Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Red ribbons, 1884

I’m very sorry for completely dropping the ball on the blog for the last two weeks.  Some unexpected things came up in the run-up to Costume College, and blogging was one thing I just didn’t get to.

So, quite late, the total score for the Lucile lingerie frock: a rather disappointing 7.5 out of 10.  Too many of you thought it was a bit limp, and had slightly weird design features, or was just lacking in overall oomph.

This week’s Rate the Dress is partly inspired by all the amazing Victorian costumes I saw at Costume College, and partly carrying on the neutrals with ribbons theme of the not-so-popular Lucile lingerie frock:

This 1884 House of Worth 2nd-bustle era gown many use three textures of silk fabrics (faille, satin and organza) in the same serene shade of stone, with touches of cream lace, but the deep red ribbons, rather than the sweet pastels of Lucile’s confection, provide colour and contrast

Like the Lucile gown, Worth’s reception gown combines many different forms of textile manipulation, but the overall effect is one of sculptural stiffness and structure, rather them delicate frothiness.

What do you think?  Within the range of Worth gowns, is this one of the House of Worth’s total winners, or won where they didn’t quite win the fashion sweepstakes? (because even Worth had off days, or garments where the client’s design requests added combined with the designer’s vision in less than ideal ways).

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Well!

    I like the colors–“stone” contrasting with crimson. The 1880s silhouette is done well, and the sheer sleeves work surprisingly well with the ensemble.

    But I don’t like the way the crimson touches were introduced. The dress looks rather like a pair of pre-schoolers attached bows to the gown at random. Since the bows are pretty large, this looks even odder than it otherwise might.

    As it is, 7 out of 10. This could have been a 9, however, if the crimson touches were provided in a less random-looking way (as edging, or perhaps smaller bows placed in some sort of pattern).

  2. Well!

    I like the colors–“stone” contrasting with crimson. The 1880s silhouette is done well, and the sheer sleeves work surprisingly well with the ensemble.

    But I don’t like the way the crimson touches were introduced. The dress looks rather like a pair of pre-schoolers attached bows to the gown at random. Since the bows are pretty large, this looks even odder than it otherwise might.

    As it is, 7 out of 10. This could have been a 9, however, if the crimson touches were provided in a less random-looking way (as edging, or perhaps smaller bows placed in some sort of pattern).

  3. Laurel says

    If they had to be there at all………one ribbon at the neckopening would have been more than enough

  4. Laurel says

    If they had to be there at all………one ribbon at the neckopening would have been more than enough

  5. Heather says

    I feel like the bows were tossed on as an afterthought. The dress is so stiff, so very plain. Everything is symmetrical and smooth and stiff, (like a minimalist person ordered it) and then there are these loud red fluffy bows just thrown on there. I would have liked it better if it were just the dress with no bows. The trim at the bottom is bothering me. Like a pleat merged with a tassel, it’s just odd. 5/10 for me.

  6. SueAnne says

    I honestly giggled when the first picture loaded. The dark red bows are great contrast for the dress, I’ll give the designer that. It’s just that some of the placement is… Strange. I can’t imagine the wearer walking around, dining, dancing, etc., with those big ribbons flopping around on her arms and neck. If it was one now and some dark red trim, that could be lovely, but this dress as it is gets a 8/10. Lots of regained points for creativity and an otherwise delicious bodice and sleeves.

  7. I adore the dress-the playing with textural elements in such a lux colour really appeals to me. I love the details, like the pleats that are really overlays with doule tops around the hem and the assymetrical satin cummerband.
    I also love these two colours together as anyone who has been into any of my homes in the past 15 years will know.
    I just think the red bows would have worked better had there been a fabric in some aspect of the dress that combined the two in a print or stripe. I wonder how it happened – there are stone bows on the dress and the red ones appear to be velvet ribbon, perhaps the dress owner added them later? I kind of hope so.
    You know what, I am going to be super naughty and give it a a 9/10 on the basis that 15 minutes and a air o sharp scissors would make them go away. TO be replaced with what, I am not sure. but I feel it is like damning a house because of the decorating taste of the previous occupant when it is really an opportunity to personalise!

  8. Kate says

    Perhaps my modern eyes have seen too many crime dramas, but the red bows make the poor lady look like a victim of multiple stab wounds.

