Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Tailored details in 1900

For last week’s Rate the Dress I showcased a late 1820s dress with rather delicious floral aerophane embroidery.  While most of you loved the embroidery, a few of you got fussy about the styling: the green belt, and shorter petticoat didn’t quite work for you, and some thought it wasn’t quite special enough, despite the embroidery, pulling it down to a nice but not spectacular 8.4 out of 10.

Based on the comments, I suspect it was one that would look better in person.  One day maybe if I’m lucky…

This week I’m keeping the theme of a simple white (or pale coloured) garment, embellished with just a few key bits of ornamentation, and turning it on its head, with a very tailored, severe garment, rather than last week’s fluff and froth.

This tailored suit in oatmeal grey wool has a very plain, simple silhouette, but the closer you look at the outfit, the more details emerge: from the button-look tabs on the skirt, to the lines of raised self-fabric and stitching detail which highlight each seam, the double stitching at the hem, and  the bodice trim, which evokes military braiding.

Along with providing interest, the  ornamentation signals the transition from the late Victorian trim aesthetic, to a more Edwardian outlook: a transition that is also seen in the cut of the suit: the jacket has yet to soften into a pigeon breast, but the skirt has a decidedly serpentine swoop.

What do you think?  Is the transition nicely balanced?  And does the trim do enough to enliven and elevate the suit?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. This I like. The details are wonderful, and the silhouette is elegant, flattering, and not fussy. I agree with Cyranetta; the combination of color and feature almost make this gown look as though it had been carved from stone–marble, or perhaps a light-colored granite. Anyway, although I would like it even better if there was a tiny bit of contrasting color somewhere (say, if the tabs on the skirt and the trim on the sleeves were edged in a contrasting soutache braid in black, red, or dark blue, perhaps with buttons to match) it is still splendid as it is. 9 out of 10.

  2. Swoon. Such lovely understated details. I wish it were pressed better…but that’s not the garment’s fault. I’m not a big fan of the color; I think that would be exceedingly hard to keep pristine. But maybe that’s part of the point, and I can overlook that as a personal taste choice. I AM a big fan of the tone-on-tone trim work; I would love to put a variation of that on a modern jacket. 10/10.

  3. Julia Ergane says

    I am not a fan of this non-colour because I do need bright, true, winter colours. However, the tailoring is exquisite. 9.5/10

  4. Hearthrose says

    Oh I like that rather a lot. Can we say a solid 9.5?

    The tailoring is exquisite, and if I could teleport back in time and order one in a bright navy, all would be well.

  5. Lovely. Quiet, subtle, almost TOO unassuming. The details that materialise as you gaze really make it, like wearing a heavy fog or a mist. I would love to see it accessorised, and part of me does crave some pop and contrast, but I do like this very very much. It’s a comfortable 8/10.

  6. This is me to a tee! I really wish I could get a suit that was so beautifully fitted with such fine subtle ornamentation. The color is perfect for my red hair to stand out. I think this is my favorite era of historical dress. 10/10 for me!

  7. Buttercup says

    Yes this one’s a winner! The tailoring is exquisite. I would prefer it in a more vibrant colour like red, emerald green, blue or even violet. I’m giving it 9.5 out of ten.

  8. Lyn Swan says

    9/10…I agree with the writer who suggested soutach for contrast or, for me, piping around some of the details. I would love to learn how to do this level of tailoring. I also wonder if said contrasting detail were of a darker hue of the same color. Would that be enough to alleviate the starkness, or would it just be meh?

  9. Deanna says

    Ooh! This is gorgeous! Even wrinkled and slightly askew. Wonderful cut and details. The bodice and sleeves! I might have preferred it in either silvery grey, or something more akin to charcoal. Or a very rich jewel-tone, though I suppose that would have been rather looking back toward earlier tastes, than forward. These are teeny quibbles. 9.5

  10. birdmommy says

    I adore it, and would wear it to work tomorrow if I could! Absolute perfection – 10/10!

  11. Very elegant and I just love this time period. I’d like a bit of colour for contrast (red, I think would be lovely) but it’s fantastic as it is. 9.5/10

  12. PepperReed says

    9.5/10 based on the bland color, but the details are just lovely!

  13. The tailoring is perfect but the lack of color use is rather dismal. If it had a different colored piping around some of the lovely details on the bodice of the bottom of the skirt – or even just around the cuffs, I think it would help it a lot. As is, it just looks unfinished – more like a sketch than the finished painting so to speak. Because of that, I give it a 8/10.

  14. Yaffle says

    I like it! I like it, and I would wear it (with a determined hat) and while I wore it I would *stride* places and demand things, like To Be Heard.

