Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a Vionnet harlequin in green velvet

Last week’s Rate the Dress started out as a mystery, as I couldn’t locate the collection it came from.  A number of you succeeded in doing so, but Daniel wins  the google-fu award of the week for finding it first.

Things almost everyone  liked about last week’s dress: The colour.  The seamstresses’ cleverness and frugality in recycling the fabric.

Things that got mixed reviews: how the original mixed patterning of the fabric, and the way it was used in the alteration, interacted.  The padded, three dimensional trim, and the hem cord.

Things that almost nobody was impressed by: the fat, unbalanced trim over the bust.

The result?  A very respectable 8 out of 10.  Yay for historical recycling!

This week we’re going from bright blue to grass green, with an early 1920s Vionnet dress formed from diamonds in silk velvet, evoking a medieval harlequin.

What do you think of this dress?  Elegant and playful, or just silly?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. I love this. The color is beautiful, the velvet fabric luxurious, the design simple and elegant. A perfect 10. I wish they’d chosen a different style of mannequin to display on, though.

  2. MayravB says

    Oh, I LOVE it. I think the colour, fabric, and diamonds match go so well with the simple silhouette. It’s forest-nymph-ish, but not at all in a costumey way–it’s so elegant. The diamonds getting bigger towards the bottom is a subtle but makes it look even more flowing. I love it.


  3. PepperReed says

    One of may favorite dresses of all time (I have the Betty Kirke book and it’s swoony!). Simple, elegant, interesting construction and details, tres luxe materials.

    A Perfect 10/10. Just one of the best.

  4. It’s Vionnet, and she can barely put a foot wrong. It’s emerald green silk velvet. Yum. And I’ve always had a partiality for harlequin/commedia dell’arte nods.

    I think it’s gorgeous, but perhaps its downfall is its simplicity when seen in isolation. I desperately want to see it accessorised, the faaaabulous cloak that would have been worn over it, the shoes, the fan, whatever evening heady-doo-dad the wearer fancied, because this is a lovely dress in desperate need of accessories and styling.

    There’s so much potential for a 10/10 with this dress – in fact, it looks like it would make anything period-correct worn with it look ah-mazing, and of course, because it’s Vionnet, it is technically amazing and accomplished with the mathematical precision of the diamonds carefully worked out so that the dress is subtly and deliciously formed around the wearer. But its very isolation makes it a tough one to rate.

    As we are just rating the dress, I’m gonna say 10/10 – love the colour,. the fabric, the precision of the design, the minimalist subtleties, and there pretty much is nothing there to criticise. Absolutely nothing. So it has to be 10/10 because if you can’t criticise anything then it’s just unfair to mark it any less than 10/10.

    • Tried to be nice and not say anything, but just kept seeing them, and I can’t help it if I’m a bit nonplussed by a couple of the other ratings. I suppose everyone has an opinion.

  5. Vionnet is inspiring always, but this dress is new to me & delightful! I think that the way she uses the direction of the pile on the velvet to create definition between the diamonds is the perfect example of the subtle Vionnet detail. I think all my dreams will be in green velvet for a while now!! So, 10/10 😉

  6. Joining the chorus of 10 out of 10.

    The color and fabric just by themselves are delectable, but the lozenge piecing is subtly spectacular. A woman making an entrance wearing this dress would catch attention, but more like that of of hint of expensive perfume, rather than an overwhelming blast.

  7. Julia Ergane says

    Love Love Love 10/10 As Daniel wrote, it needs the accessories to really show it off. Still, it is perfect.

  8. Another fan. Every row of those diamonds is changing as it goes down-elongating and growing larger at the same time. That is really tricksy. And I think she played with direction of the pile to get different tones, a subtle effect indeed.
    It could have been a plain green velvet dress in the same shape but where would be the fun in that. Also, that green. Wow.

  9. I really love this gown. There is something very whimsical and fey about it that appeals to me. It’s as if Miss Fisher had decided to go as Tinkerbell to a fancy dress ball! I could imagine a lovely art nouveau headdress with this and a big feather tan. A big 10 from me!

  10. This is dress is brilliant since it is the dress that would work on a lot very different people. No matter what head sticks out on and nearly no matter what body it hides, the wearer would look classy and sophisticated. But I would still prefer it if the Harlequin pattern wasn’t so obvious. 9/10.

