Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Very pink Paquin

Last week’s purple & black 1860s dress received a rather lukewarm response, with few strong feelings in either direction – and not a single 10!  Almost unheard of!

I think most of you felt the way I did: that while there was nothing to actually dislike about the dress, there was nothing much to make you really love it either.  So a 7.3 out of 10 is an unsurprising score.

This ball gown by Jeanne Paquin, widely acknowledged as the first female couturier, features a striking chine a la branche taffeta in pink and ivory, with pink chiffon overlay and very puffy spotted lace sleeves.  Anne would love them – do you?

The full skirt of the 1890s (another one that could be easily adapted from the Fantail skirt pattern) provides an excellent canvas for the unusual fabric, and only the bodice blooms with the exuberance of ornamentation so beloved by the late Victorians.

There are lots of exciting and interesting things going on in the bodice and sleeves, but alas, the Met does not provide the option of bigger photos with this gown, so you shall just have to decide if you like it based on what we can see.

What do you think?  Pretty in Pink, or just as disappointing as I found the titular dress in the movie of the same name?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. As an example of the confectioner’s art – brilliant, but too sugary – but as something to wear I find it excessive, both in style and hue.

    6 of 10

  2. I know that the 1890s featured unusually large sleeve heads, but this is truly ridiculous, especially with the tiny (looking?) waist. The ecru lace ruffles make the large sleeve heads look even more ridiculous, and the lace along the side of the bodice looks as though part of the decoration has been torn off. As for the design on the fabric, the less said the better. In a different context, the pattern might have been pretty, but in the company of the ecru lace it gives a blotchy impression.

    I’m excusing the black lacing in the back as a museum presentation error.

    Overall, however, I thought the gown was ugly. 3 out of 10.

  3. I LOVE the sculpting and the skirt of this dress, and the pink pattern fabric is awesome. Lacy stuff looks grungy though. 9/10

  4. Tegan says

    I have a bad habit of costuming my romantic leads as bubblegum princesses (one was not-so-fondly referred to as The Pink Cupcake). When I did “Earnest” a few years back, this is exactly what I wish I could have made. It’s gorgeous; frothy, and would have made any wearer feel like a pretty pretty princess. And the fact that the skirt is simple but large and most of the froth is on the bodice makes it not feel over the top.

    10/10 perfect execution of what my 4 year old self would want to wear every day

    • Valerie says

      Oh my goodness, I was just thinking how great this would be for that play!!

  5. I love it. It’s not too girly, even with the ruffles and it is dramatic enough to be show-stopping when it is worn into a room. I’ll take one in my size, please. 🙂



  6. chava says

    That bodice is a hot mess. The ruffle in front looks like the wearer is being attacked by a giant, pink alien slug. Why is there a slit in the sleeve cap? And it’s really hard to make out, but is that a fake flower in the lacing? (Better pics next time, Met!!) Overall, I find the sharp, triangular silhouette of the bodice very unpleasing.

    All points awarded are solely earned by the skirt for having such lovely shaping and a beautiful fabric.

    Total score: 5 out of 10

  7. I love this dress. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the sleeves from the front but from the back, oh my! I love the ruched chiffon and the asymmetrically placed flowers. I love the shape of the skirt. I love how the skirt is just a simple and perfectly cut creation while all the fun is in the bodice. THIS is a dress designed by a woman who knows the seductive power of a pair of shoulders.
    I think it would look wonderful in its original brighter and less yellowed colouring but I do wish it was a soft blue instead. Or soft green, or lemon. Just not pink like coconut ice.
    But then again, maybe it was the absolutely perfect colour for the woman it was made for? Sometimes, in fact often, a dress is seen at its best on a real person,
    So I am giving it a 10.

  8. What’s fascinating about this is that it’s a very sugary candyfloss dress, but somehow there’s an edge to it. The skirt has a fantastic simplicity and bravura about it, with a good sense of movement. I really like how the bodice “explodes” from the back view, like one of those conical fireworks – it works well in the back view, but I am less convinced by the front view, as it begins to look a bit, well, deli meats (or worse) rather than pink chiffon, and I’m not sure it would have looked any better when new either. Despite that, I kinda like it – it’s very pink and princessy but balanced quite well. 6.5/10, I think – I don’t think it’s quite successful. but there’s a lot to like.

  9. The bodice and skirt just don’t quite match in my opinion. I think it would look better if the same sheer pink chiffon was an over layer on the skirt as well.
    The back of the bodice, with the ruffles, almost has a futuristic for them (1930’s) vibe. I really like the bodice with the massive sleeves, ruffles, and even the floral spray in the back. It’s just that the skirt, rather than being plain, has that lovely print, and it doesn’t quite mesh up in my mind.


