Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a red and white 1810s exoticism ensemble

Yay, yay, hooray!  Last weeks red & white 1880s nautical ensemble was such a success.  Not only did most of you love it (18 perfect 10s!), but it attracted more comments than any other RTD in the last year, and it sparked discussions about how the buttons stayed so pristine, and how the dress would be washed.  Oh, and it came in at a whopping 9.1 out of 10.  I love it when people are so interested and enthusiastic* about a rate the dress !

Since white with red trim was so popular last week, I’m sticking with that theme for this week.  However, while last week’s ensemble was nautical in feel, this week’s fashion plate shown an outfit that takes all its design cues from somewhere far, far from the sea: Kashmir.

La Belle Assemblee, 1817

Not only does our fashionably attired lady carry a red Kashmiri shawl with elaborate borders and edging, her white pelisse with red trim and asymmetrical front fastening appears to be made  from a Kashmiri shawl as well.  By 1817 the mania for Kashmiri shawls had sparked copycat industries all over Europe, particularly in Norfolk and Paisley in the UK (hence the term paisley for the boteh design seen in the shawls).  The best quality shawls, with the softest hand (as Europe had not yet managed to replicate the softness of cashmere wool) and the most  delicate patterning still came from Kashmir, but simpler patterns, such as that seen on the hem of the pelisse were being manufactured closer to home.  Our lady’s cosy outdoors ensemble may illustrate both an exotic imported product, and the domestic interpretation of the style.

Continuing the theme of mixing the domestic and the exotic  while showing off as much wealth as possible, a lavish embroidered lace dress hem peaks out from beneath the edge of the pelisse, and more expensive lace ruffles frame the face above the standing collar.  The bonnet’s shape is typically European, but the swirling motifs tie in with the paisley of the shawl and pelisse.

What do you think?  Does crisp red and white work with the exoticism, and help to keep the outfit from being too fussy?  Has our lady pulled off double paisley?**

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

* Because enthusiasm is so much more attractive than negativity.  10/10 for all your 10s!†  So pretty 😉

† Though obviously, I understand that every dress can’t be a 10!  That would be boring!

** I feel like double paisley sounds even worse than double denim, but I also think it has a much, much higher chance of being fabulous, if done right.  So you just have to decide if this was done right!


  1. MayravB says

    I really like the dress itself. The strong red border, the relative plain-ness of it, and how it goes with the shawl. I do, however, feel that the lace on the under part is a little much, and the bonnet is way too much!

    Also not a fan how how much, um, lifting and separating is caused by her undergarments. But I suspect that in real life, her breasts wouldn’t appear to be fleeing in opposite directions and would look like a more normal empire waist.

    Would be a 9 for dress and shawl, but demerits for the bonnet and lace.


  2. There’s no denying that the color scheme of red and white is very attractive, and I admire the way the outfit stays true to the Kashmiri theme (even down to the yellow boteh on the bonnet!). On the other hand, between all of the trim on the dress AND the paisley shawl and boteh, the outfit looks just a bit too fussy. I’d like it better with less trim (say, without the scallops on the assymetrical flap, or without the shawl and boteh on the bonnet).

    7.5 out of 10.

  3. On the whole, this is delightful. I like the coordination of the dress and shawl. The red binding on the dress seems to be well proportioned.

    Cons: 1) the hat is definitely overkill, even on its own; 2)I’m somewhat put off by the ornaments(?) at the hem of the skirt – the look like leeches (but I don’t mind the lace).

  4. SueAnne Griffith says

    I say yes, she pulls of the double paisley! Also, asymmetry is one of my favorite design choices throughout eras, and this is no exception. Because the hat/shawl/dress combo is so busy, I have a slight concern that this is one of those designs that looks best on paper, and that I wouldn’t be heels over head for it in person, but I still say 10/10.

  5. Julia Ergane says

    I LOVE this! I even LOVE the hat. This is really quite a restrained dress — and some ladies do have larger heads and faces which can take a slightly larger hat, a smaller hat looking quite ridiculous on them (pointing at myself as a case). 10/10

  6. Deanna says

    The lady looks pretty fabulous! I think she definitely pulled off double paisley. However, my taste may be suspect, since I often like double denim. 🙂 The idea of one outfit incorporating both an exotic imported Kashimiri shawl, and a domestic interpretation of it is so interesting. Her pelisse is charming, and I really like the lace ruffles at the neckline, though I didn’t expect to. Her hat is really cute, though I think I might prefer it with smaller “swirls”. Purple is an interesting choice for the reticule (after a second look, it appears there may be a bit of purple in the shawl).

    9 (but really only because I usually prefer things to be a bit simpler).

  7. I actually know where this is from – it’s from an old V&A book printed in around 1944 that reproduced fashion plates in colour printing, so the colours are actually more due to the wartime-era 1940s printing than original 1817 shades. Hence the rather anachronistic aniline reticule! (here’s the book itself http://biblio.co.uk/book/fashion-fashion-plates-1800-1900-laver/d/32909234 )

    And here’s the original plate with the more muted, delicate colours and the correct caption! https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/204984220516699262/

    In the reproduction here – 7.5/10, the colours are a bit too brash and gaudy, and unsubtle.

    (However, when I look at the original plate, you can see better the delicacy of the details, and the colours are less Technicolor and as a result, more harmonious and pleasing, so I would give the original a 9/10, but as we are rating the 1943 reproduction, it’s still 7.5 from me.)

    • Deanna says

      Well that explains it, thank you. Although the reticule wasn’t a really bright purple on my monitor, it looked odd. The original plate does look more harmonious, and it’s nice to see clearer detail, like the little buttons at the shoulder and wrist.

