was neat that two versions of the same dress had survived together. They seem to be a wonderful example of a design being adapted for two different figures/tastes. And they really show the amount of thought and detail that goes into haute couture, especially looking at how the decoration is adapted on the two dresses. Looking at them as displayed, I prefer the dress on the right. It looks more elegant, with the sleeves, waist, and hem all echoing each other in graceful dips. And the larger proportion of dark silk seems to ground it a bit better. But I suspect this is a case where both would look equally lovely, when worn by ladies whose figures they suited. I was thinking about how the dress on the right wouldn’t really suit me personally, the lower waist would over-emphasize a long torso, and the lower, wider neckline wouldn’t be as flattering (despite the sheer fabric which sits even higher than on the other dress).

    The decoration on these elegant silk dresses is rather whimsical. I’m tickled that it appears to be made up of velvet yo-yos! And that the dark and peachy-pink yo-yos have centers of the opposite fabric.

    8 for the dress on the left, and 9 for the dress on the right.

    • Deanna says

      P.S. I’m a little sorry to see that the run of lace in Rate the Dress seems to be over. I really enjoyed it. 🙂

  16. Robes de style go one of two ways for me. Either I quite like them or I think they look clunky and unflattering (and they always strike me as the kind of thing Madeline Bassett would wear). In this case I kind of like the dress on the right, while the version on the left appeals to me less. If you’re going to do a robe de style you might as well go all the way with a dropped waist and shaped hem and angled sleeves.

    I really like the colours and decoration. It’s a very nice modernized take on 18th century ornamentation. 8/10 for the version on the right, and 6/10 for the version on the left.

    • Deanna says

      Ha! Now I can see The Basset very gently turning Bertie down, while wearing the frilliest, yet droopiest, Robe de Style one can imagine.

  17. I love both! The right is more aesthetically pleasing and balanced, but the left would suit my full-busted, curvy, short body so much better. 9/10 for left and 10/10 for right

  18. Hawke says

    I love these! I think the one with the short torso looks..wrong, though. That cut just doesn’t seem to fit with the dress. 8.5/10 for both of them, 9 for the one with longer sleeves.

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