  10. Etta says

    My grandmother, bless her heart, had a rather unfortunate habit of decorating everything in sight with those tacky little plaster cherubs spray painted gold. She also loves this color pink. The lace shoulder things look so much like those horrible cherub wings on ugly pink wall paper that my grandmother would adore it. It just needs a lumpy crocheted antimacassar on it somewhere and a giant stack of unread magazines to be my grandmother’s living room.

    On its own merits, 1/10. But it reminds me of my grandmother, whom I love, (just not her taste!), so that bumps it up to 4/10

  11. Katie says

    I just they should have left the chiffon off the bodice or made the whole thing out of plain fabric with a chiffon overlay. As it is it looks mismatched. You can either do pattern or you can do overlay but both together just doesn’t appeal to me. The sleeves are ridiculous in a good way and the overall silhouette is very dramatic.

    Back view of the bodice is amazing but the mismatched fabrics bring the score down. 7/10

  12. Tracy says

    I really, really, really love the shape of the skirt. I really, really, really hate everything else about this dress. I can’t decide whether the back or front bodice is worse – smooshy chiffon ruining whatever shape the wearer might have, or weird black lacing and fake flowers? But neither is as bad as the sleeves. Big is ok. Blonde lace is ok. But big and blonde lace on a chiffon wrapped bodice over a patterned skirt? It’s as though the person couldn’t make up their mind. It’s cotton candy pink (which I kindof loathe) with a patterned skirt AND lace AND chiffon wrapping the bodice AND a sea slug made out of the chiffon eating her left boob AND contrast lacing AND a flower stuck on AND is that white chiffon peeking over the top of the bodice? Someone should have said “when” much sooner. Lovely pattern though. Make this dress in a plain blue silk, with a clean lined bodice (lined as in lines, not lining) and perhaps one raspberry colored rose at the waist… oh yeah. But they didn’t make that dress, they made this dress.


  13. Robin G. says

    Just a bit too much going on with the bodice, but the dress has probably suffered from a lack of “freshness” over the last century in storage.


  14. Rachel says

    This is one that I don’t much like myself, but I can see someone loving it, and why not? It’s pink and fluffy and over the top, and that’s not a bad thing. It has a nice silhouette, though the shoulders are way too much for me. I’m not sure what’s happening with the lacing up the back of the bodice.

    But personally I’m not loving it. It’s too stiff and pink and the shoulders are too big. Maybe on an actual person, surrounded by other gowns of this era, I’d like it more.


  15. Judi says

    I have an aversion to pink–I don’t know if I connect it to Pepto-Bismol or if it’s because of the pinkification of society lately. But if I were a young victorian lady who wanted to make an impact, I’d fall pretty hard for this dress. I like the print and the shape of the skirt, and while the bodice and sleeves are definitely over-the-top, that’s what youth is for.

  16. LoriWatk says

    !This dress is bringing up some really horrible memory of my youth. Do you remember those dresses that looked like shiny dyed (died, :-)) tin foil? Well my parents bought me one of those dresses and MADE me wear it to a school dance. I looked like a pink disco ball, yuck! This dress is reminding me of that but without it being shiny. So just because my mind keeps wondering is that black lace at the back? fake flowers? what is it!? The skirt I like, the bodice ewwww! I’m going to split the difference between love and hate and say 4 out of the 10

  17. I LOVE the color, but I’m not a huge fan of 1890s extravagance in general. 7 out of 10, simply because the tone of pink is amazing!

  18. ceci says

    I really love the front. The back is frighteningly wrong.


  19. Mary Ann Hadley says

    I adore the skirt. What beautiful fabric, color and design! Rich, dignified, and composed.
    However the bodice seems to be the crazy cousin of the skirt. The beautiful fabric is muted with chiffon; the excessively decorated sleeves burst upward, distracting from the overall style. Then there’s the bodice back. Is the monster from “Alien” bursting out of the girl’s back? If the young woman who chose this dress were to have an autobiography, I imagine she would reveal something more than the sweet innocence the skirt infers.

  20. Wendy says

    OMG it’s gorgeous. I’m a bit shocked by all the bad reviews. I’m putting the slight colour mismatch between skirt and bodice down to the ravages of tine. The severe skirt cut and the frothy shoulders go wonderfully together, and I like the print and the colour. Dunno about the black lacing, it just doesn’t “go”. So a point off for that. 9/10.

