Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a touch of green velvet, 1902

Last week I showed you a half length portrait of Anna Caffarelli Minutiba, ca 1676.  The overall reception was quite warm, but it lost a point or two here and there because some of  you found the lace just a bit big, the contrast between it and the yellow just a bit stark, or the string bows just a bit odd.  Still, 8.6 out of 10 is an eminently respectable, if not absolutely fabulous rating!

This week I’m carrying on the lace them from last week, with a dress that incorporates spectacular  cutwork lace worked into the dress fabric.

I’ve used the term spectacular because I’m sure we can all agree that the workmanship of the lace, at the very least, is spectacular, even if you don’t find the overall effect  quite to your taste.

The dove grey colour, combined with darker greys, whites and ecru, are all typical of the soft, muted, hues favoured in the first decade of the 20th century, and the way multiple accent colours  were often combined in one garment.

What sets this garment apart, aside from the lavish cutwork decorations, is the inclusion of pops of vivid green, both in the bodice:

Afternoon dress, ca 1902, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, 77363

Afternoon dress, ca 1902, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, 77363

And at the hem:

It’s a bold and unusual statement.  What will your verdict on dress be?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.  


  1. sewcharacteristicallyyou.comI have to agree that the lace work is exquisite! The green is growing on me a little. Just call me boring, but I like simple, classic color combinations. I do think the bodice is a little funny though. Maybe it’s the bow, maybe the bertha, but it just seems a little mashed together with too much going on. On second thought, it might be that the bow is in a really weird place and being in such an eye catching color…… 7.5/10


  2. I am stunned by the lacework and actually like the pale neutral combination of the overall garment. I like the idea of the lively touch of green, but I’m not entirely convinced by its application (the hem, collar and bodice binding are fine, but that strange bow for me is both too big and placed oddly). I can’t quite figure out what going on with those lumps of bodice below the bow, but I would have resolved those differently and used the green in the belt instead of that bow.

    8.5 of 10

  3. Gillian Stapleton says

    The lace is exquisite, but the big attraction for me is the velvet! So lush. Such a fabulous colour. And I adore the bow too. The rest of the dress is very nice, but I give it 7 for the velvet alone.

  4. Julia Ergane says

    This is gorgeous!!!! I’ve always loved cutwork so this would be a gown I would have in my closet. The emerald green is a great distinction from the usual blue or even red that might have been used as an accent. My score: 9.5/10

  5. I am not so sure about this one. I really admire the craftsmanship on it, but the whole of it together doesn’t work for me. Too much of everything – double sleeves, wide, ruffles with bow and the overlay-collar thing, with pleats and lace and then the velvet additional to that… so… 5/10.

  6. Gosh, I never even saw the green bow in the first image, because there was so much else to see, and I wonder if that is why the wearer wanted to add the green, or maybe she was a red head with green eyes and the velvet just made the dress colour work for her. I also wondered if it had some kind of fab hat in green but it wouldn’t be a hat wearing dress would it?
    I adore it. The workmanship, the design, the small touches that give it such a feel of quality – I ean the green velevt lining in the cuffs! SWOON! the cutwork and cording and oooo! I’ve hand worked a few cut work pieces for wedding dresses, in fact I have one from 1991 on a hanger in my studio, and it is a look I love.
    Needless to say if you get a yen to make a cutwork dress, happy to do the fiddly bits xo
    12/10? 😉

  7. The skirt reminds me of furniture. It could be quite believably the model for a tower of an Art Noveau grandfather clock. As a dress this is less convincing. The green bow is cute though even though the color combination doesn’t appeal to me. 5/10.

  8. I am torn. I like the silhouette (not necessarily a given for me with dresses of this period), and the cutwork effects are beautiful. And I love the shade of the green velvet that was used for accents.

    What I don’t like is the color combination of the dress fabric (dove gray), the cutwork lace (ecru) and the bright green accents. The colors all seem to clash to me, and the green accents, though appropriately modest (greater use of the green velvet would have been garish), are not enough to save the dress from feeling drab. If the cutwork lace had been pure white, or even a gray only slightly darker than the dress fabric, the effect would have been much more attractive. As it is, only a 6.5 from me.

  9. I have to chime in for the first time. I LOVE this dress. One of my favorite color combinations in nature is the bright green of trees, shrubs and grass against dark, stormy grey clouds, and here it is all put together in a stunning confection of a dress. I would wear this in a heartbeat!! I give it a 10/10. (BTW, I’m a redhead, with eyes that change from blue to grey to green depending on what I’m wearing, hence the additional appeal of this dress.)

    I believe those “lumpy” bits below the green velvet bow is simply the blousiness of the bodice. On the mannequin it seems to look rather squashed instead of loose.

  10. Erin C says

    I’m a big fan of the lacework, with its art nouveau / Alphonse Mucha styling (though not as much for the larger cutaway areas; there’s something odd about the circular motif filling them in that doesn’t quite sit right to my eye), and the green hem ruffle, collar, and interior cuffs. I’m also intrigued by the sleeves and capelet effect, which look sort of like someone nicked them from the 1860s to pop on to this dress.