    • Tereza says

      Yes, exactly! Or something for a feminine hygiene product commercial.

  9. Emma says

    I really don’t like the colour and the red bows don’t help. If they’d have been solid bands of trim that would be one thing but they’e more odd splashes of colour as it is. I also don’t like the strangeness of the bows. Their placement is odd and they don’t really suit the lines of the dress.


  10. This is a really big, “No” for me. It reminds me of, in HGTV, the home designers have something beautiful in mind. And then halfway through the reno, the home-owners say, “well, I have this idea,” and then completely ruin the original concept. The designers then have to make a compromise to incorporate something totally crazy, and it comes out half-ok.

    That’s how the bows look to me. There was a discussion on a corset-making Facebook group where a lady was trying to decide how to place a few flowers on the corset. She said, “it looks like someone sneezed flowers onto the corset!” In this instance – we have a decided case of bow-snot. The stab wound comment is perfection.

    Also, I really like the faille and satin, but the floofy sleeves simply DO NOT match at all.


  11. Gwyn says

    I had bustle dresses on the brain before CoCo and now it’s bordering on an obsession.

    I’m a big fan of tone on tone design because you get a chance to really focus on texture, line, and repetition. I think it’s the sleeves that really throw it off as they are repeating the softness at the neckline. To my eye if it used a typical dinner dress 3/4 slim sleeve with a cuff that picked up the pleat detail at the hem, then it would feel much more cohesive. Even with all the bows.

    I bet this is much more impressive in person and I really wish we could see the back. Alas As Count Orsini-Rosenberg says, there are just too many notes. 7 of 10

  12. This is absolutely beautiful. The coloring blends together and everything appears tight and well fitted. The dark red really define the dress. Well done.

  13. Helen says

    I agree with the earlier random stabbing comment. I also think the hem pleats look like fencing. This is a 5\10 for me.

  14. Karin says

    The dress itself is beautiful and the color just perfect but there are too many ribbons and the placement just isn’t to my liking. I think less would have been more.

  15. I like the tone on tone quality of the varied textures of the shiny and matte and sheer. It makes the dress interesting to look at, and the gentleness of the grey makes it very restful to look at, without losing the details in too glaring a colour. It’s kind of like a dress Jane Eyre might have worn after marriage, had she been a 1880s woman, as it isn’t over-fussy for a 1880s dress, with gentle, subtle colours and surprisingly modest while being fashionable.

    Then suddenly, there are WINE RED RIBBONS blurting out randomly on the dress! It’s almost like someone told Worth a funny joke while he was slurping red wine and he laughed and sprayed wine all over the sketch, and then the dressmakers just took the sketch and reproduced it, wine stains and all.

    I like the wine, actually, I think it’s a great pop, but am not convinced it works perfectly here. This makes it a very, very tricky dress to rate because without the wine ribbons, it would be, gosh, probably a 8/10, and now, it has wine ribbons, and I can’t decide if that brings the score up or down, so it’s still a 8/10.

    • I’m glad I didn’t make a comment about blood/stab wounds like I was initially inclined to, after seeing that others got there first….!

      • I now have this vision of someone tripping with a tray of wine glasses and everyone watching the glasses flying in slow, slow, sloooooooooooow motion to splatter all over some poor petrified young lady who knows she’s just going to get her lovely light coloured dress ruined but for whatever reason just can’t move….

  16. Kit says

    Oh dear, that poor woman — all dressed and then she goes and gets attacked by a swarm of angry ribbons! If this wasn’t such a nice, polite, grown-up site I’d also be saying ‘wtf’ right now! Someone please tell me that this was not how it was originally designed — that it perhaps had some more subtle trim, or none at all — but then its owner decided that it needed an extra ‘something’ and her lady’s maid was having a bad day, or just had rotten taste, and played fast and loose with the definition of ‘something’! Because why on earth would Worth construct such an impeccable dress and then fling a random load of highly contrasting bows at it? It did at least make me laugh — but that’s not the reaction one wants from a Worth gown so I haven’t a clue how to rate this. Do I mentally snip those ribbons off and give it a respectably high score? Or do I leave them on and give it a shamefully low one? You do find some wonderfully thought provoking outfits! I give it a very undecided 7.

  17. Like Kit, I saw the ribbons as an attack, but my first reaction was to be reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (which is a reference that should be associated with clothing only at a horror festival).