  11. Betty Kirke’s articles on Vionnet in Threads years ago made me a fan…and the diamond velvet dress figured heavily in that article. I loved it then, heartily wishing for the skill, the occasion, and the figure to pull it off. Such subtle technical mastery of shape…the green of this particular dress leans a little too much to gold for me to wear it, but it’s not made for me and I won’t, so 10/10.

  12. Lizzy says

    At first I wasn’t sure, but after a minute I kind of want to make this, but in different colors! 9/10

  13. Deanna says

    Ooh, this is gorgeous! To be able to control all that fabric so perfectly! It’s too bad there is not a photo of it being worn, Vionnet’s designs are even more amazing seen on the figure. If it were a really deep emerald, I’d probably be giving a perfect score.


  14. Rachel says


    While it’s dangerously Peter Pannish, it’s also a jewelly green with a neato cut-out neckline. Those diamonds probably rippled gorgeously with each movement. And it’s elegant, but also relaxed and looks effortless to wear. The biggest hurdle would be accessorizing it in a way that doesn’t further push it into Neverland-harlequin-forest nymph territory.

    So I’m going to say that’s a delighted mmmm, not a critical mmmm.


  15. I know this dress! I’ve seen it at FIT!

    Love it– 10 of 10. Would not want to attempt a copy– a friend once said that Vionnet’s clothing walked a fine line between genius and madness, after drafting a pattern of one of her dresses.

  16. Can I have it please? I love how the diamonds add just enough interest to prevent the dress from being bland but not over-the-top and screaming circus dress.


  17. Claire Payne says

    Hmmm….I”m not so sure. At first I thought “Oh yes!” but upon closer inspection the diamonds just didn’t work for me. It screams court jester. The shade of green seems to amplify this. I feel like I should love it as it is Vionnet after all but a measly 5 out of 10 from me I am sorry to say.

    (Cuddles to Miss Fissy).

  18. I like everything about it except the colour. I just don’t like that colour. If it was a different shade of green I’d give it a 10, but as it is I’m going to have to go with 8/10.

  19. Stacey says

    I don’t especially like anything about it, other than the fact that bias velvet would probably look amazing in light and motion.

    The construction of this is likely easier than it looks, other than the fact that it is constructed out of velvet. It would have been identical wedges of two fabrics cut into ‘squares’ then those squares assembled alternately in long strips to recreate the wedges, then the strips sewn together to create the dress. All very simple seaming. Other than the flare which is not hard to draft, the assembly is all using common techniques in quilting.

    It is also the exact two shades of a threadbare velvet couch my great grandparents owned. I am disinclined to like any of it, though I agree it would have been flattering and lovely with accessories. 4/10.

    • This one is actually diagrammed in the Vionnet book, and it is actually REALLY complicated – serious maths. As Maryanne has pointed out, every diamond is larger than the row before it. The diamonds don’t fall in straight angles, but in slight curves. It also has no seams except the joins in the diamonds, and hidden gussets which make the bodice sit properly. Vionnet is famous for making really, really difficult construction look extremely basic – it’s true of many disciplines that the more simple a thing looks, the harder it is to do perfectly!

  20. Caroline Ní Loingsigh says

    I rarely comment on these even though I wait for them every week. I don’t really know enough to comment. But I give this 10/10 because this is something that the true villainess in a Poirot programme would wear. She wouldn’t be the actual murderer, but we would wish she were, as we hate her……..and her beautiful wardrobe. She is beautiful, she looks amazing wearing red lipstick and a sharp bob (red hair,obviously). She enjoys an early flapper lifestyle whilst we are stuck in our humdrum 20s life. And she wears this dress. I love it, and I secretly love her.

    • Perfectly described. It comes alive because of your description.
      I agreed with above comments that the styling did no favours and I wanted to see it live, now I have 10/10

  21. Maire Smith says

    10/10. I think this is the only perfect 10/10 I’ve seen in Rate the Dress. It’s wonderful.

  22. Buttercup says

    Love it, love it, love it. Madam Vionnet was a designing genius. 10/10 from me.