    However, I think the big green bow, with its faux-necklace effect, is just a bit too much. Not only because it’s sort of jarring (though the colour itself is lovely) but because it’s doing something odd to the pigeon-breast look – somehow both flattening it and making it even bigger all at once. Because of that I give it 8.5/10 – beautiful, with one odd and distracting element.

  11. Belinda says

    I love everything about this dress. Especially the green velvet. I mean, the trim on the bodice and the bow, yeah sure, but at the HEM?! That is magnificent. Not to mention the lace, and the silhouette and the muted other colours which give the green just the right amount of pop. I’m imagining it on Maggie Smith for a 10/10.

    • I absolutely agree, the green at the hem is perfect. I love that bit so much! My only caveat is that the bow is a bit… big. I’m not convinced. 9 here.

  12. Tracy Ragland says

    I absolutely love the lace, the soft grey and the overall design of the dress. Even though the green is starting to appeal to me, it is a bit startling. If it had been a less startlingly bright green, I could give the dress a 10. 9.0

  13. Lauren says

    10/10, love at first sight! And the closer you look, the better it gets : ) Love it, and you’ve sure picked one for the present time: have to admit I wouldn’t be sad if I never again heard the phrase, “a pop of color”. I think I remember it first on reality shows like What Not to Wear?

  14. I don’t usually like this era, I am more modern, 20-40s!, but this dress is amazing! Love the green velvet. I have been on the lookout for green velvet to make a fall hat. In this exact color, so I rate it a 9, and will keep this small bit of accent in mind for some future project.

  15. Judi Moseley says

    I like it a lot, even though I’m not particularly drawn to this time period. And I’m in awe of the craftsmanship. I give it a 9 out of 10. I’d go higher even, but that blousiness of the lower front bodice bothers me. It just doesn’t seem to fit the lines of the rest of the gown.

  16. Rachel says

    I am so on board until we get to that cape-like collar and bow.

    First, the on-boardness: The subtlety of the grays is gorgeous, and those scrolling decorations! The fluted shape of the skirt! The little poet-y sleeves coming out of the bell sleeves! The scalloped lace hem! And the green! Without the green, the dress would be gorgeous and a bit ethereal, but the green grounds it, pushes it from ethereal into majestic. And the way it peeks out!

    The not-so-on-boardness comes through when I notice a bit of a pigeon breast (which I know is of the time) and the collar and bow effect. I really like how the collar is trisected – it’s unusual, and I think the deep V would be very flattering. I like the idea of a lace-trimmed capelet, but I don’t like it here – it softens and obscures too much when I want to see more swoopy designs. But I think that’s more my preference than a problem with the dress – as it is, it’s lovely.

    Similarly, the bow doesn’t feel jarring, but it’s a bit … just there? I don’t think it’s the best choice, and maybe even a little uncreative.

    I can see how this dress is on the art nouveau bandwagon, but some of the details – the lace collar, the bow, and the loose-sleeves-within-pagoda-sleeves – seem like earlier throwbacks, like maybe to the 1860s. Or were these still popular and just on their way out?


    • Thank you! You pinned down what was bothering me. The collar and bow look like a cape that have been put on over the dress and it’s been distracting me, because when I look at the skirt and the sleeve details I love it, even the close-up of the neckline and collar, but the overall effect was too much for me.

  17. ProfessorBats says

    Wow. I’d never seen this one before, and I am smitten. Pigeon breast is hard to love (at least for me), but this one just goes all out with the oversized bishop sleeves, layered with those huge outer sleeves, the bertha… and of course the magnificent cutwork and lace. Muted color, in your face style. I like grey, and I like emerald green, and now I wonder why they are an unusual combination, they work so well together here. And the hem! I’m sure I could find little things to dislike, but I don’t want to. I don’t even mind the bow, it fits the overall boldness of it. There. I’m just going to give it a 10 before I look too closely and get nitpicky!

  18. Helene says

    I love it. I think the colours works well together. (I’ll use this as inspiration for my eyemakeup tomorrow, emerald and grey, maybe with a bit of gold thrown in.)
    The cutwork lace is amazing.
    The green velvet inside the cuffs is such a lovely touch, barely visable, but there.

  19. It is AMAZING. The workmanship and execution are just glorious – so much skill and talent, and so quietly understated with it too – really rewards looking at. Absolutely spectacular – and lovely example of the early 1900s lines, all the floomph without too much ostentatious faff or frill. However, yes, the green bits are quite …. bold, aren’t they? Bit of a visual shock and a punch in the face. Not altogether sure they’re complementary either, but they are quite well balanced out top and bottom. Overall, I love this, but the green is a bit startling. It is a glorious green though – very rich and emeraldy and vivid – just a bit of a shock.

    9.5/10 from me.

