Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a red & white striped 1880s ensemble

Sometimes I get bored and stressed doing Rate the Dress, and feel like calling it off, and sometimes there aren’t many responses, but then we have weeks like last week, where Rate the Dress triggers fascinating discussions on how the garment is displayed, and if/which display is more correct, and how you can tell when a dress was displayed based on the style of display (which implies that we often aren’t really getting a true ‘period’ look at a garment much of the time), and it’s all well worth it.

So, whether or not you loved the 1780s yellow chinoserie frock from last week, I think we can call it a success.  At 8.5 out of 10 though, it was pretty successful in the aesthetic respect too though!

For this weeks Rate the Dress, I wanted to pick an outfit that might have been worn with an Olivia bonnet, so I went rummaging amongst my saved links to 1880s frocks, and instead of finding something to pair with an Olivia bonnet, I got distracted and found this jaunty ensemble:

It seemed like a nice clean, crisp contrast to last week’s florals and floofs, so I went with it.

Now, this is the right type of dress (a day dress), and the right era for an Olivia bonnet, but I definitely got the impression in my research and in the fashion plates depicting Olivia bonnets that the most Olivia-y of Olivia bonnets were quite frilly and romantic, and were best paired with frocks in florals and lace, or, at the most severe, rich satins and velvets.  The slightly nautical freshness of this outfit just doesn’t seem right for a frilled-lace and bow bedecked bit of head-ornamentation.

At the most I could imagine it worn with a straw hat with an Olivia shape with a peaked brim, trimmed with crisp organza pleats, and a red side bow that riffed off the red epaulette-bows of the dress, with, perhaps, some wheat sheaves.

More likely though, it would have been worn with something a bit more boater-esque, as shown in this fashion plate:

1887, Godey’s Ladies Book

It’s certainly the right sort of dress for long walks by the shore at the end of the season, just as autumns chill begins to creep in.  The white colour keeps it fresh and crisp, but the wool fabric would have kept the wearer nice and toasty, while still breathing if they day warmed up.

What do you think?  Does this outfit please your fancy?

And, since it’s not really an Olivia bonnet ensemble, what kind of hat would you pair it with?  (bonus points for linking to an extant example or fashion plate for your hat-spiration, bonus BONUS points for making sure it’s from a museum or other original source and not just pinterest! 😉 )

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Sheryl says

    I just love all the details for this outfit. Just marvellous

  2. Kit says

    I find symmetrical bodices paired with asymmetrical skirts to be a bit unbalanced, the buttons seem a bit too white against the off white of the fabric, and I would have liked the kilted trim at the hem to be much taller and less prone to flaring outwards. But these are very minor quibbles with such a likeable dress. Those wonderfully bold and broad stripes of colour and the relative restraint with which they have been used. So many wearers and makers in that era would have been tempted to throw some more colour and trim at this dress so major kudos to this particular maker and wearer for holding back. Couldn’t find the ‘right’ hat, (but rustled up several designs in my head). Even with the very plainest of hats you certainly couldn’t have lost sight of the wearer of this dress — even on a crowded promenade and at a distance. It’s a big 10.

  3. Hawke says

    lovely! I love the clean, precise lines and the creamy brown color. I only have two quibbles, one is the lace at the cuffs seems out of place, the other is I feel like the red should be something less saturated – a dusty pink, maybe. 8.5/10!

  4. Ahna says

    3/10 it’s unnerving, a klaxon going off in my head: warning! warning! The construction looks lovely, but the aggressive horizontal bands are all wrong- redirect at a diagonal and I wouldn’t be having this recoil reaction. My best comparison is to some sort of labor safety poster on a job site.

  5. Emma says

    I’ve just discovered this post as I was researching 1880s day dresses: I was wondering, are the rows of buttons the fastenings for the bodice?

Comments are closed.