  8. Thanks, Daniel! I rather liked the sharper contrast of the (incorrect) 1940s reproduction of the fashion plate, but it doesn’t change my rating; I still think less trim and less busy-ness would have been better. I do admit, though, that the milder color scheme helps to mitigate the busy appearance a little.

  9. Tracy Walker says

    The only thing that struck me as Wrong was the perplexingly purple purse – although I agree the bonnet would be scary in real life, that *was* the style, and this one matches the colors and patterns perfectly. Which is where I run into difficulty with the rating. It’s almost a bit /too/ matchy-matchy of a very busy motif. The eye seeks for a spot of calm. And there it is, the large amounts of white on the pelisse. The white lace of the dress is echoed in the hat trim. The gold of the bag and shawl shows again in the bonnet as well. It’s almost perfect. I want to love it, but I can’t, quite. Still, I find no actual flaw, so 9/10 for little miss matchy-matchy paisley in her bright bonnet.

  10. Judi Moseley says

    I totally agree with Tracey about the purple purse. I suppose there’s a tiny bit of purple in the pattern on the scarf, but it looks out of place in the purse. Love the pelisse, and I hope she’s wearing a sweet red dress underneath.

  11. I love it (repro and original) and I think if I had a band I’d name it Double Paisley.

    10/10 😉

  12. Gosh this is tricky. I think the illustration is yetch, because the over idealised super high waist and the voluminous sleeve always jar to my eye, so out of proportion. And it all looks so fussy. BUT, I think if made up in a real outfit exactly like this I would LOVE it. Although more if the pelisse was a delicate buff instead of white.
    7/10 because it’s all supposition!

  13. Thanks to Daniel for directing us to the original, but I agree with Tracey – it’s all rather matchy-matchy, which doesn’t suit my tastes at all. There’s just too much going on for me, from the hat right down to the lace at the dress hem.

    If I look at the individual parts, I would give them an 8. Add them together, and it’s a generous 6.5/10 from me. (The original might have scraped in a 7, if it was lucky – extra half a point for the not-purple reticule).

  14. I’m trying to picture this as a real dress and liking it a lot more than the picture, which is a bit… uneven? Is that closure edge really supposed to curve like that? 😀
    Clearly the details of the woven pattern are lost in the drawing / print.
    I do like when late 1810s-1820s do kashmir shawls. It usually tones down the ridiculous aspects of that era and brings out its greacefulness. So I want to give this drawing the benefit of the doubt and say the real outfit was really pretty.
    But then, what I’ve got is the drawing, which is a bit uneven.

  15. Lynne says

    Lose the purple hand bag, and things would seem a lot less over-done. Straighten up the hat (paisley #3, as someone noted) so she can see with both eyes, and we have a contender.

    It would be 9 out of 10 with those improvements, but as it is,,, (I meant to do that – what are commas but boteh in miniature?) 7 out of 10.

  16. I like it! I like both the original and the brighter 1940s version. It looks like the whole outfit has been designed around the Kashmir scarf, and I think it does that successfully. 10/10

  17. Peta says

    You can never have enough paisley. I love this outfit. Probably in a different colour. I’m really good at coffee staining clothes while I’m wearing them

  18. Emelie says

    I’m less sure about this ensemble than about last week’s dress. It feels a bit too overdecorated. I like the trim of the pelisse way too much to see it go, and I believe the lace belongs to the dress beneath, that means that to tone it down it is the paisley swirls at the hem that needs to go. The shawl is gorgeous, no change needed, but the bonnet, (sigh) the bonnet is simply overdone, and with much a too bright trim colour. I’m sad to say that this means matching paisley with paisley gets a no go from me because I like the idea of it, if not necesarily in this outfit.

    Still, it gets 8/10 for a good effort

  19. Madame Manukura says

    Can barely even see the dress for the wonderfulness of the hat. OMG I want that hat. Normally I like subtlety and quiet taste, but no, that hat totally brings it. That said, I have no problem with the pattern-on-pattern effect of the entire ensemble; if it had some unifying colours in the gown hat and shawl I think it would be magnificent in real life.

  20. This has been one of my favourite fashion plate images for years – so much so, it appeared for quite a long time on my business cards! Needless to say, I love the whole thing unconditionally. 10/10

  21. It’s definitely overtrimmed. The lace on the hem is fine, but there shouldn’t be any on the neckline of the dress, it’s just too fussy and the bonnet should be laceless as well. The reticule needs to be either white or red, purple just doesn’t work.
    7.5/10 since I like the dress and the shawl

  22. M.K. Carroll says

    Would there have been a tendency to overdo fashion plate designs (similar to today’s fashion magazines) so that options could be seen and appraised, then edited down?

    The balance between plain and patterned is pleasing, although there is just too much fussiness for my taste (the lace peeking out just doesn’t seem to go). 8/10.

  23. I want to make this dress, I love the asymmetrical aspect of the skirt. I love the colors of both the original and the repro.

    That being said, that hat…… It’s a mite over the top.

    Without the hat 9/10 because I can’t get the idea of leeches out of my head now that it has been proposed.

    With the hat 7/10 because it’s SO much, but I still love the dress.

  24. LoriWatk says

    Oh that hat?!?!?! I’m stumped on that hat… The rest I like, which being as its red gets an exception to my rule. Not a fan of paisley either. Hats are a glorious thing to me but this one? NOPE! What I am a HUGE fan of is cashmere and I can see this in cashmere, oh my goodness!
    So I’m going to say 9.5 out of 10 just because I can’t justify a 10 with that hat.

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