  21. Am I the only one who sees the back-lacing as a lavender/blue color? And the ecru lace does match the fabric, since the flowers on the fabric are not white, but off-white. So color-wise, it’s a win for me. But that might just be my computer screen!

    Speaking of color, was this dress from the time period where blue was considered feminine and maidenly, and pink (a paler version of red) was thought to be a manly color? If so, the dress would have read as confident rather than pretty, in its own context.

    I also like the shape. the front is like a prow of an ocean liner, bearing down on you, which strikes a note of confidence in this ensemble. The back looks like a butterfly, a sculptural effect I think is quite well done. The purple-to-me laces accent the smallness of the back.

    I see nothing to dislike, and a lot to admire, but I don’t connect emotionally to it, so 7/10 from me.

  22. Susan says

    Judging this by the aesthetics of its time – it comes off considerably better than viewing it through today’s eyes.

    That said, it appears that the original owner was on the shortish side, or perhaps those huge puffy sleeves add to that perception. If she was a slight lady, that style did her no favors, as they would pull her down and make her look, well, squatty.

    Now, on a taller, willowy young lady, those sleeves would be perfection.

    Pepto-Bismol pink is not my favorite shade, either (especially having recently viewed an 1888 house whose otherwise lovely back hall, stairway, and upstairs hall were painted just that bilious shade – ugh), but in the ballroom, perhaps under gaslights, on a June evening with pink roses all a-bloom, and worn by an equally blooming young lady….well, she’d be the Belle of the Ball.

    8.5. If worn by the willowy young lady. If favored by a shorter lady, then 7.5, unless she modifies those bountiful sleeves a bit for the sake of balance and harmony.

    BTW, whichever young lady this dress adorns needs to have a matching fan in her right hand.

  23. 10/10, and I love and agree with all the 10/10 comments above, especially “perfect execution of what my 4 year old self would want to wear every day”. Some of the details are weird, but the overall effect is what matters with a dress like this!

  24. To me, this dress is the reason why I haven’t embarked on commissions – I can just hear the client say “I want a dress with this, and this, and this…” And then run out of money when they hit the skirt.

    Having said that, I do like the chiffon overlay on the bodice, even with the slug. It makes the Princess Cupcake-ness of the main fabric colour something tolerable.

    The sleeves would do an 80’s power-dresser proud and they may, just may be puffed enough for Anne Shirley.

    All in all, a whole lot of ambivalence from me – 6/10.

  25. I want to like it, because at first glance it looks like it ought to be nice (like Brožík’s Lady in Pink, I guess!), but I just don’t; the elements of it somehow don’t seem to go at second glance. And there’s no arguing with taste. I’ll borrow Catherine’s rating from the top and call it a 3/10 (and goodness me, I think I haven’t been that harsh in quite some time – I think it’s the disappointment of a dress that seems nicer than I find it on closer inspection.)

  26. Hayley says

    You know, there is something about this dress that I just love. It just seems…. cheeky? A tad naughty? I think it’s those sleeves, they are just fabulous. It’s taking a stylistic feature and making it so ludicrously over the top that it becomes brilliant in it’s own right – those aren’t puffed sleeves, those are ANGEL WINGS. This dress is all about those sleeves. And like shoulder pads in the 80’s power dressing phase, they exude a sense of boldness and confidence. But it’s a party on top, business below, the skirt is pretty ‘meh’ compared to the bodice. Actually, I just want those sleeves. I would put those sleeves on EVERY DRESS.

    8.5/10, because I don’t like the the dark lacing at the back, and feel that the skirt needs some detailing on it to reference the lacy ruffles at the top.

  27. Florence says

    Oh boy, do these ridiculous (ridiculous in a good way) sleeves make the waist look tiny!
    I think the top is fabulous in its frothy goodness, but the skirt…
    The skirt shape is amazing, but the fabric – the print looks like a tie-die attempt gone wrong to me.
    I guess my comment is the complete opposite of some of the others. There really is no accounting for taste 😀


  28. Elise says

    As Hayley and Daniel said, there is a little bit of cheek and edge to the dress. (I also thought “ANNE”) Did you all see Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress? The sleeve angles on that dress are a smaller version of the same train of thought: echo the lines of the bodice to a teeny tiny waist.

    Do I *like* it? Someone said “admire, but not like”, and I feel similarly: 5

  29. Johanne says

    Balance, symmetry and bodice asymmetry win the day for me. I’m trying not to like it, squinting eyes, gritting teeth, yes, now I see the froth and marzipan pink but love it anyway.


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