  20. HoiLei says

    It reminds me of a car I once owned: the exterior was silver–cool and classy, but the upholstery and interior were loden green. I loved that car… I thought it was like ice and moss together. This dress is the same way: a startling contrast, but not implausible. I almost wonder if the soft blues and grays were fashionable but not well-suited to the wearer, and she went with vivid green accents to compliment her face.

    10/10 because it’s splendid and it makes me remember my favorite car.

  21. Deanna says

    The cutwork is spectacular! It’s lovely to see those swirling Art Nouveau shapes done in cutwork. I don’t think I’ve seen the two combined before. Certainly I’ve never seen it used to such great effect. In one respect I find it a little funny, because it almost looks as if wrought iron turned into this light lace! I do think it might look better with the dove grey, if the ecru wasn’t quite so warm. The larger, more lightly filled shapes above the hem look rather odd.

    It’s interesting to see 1860’s historicism at the beginning of the 20th century, with the pagoda sleeves and the Bertha. The overall shape of the dress is very elegant. And I love the unexpected touches of green velvet, it’s use is so restrained, and the color looks like such a pretty cross between emerald and Kelly! That teeny little peek at the sleeves is delightful! I also really like the soft gathers of filmy fabric in the bodice. For some reason, I’m not wild about the pintucks on the Bertha, but they do give that sloping shoulder look.


  22. Linda Olson says

    I love this and I would wear it… if I could get it in my size. The green bow is stunning and the design would hide any midriff bulge to sweep they eyes up to my hat and down to my toes. The sleeves are elegantly designed so I can make grand gustures and still pour the tea. “Scones, anyone?” the gracious hostess asks….

  23. Linda Olson says

    I love this and I would wear it… if I could get it in my size. The green bow is stunning and the design would hide any midriff bulge to sweep they eyes up to my hat and down to my toes. The sleeves are elegantly designed so I can make grand gestures and still pour the tea. “Scones, anyone?” the gracious hostess asks….

  24. Wow, really an all time favorite for me. So subtle, so much going on, maybe a green velvet dress emerging from the lovely lilac-ish grey…..perfect 10 for me.


  25. Hmmmm, now that I’ve nailed down what is bothering me.

    I’ll give it a 9 if the collar/cape/bow weren’t there, but since they are, I’m knocking it down to a 7, they bother me that much.

    But, that cutwork is absolutely exquisite, and you’re right the green just pops against the more muted colors.

  26. I’m torn! The color combination is delightful, the lacework is spectacular, I love that shade of green, and the historicism is well done and interesting. It’s romantic, lovely, and graceful without being reduced to bland and insipid. Kudos for that.

    Unfortunately, I really have to be honest about that ghastly bow. Former owner of this gown, I really must inform you that it appears some of your salad has migrated onto the front of your gown.. you may wish to retire to a more private area to attend to your folly with foliage. It really doesn’t do, you know, to wear your dinner on your gown, even if it is a dinner gown, which this is not.


  27. Merry says

    Love it! I don’t think the (gorgeous) emerald green goes too well with the (beautiful)bluish grey, maybe the fabric faded over time? Also, I say the dress either lose the pagoda sleeves or the cape thing, they overwhelm together.

    This dress is unique, no doubt about it. Though I’d prefer something more more typical, I’d still wear this dress everywhere if I could.


  28. Hawke says

    Oooh my. I love it. Where can I get mine?
    8/10 for that…interesting bodice and the color combination that, aside from the splashes of green, just isn’t doing it for me – white on the collar, silver on the sleeves, cream lace and a dove grey skirt? At least two of those should match. Maybe silver lace + collar instead of cream + white respectively?
    (Also, I’ll admit..I’m not a fan of pale colors. I’d wear this in a coal grey, though!)

  29. Seriously skilled stitching, a beautifully designed and proportioned skirt, and the bravura addition of that wonderfully vivid green.
    But the bodice seems to have ended up a bit clumsy and muddled: the pintucked bertha doesn’t quite work somehow and looks rather hastily tacked on; the trumpet sleeves seem visually too large and heavy and out of proportion with the rest of the dress; the pouter pigeon drapery seems too heavy and awkward; the green pieces seem awkwardly placed and proportioned; the bow might almost be a last minute addition to try and resolve things. So many things just not quite right with that bodice and I do wonder how much time they spent fiddling with it until they just gave up. I do feel mean not giving a ten to such a beautifully sewn dress but it’s a 7.

  30. Martina says

    There is an absinthe bar in the Old Town in Prague that looks like this dress turned into architecture…same colors and all. The green bow is a little big for me, but the lacework is gorgeous. 9/10.

  31. Lyn Swan says

    10/10 Stunning design and use of lace. If it were made for me I would have used a deep red for the touches of color, but the green works just fine. The fact that the dress is so well preserved helps greatly, it wouldn’t have the same impact if the lace had become tatty or the fabric was stained. I would wear this in a heartbeat!

  32. Della says

    Gorgeous! Reminds me of my grandmother’s wedding dress from 1912 (which hangs in my house). Especially nice is the green touch. 10/10

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