Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1820s flower garland

Last week’s Rate the Dress post was Halloween themed, with  Eva Marie Veigel in a subtly Oriental outfit, with mask.  The outfit was a little too subtle (aka, boring) for some, but most of you loved it, bringing it in at a very nice 8.5 out of 10 (with the additional bonus for me that the maths were all so simple I could do the adding up and division in my head)

This week, we’re looking at a frothy white gown with fascinating floral embroidery.  FIDM describes this as a day dress, but with its short sleeves and low neckline, I would say it’s almost certainly an evening dress (and, in other places they date it to the  1830s.  I would say it is very late 1820s, possibly early 1830s).

Day Dress British 1820s Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

Day Dress
Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection via FIDM

I think it spoke to me as a Rate the Dress pick, because I’ve spent my week  making New Zealand appropriate Christmas-in-summertime bunting, in spring greens and red pink florals – with no traditional Christmas motifs  at all.  Though it definitely wasn’t used for that (the Antipodes being a little short on balls in the 1820s), this dress would be perfect for a Christmas Ball in the summer.

Detail of the aerophane embroidery

Detail of the aerophane embroidery

What do you think?  Would she have been the belle of the ball (regardless of season or occasion) in this dress?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

And there is still time to pop over to FIDM and make a donation to help them purchase the Helen Larson collection.  Do it soon though, because if it doesn’t happen NOW, the collection will be split up and sold at auction.


  1. Janet van Dompseler says

    It’s beautiful. No changes needed.

  2. The embroidery is wonderful; tasteful yet colorful, and very skillfully done. And the pale green belt is a good choice.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t much more than the embroidery to the dress. Would it really have been worn in period with an underslip 6 inches shorter than the transparent part of the dress? It might work better as a day dress, with its plainness, if you assume it was to be worn on an informal occasion at the very hottest part of summer,

    (I am assuming, by the way, that the color of the main fabric has altered with age, and would have been whiter and not a faintly dingy-looking pale brown in period.)

    Anyway, assuming that the fabric was once whiter, and the underdress longer, an 8. Otherwise, a 6.5 because I see the potential and I’m feeling generous.

  3. The embroidery is really fantastic! Light and summery. Not a fan of the belt, though. 8/10

  4. Emma Capponi says

    Super pretty! Loses points for the hat though… 8/10

    • I’m not sure if it changes your rating, but that’s not a hat. It’s a stylised ‘hairdo’ made of paper. It’s a really popular technique in garment presentation in museums at the moment – I believe the idea is to give an idea of what the wearer would have looked like, without pretending to recreate a living human.

      I do wonder how much longer the trend will last. It’s been going for about 15-20 years now, but I do think it’s eventually going to fall out of favour.

  5. The embroidery is gorgeous. The dress is quite average late 1820s otherwise, but that embroidery is a stunner and would love to see more of it in the dress itself. 7/10.

  6. Elise says

    It’s charming. Not my favorite period (Romantic dresses are so wonderfully wrong!), but charming. 8/10

  7. Lynne says

    I agree with you. It would have made a beautiful dress for a Christmas ball in NZ. For a young lady. Or a summer ball dress for anywhere.

    The embroidery is lovely. The colour of the belt seems a little off? Wrong green?

    8 out of 10.

  8. The embroidery is spectacular, and I probably would have like the dress more overall if I hadn’t been fed up with the current trend of translucent overgarments over shorter (sometimes insanely shorter) under-pieces, so 7.5 of 10.

  9. Deanna says

    I like your idea of a summer Christmas Ball. 🙂

    This is another one I was lucky enough to see in person. The embroidery was so pretty, a little reminiscent of ribbon-work. The pansies were especially delightful.

    The dress was displayed with different accessories, as well as hairstyle. I miss the shoes, which had a little metallic flower embroidered on the toe. The photo really doesn’t do the sleeves justice, they were just so fun, and quite interesting. There is a trim made of twined rouleau which sections off the sleeves puffs. It rather echoed the trim at the center of the bodice. The belt buckle was quite pretty, with scalloped and pierced edges.

    If I was going by this photo alone, I might’ve been tempted to knock off a bit, because the sleeves look a little droopy. But this was really a very sweet, pretty dress, with a sort of buoyancy about it. Rating 9.

  10. Summer Christmas Ball! I love it. Everything about it. It’s a strange time for clothes where the amount of fabric in a skirt seems a bit stingy, but this makes the embroidery work really well as it isn’t folding in on itself. I even quite like how the silk has mallowed into an ecru over time. There’s pretty much nothing sik organza does that I disapprove of. Although in its original milk white colour it would have been even more delicious.

  11. Gillian Stapleton says

    I love this so much. Wish we could wear dresses like this every day! 10/10

  12. Charlotte says

    What a beautiful dress! I love the sheer fabric paired with the bright colors. The embroidery seems to float on the skirt. While I find most Romantic dresses fabric choices to heavy looking, this one looks beautiful and light. My only issue is with the height placement of the embroidery. It is a bit odd hanging out at knee level, when we are more used to seeming trims on the hem or layer upwards. I do think it adds to the charming whimsy of the dress, however, so 10/10!

  13. Julia Ergane says

    I definitely do not like the shorter under skirt. The embroidery is soooo gorgeous. One of the good things about the dress is that it is NOT at the extreme edge of 1830’s fashion, which I really cannot abide (super-exaggerated sloped shoulders, etc. — however, the hair quite makes up for that on the mannequin!) A nice average dress: 6/10

  14. Susan B. says

    Gorgeous. Just stunning.

    And if the young lady wearing this gown at the Summer Christmas Ball should happen to stroll in the conservatory with the young gentleman of her fancy, who knows what just might bloom as a result??


  15. Johanne says

    1830’s fashion made women look silly ofttimes. This probably does, too, but I love it so – the colors, the combination of colors, the embroidery especially, the length of the skirt, its simplicity – all of it.


  16. Birdmommy says

    8 out of 10; and that’s mostly for the artistry of that embroidery. It must have been difficult to make sure the work was lavish enough without ruining the fall of the skirt in that delicate sheer fabric.

  17. I love it- so beautifully light and fresh. I think the flowers in the ‘hair’ on the mannequin balance the embroidery. 8/10, for being pretty, but a little expected

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