Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Trompe L’oeil Summer Whites, ca 1866

Last week there were Arguments Over an Apron.  Did it’s fabulousness make the ensemble?  Or was it fabulous, but didn’t actually fit with the rest of the outfit?  Or, in its flimsiness, was it an insult to people who actually had to wear aprons to keep from really soiling their clothes?  If you were the first, you gave it an average of 9.5 out of 10, the second or the third, only a 7.  But the first far outweighted the second, bringing out lady in green and gold, complete with embroidered apron, in at a fabulous 9 out of 10.

It’s actually, finally, getting properly warm down here in NZ, and I am looking forward to summer frocks.  This week’s Rate the Dress pick celebrates the warmer weather:

This two piece ensemble is classic mid 1860s, and uses the typical  flat braid or embroidery embellishment of the period in a particularly interesting way: to create two layers of trompe l’oeil overskirt, completed with turned back revers.

What do you think?  Do you like the crisp black and white?  The clever play on embellishment?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Deanna says

    Oh! It’s lovely, and so different! It’s clean and crisp, and pretty without being fussy. I’d love to see that tambour work up close. I think the design around the ruffles might echo that of the skirt, on a much smaller scale. I’ll have to deduct a bit from the score, because there appears to be just a little too large an expanse of plain white beneath the lower trompe l’oeil scallops; it makes the skirt look a little bit unmoored. Rating 9.

  2. Very lovely impression – one can almost feel a salt breeze coming in off the ocean.

    I find the trompe-l’oeil both attractive and delightfully practical – that same breeze might catch an actual overskirt and let it be snared by vegetation or building material.

    10 of 10

    • Elise says

      I never thought about the practicality (besides removing a layer through embroidery), but such fluttering and snagging would be annoying. And it keeps it looking sharp because the back embroidery never shows.


  3. It’s very nice but there are some styling details that drop it from perfection for me. I don’t care for the fact that the buttons down the bodice go down past the waist, or the lonely black bow on the front. I’d use a narrow black belt with a silver-colored buckle and lose the bow, and I think it would look better if the buttons stopped at waist level.

    As it is, a 7.5 out of 10. The faux-draping *is* clever, though.

  4. I LOVE this & would totally wear it.
    I’d make a slightly smaller bow & keep the buttons as it gives the appearance of a jacket 9.5
    Would like to see it in person

  5. I’ve seen this one in person and the trompe l’oeil doesn’t work at all in three-dimensional reality. It’s all “nice embroidery” until you realize with horror that it was supposed to emulate an overskirt. Like, how? 2/10

  6. Claire Payne says

    I love a bit of tambour work. I also love the effect of black on white. Less keen on the bodice, the frills in particular as they don’t quite work with the skirt for me. Still, it is very nice and I would certainly parade along the promenade wearing this with a parasol. 8 out of 10 from me.

  7. I love the skirt, it looks as if someone just painted it with ink. Certainly a good way to reduce number of layers in summertime. But those frilly bits on bodice make it look a bit sloppy compared to the skirt(Though it’s hard to tell if it’s due to garment’s age or was it creators intention ) 7/10

  8. I think it’s pretty but a bit weird. I like the bodice but the embroidery on the skirt is a little odd. It kind of makes me think of painted on frills on china dolls. If it were only the bottom embroidery I think it would be better. Still, I think it’s quite pretty. 5/10

  9. Judi Moseley says

    I’m not feelin’ it. I like the colors, but that’s about it. 5/10.

  10. I love this to the moon and back and then again just for the fun of it. I am nuts for black embroidery on snowy white fabric as my stash will reveal, though I am so far no sure what to make out of my hoard. So this is right up my fag pole. And J’adore tongue in cheek detailing like the trompe de l’oeil work on this skirt. Huzzah!

  11. I mean, I like it (especially the skirt embroidery) but I can’t imagine actually ever wanting to wear it in summer. My horror at the very idea is taking it down as far as 7/10. I know I can’t really tell what the fabric would be like to wear from this side of a screen, but even if it were the lightest cotton that’s just too much of it for comfort.

    • Clearly you do not live in Wellington! This would be a little light for some of our ‘summer’ days. 😉 (or, from what I hear, many a summer day in England).

      On a serious note, all-encompassing garments can actually be very comfortable on even the hottest summer days, provided they are made of all natural fibres. And societal dictates about fashion rarely have much truck with comfort – just look at all the skimpy polyester knit ‘summer’ clothes you can buy!

        • This is really terrible, but one of the things that makes me feel a bit better about NZ winters is seeing the cricket in England in say, July, and noticing that the whole crowd is wearing exactly the same thing that we are in July, down here in the middle of winter! (sorry).

  12. Gillian Stapleton says

    So clever, crisp and unexpected. I love the witty trompe l’oeil detailing, and can imagine how cool and stylish the wearer would feel. 10/10

  13. Wendy says

    I love this. The trompe l’Å“il is spectacular. I also love the trim st the wrist and the black bow. I want to wear this dress!! 10 for me.

  14. Love it! Fresh, light, summery, simple, with a slightly whimsical charm and playfulness. It makes me think of the trompe-l’oeil scarf and bow on Schiaparelli’s famous ‘Cravat’ sweater — similarly playful and light-hearted. It’s a resounding 10.

  15. Julia Ergane says

    The embroiderer has very good intermediate skills. She is by no means an expert; but, I do give her two big gold stars for this huge — and I mean HUGE — effort. (I do embroider.) I give her a round of my applause.
    Belt or bow: I think that is a matter of taste. I like the jacket look and the bow.

  16. DesignersAndYou says

    This outfit is really such a best design and inspiring….the combination is too good….thanks for sharing…

  17. Very refreshing! Would love to see it en ensemble. I like how sparing the blackwork is, although one thing I’m not so keen on is the two buttons below the waistband and the slightly unresolved front of skirt, I’d quite like to see some kind of detail there such as a tablier effect or even curved/bordered jacket peplum facings. So it’s 8/10 from me.

  18. Lalaith says

    It looks a bit middle-aged to me, but still pretty and fun. I could imagine a mom at a summer gathering wearing this, dandling her oldest brother’s first grandchild on her knee.


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