  23. I’m usually not a big fan of 1920’s fashion, but I actually really like this. The color is gorgeous, and the diamond pattern gives just the right amount of interest. 8/10

  24. First thought, alas, was “It needs ironing.” Whoever plonked an exquisite dress like this on that particular mannequin with such very little thought for arranging it should be on bread-and-water for a week!
    It’s still very nice. If you take a moment to imagine this /before/ it got old and ever so slightly limp, actually worn by someone, it becomes a show-stopper.
    I’m sure there /are/ better dresses, so I’ll save perfection and say 9/10.

  25. Stephanie says

    It’s uttering stunning. I love that it isn’t styled; it is completely of its time and yet timeless, so any styling would have limited the dress’ possibilities. Someone could wear the dress today and not look anything but elegant. I even love the colour, perhaps because it’s the deepest darkest depths of winter here, and anything that hints of growth is a balm for the soul.

  26. clever and beautiful both. I don’t quite understand what holds it up, but maybe that’s the dreadfulness of the mannequin? 10/10 for me.


  27. I concur with all who said it would look fabulous on a redhead–that’s me! I absolutely adore that color and have worn it several times in my life. Whenever I did it was a showstopper. This dress is just scrumptious and so deceptively simple, as others have said, I’d love to see it on a real body and in motion. I give it a 10/10.

  28. I love this- it looks so simple, modern, and easy, but it probably took a lot of engineering to make. The graduating diamond sizes are a lovely, the color is understated and flattering. And I love everything vaguely medieval in the 20s and 30s. 10/10!

    • Ugh just read the above comments!!! I need to buy the book and recreate this beauty!

  29. Angela says

    My first impression was wow! Then it was, Peter Pan! Then I read comments from people who know about the dress, and now I can appreciate the genius that went into the construction. I, too, would like to see it in motion. From a costumer standpoint, I could see it being a useful piece for period production, as well as fantasy. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. 5/10

  30. Kathryn says

    It’s green. It’s a grid pattern. It’s technically MINDBLOWING. My three favourite things.
    What I wouldn’t give to see this one in person. Masterful.

    10. (20, if that weren’t breaking the rules.)

  31. Lynne says

    So gorgeous! All that work, sewing silk velvet triangles! But what an effect. A very simple line, of course, but with the light play on the different squares. I love the way the neck is done, too. Sewn to a cord? A rouleaux? Pity there wasn’t a close-up of that, and of what happened at the shoulder ‘straps’. But so much lighter than cutting triangles to make a straight edge.

    I can just see that, on a halfway decent figure. Pure simplicity, expensive as can be – and worth it!

    10 out of 10

  32. Sandi says

    Obviously a complicated design, but so beautifully elegant.10/10

  33. Hearthrose says

    The drape – exquisite
    The way the diamonds are cut to take advantage of velvet’s nap, and the subtlety of the harlequin pattern – perfection.
    The neckline – lovely.

    This should go on your museum replication list, you’d look amazing in this dress!

  34. Adriana says

    8/10 for me. It is beautiful. I love the neckline and the similar effect on the hem. I like the diamond pattern. It is interesting and I think it lends a slimming effect. As for the color, I could see this would be dazzling on somebody with red hair.

  35. I love it so much. I do agree with several people above that the model and styling let it down but that’s hardly the dress’s fault!


  36. I’m in awe of the people who drafted the pattern and then sewed all those awkward pieces of velvet. (I once had to wrestle with sewing together a similar pattern of alternating fabric and satin ‘diamonds’ and the bias, the shifting, and the endless bloody slipping, all still gives me nightmares!) But as much as I love the ingenuity and skill, and the lovely coloured velvet, I’m a bit underwhelmed by the finished dress. It leans a bit too much towards fancy dress and stage costume for my liking — Peter Pan has already been mentioned and Cinderella types and princess in rags characters also come to mind. The end result is a clever textile that somehow ends up as a rather boring dress. Only a 5.

  37. Pam Plemouse says

    I love the costumey-ness, and it NEEDS to be worn with diamonds (especially yellow and brown), and any skin tone, as long as the bob is red. Also fur. It needs a fur trimmed cloak for entrance into the event. 10/10

  38. 10/10!

    The color, combined with the rich velvet and the points on the hem (and all over) make this dress super dynamic and edgy. I definitely agree that it must be worn with furs, to compliment the edginess by using different textures.

  39. della says

    10/10. ..loved Loren Dearborn’s remarks of “..whimsical and fey…” – perfect description!

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