    I like the military braiding – it manages to be fashionable without looking like a costume.
    10 out of 10.

  15. Gillian Stapleton says

    Beautiful, subtle and understated. Cyranetta is absolutely right, it’s almost architectural. And I suspect that when worn and accessorised it would be immensely flattering. 10/10

  16. Rachel says

    It looks great – very classy and authoritative without being too rigid or stuffy. I like the embellishments a lot.

    At the same time though, it feels very anonymous. Wearing this, a woman would look wonderful, but she might pass into and out of an observer’s attention without a ripple.

    Could be a good trait or a bad, I guess.


  17. Lynne says

    I love it. 10 out of 10.

    Perhaps the structured, understated look suits my mood. In somber times, such things are soothing. Plus I am a sucker for military-look details. The woman dressed in this could Cope, I am sure. No messing with her. I need that feeling.

  18. M.K. Carroll says

    Show-offy in the best way – this clean and simple, it has to be done flawlessly! 9.5/10 because I find the fabric showing wrinkles so easily to detract from the overall effect.

  19. I like it very much. Elegant and understated. 10/10. I would definitely wear it.


  20. LindaMB says

    Love this dress, reminds me of the travel suite at the V&A, I could imagine touring around Europe and the Middle East in this outfit. Like the colour.It is very understated, but the detailing excellent. 10/10.

  21. Emma Capponi says

    10/10. that monochrome with those details! Perfection!

  22. I suspect that the tone-on-tone details we all love would be invisible if the dress were in a color–especially if it were in a dark color such as navy or black.

  23. Tereza says

    This is my first ever comment for a Rate the dress article. Normally I only read and don’t comment but I absolutely have to tell you this is absolutely the best dress ever and I would absolutely steal it and wear it and cherish it! 10/10.

    • Deanna says

      I have to tell you that your enthusiasm brightened my day. 🙂 Thanks for deciding to comment.

        • Tereza says

          🙂 And if there ever is a Scroop Pattern for something like this I absolutely VOLUNTEER! 🙂

          • Tereza says

            Thank you for the great suggestion, I think I´m going to buy the Sophie pattern!

          • Awesome! I’ve got an almost finished version of it myself, and I helped a student turn it into a coat pattern (in fabric very similar to this suit, now that I think of it), and it was SPECTACULAR!

            Wearing History’s shop is currently closed, because Lauren has just had a baby, but I think she’s planning to have it open again starting next Friday, at least for the weekend, so keep an eye out then 😀

          • Tereza says

            Thank you, I will 🙂 Would you happen to have a pattern recommendation for the skirt as well?

          • Tereza says

            tudorlinks.compastpatterns.comThis is very helpful information as well! Thank you for your quick reply and the suggestions. I see that both the Fantail and the TV291 have gathers at center back where the original and the RH version do not (and regarding my anatomy I think less fabric at this quite prominent place would look better 🙂 ). On the other hand, a potentially unreliable pattern might be even worse to adapt than a reliable but more different one. In the meantime I also found this: http://www.tudorlinks.com/treasury/freepatterns/w191214cdgoreskirt.html (perhaps useful as general alteration guidelines) and this http://www.pastpatterns.com/1865.html (but not downloadable + shipping from the US means trouble)… Well I think I´ll have to think that through thoroughly 🙂

        • Tereza says

          So I got the Sophie pattern and now I´m looking for some skirt ideas. (I definitely won´t start sewing anytime soon but it would be nice to have everything ready and thought-out in case I suddenly find myself with some free time 🙂 ) It looks like a nine-gored skirt to me, is that right? As I never made one before I´d prefer not to improvise without a pattern… would you say this https://reconstructinghistory.com/product/rh952-ladies-edwardian-nine-gore-skirt/ is accurate and might work? Or do you know about a more suitable one? Thank you very much for all your expert advice! If I ever manage to finish this I will definitely post a picture but it might take some time… (months — or even a year or two!)

          • scrooppatterns.comtrulyvictorian.netYay!

            I’m not going to be as much help with skirts I’m afraid. My experience with Reconstructing History patterns was very disappointing (massive amounts of instructions missing, seams not matching up at all, sizing way off), and the reviews I’ve seen since have been along the same lines. That particular pattern is quite simple, so might be better.

            You could take my Scroop Fantail (5 gore) or the the Truly Victorian walking skirt TV291 (7 gore) and divide the gores to get 9.

            With the Fantail I’d do it by reducing the width of the front gore slightly, enlarging the side gore, and then dividing the side gore into three for the side panels.

  24. Pam Plemouse says

    Heavens. 10/10. Perfect to accessorize. (Bright boots!)

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