    The hostile ribbons were so distracting that I couldn’t evaluate the rest of the dress.


  18. Hilarious! As others say, can’t see the dress for the ribbons, and what’s with the weak mosquito netting? ~ 3/10

  19. I love the colour combination, but another 1880s dress you used as RTD relatively recently did it (or something close to it) better, and I knew it first, so this one leaves me rather unimpressed, for reasons others have expressed before me.
    I like the bow at the waist; it’s a nice continuation of the assymmetrical waistband/cummerbund thingy. I’m not sure which of the other ones I like or don’t like.
    And I’m also not sold on the trim at the bottom, although it’s certainly different.
    So, overall, it’s just a bit less impressive than I wish it were. 7/10

    • I’ve just noticed the waistband does not go all the way to the back. I really wish we could see the back. I suspect there’s also a lack of wine red in the back, and that worries me even more.

  20. Nynke says

    Others have perfectly described before me why the bows are such a bad idea, I won’t repeat the arguments. The thing is, if you would remove them, the dress would be extremely dull, despite it’s lovely colour and skillful work with textures. Would the red have been used as trim, it might have gotten a good rating. Now it’s 5/10, because it does not work with the bows, but also does not work without them.

  21. Tegan says

    So I really like this dress. Really really. On its own it would score pretty high. However. I’m pretty sure a white woman bought that and that is a terrible color to be that all encompassing on white skin. So I’m gonna knock it down to…

    8/10 for gorgeous design and execution but terrible color choice

  22. nanny norfolk says

    Such a nice dress ruined by blobs of ribbon. Whatever was the designer thinking of!
    Yes, it would have been boring if the dress had been left plain, but why that colour? A blue or even brown decoration would have looked so much better.
    Only 5/10 because of the awful ribbons.

  23. Florence says

    I love a structured dress and I can understand that the designer wanted to lighten its severity with the ribbons. I like the colour contrast and really appreciate that the designer did not choose a “girly” colour like pastels or pink. But – too many ribbons! One on the belt and the one in the center of the bodice/neckline would have been just enough.

    I love the contrast of textures. I guess the netting for the neckline and sleeves has yellowed with age. On somebody with the right colouring, this dress must have been fabulous!

    Unfortunately, the sheer number of ribbons leaves it at 8/10.

  24. Ribbon attack! Stab wounds! Pin the tail on the donkey! The majority opinion has already said what I’d have to say about this dress, so I shall draw a 5/10 veil over it and simply say that a certain 1916 sage green ball gown I saw in the background of some photos on the Costume College Tumblr was much, much prettier, and I hope we’ll be getting that for RtD very soon…. ;D

  25. Lylassandra says

    It looks like someone just stapled those red ribbons on at random. Yikes! 5/10

  26. I really like this dress. I generally have a weakness for a white/red combination, and this dress does that really well. I also like the contrast between the white fabrics, it definitely adds interest. Not a 100% sure about the sheer sleeves though, and the bow at the neckline is quite random. 8.5

  27. Bernice says

    Oh. Well.
    Having seen the various comments, comparing the ribbons to stab wounds and red wine stains, I’m beginning to feel some slight sympathy for them.
    I admit my first reaction was also, “Goodness, who’s been murdered?”, but upon reflection I would definitely like the dress without the ribbons. It’s such a shame because the dress would be so nice but is absolutely overshadowed by the ribbons. The colour combination isn’t my favourite, but in my opinion it could work if the red was incorporated more into the dress rather than just random ribbons put on like an afterthought? Also, I’ve never been a fan of such rigid symmetricality, rendered even worse by the fact that the sash round the waist ( I think it’s a sash at least) is asymmetrical.
    I don’t think it really needed livening up or anything- that satin must have been eye catching enough under gaslight or candlelight. And if trim HAD to be added, I think that a more subtle, lighter colour (I’m thinking about mauve) better incorporated into the whole dress might have fitted in a little better.
    I think the only other issue would be the sleeves and the neckline. It’s not ugly, or out of place really, but there’s just something just very very slightly off about it, I think.
    I don’t know how to rate it, because it could definitely be pulled off and must have at least been very eye-catching and bold at the receptions it was worn to. Also, it’s one of those dresses where the more I look at it, the better it looks.
    So because it’s not an un-salvageable look, and because I’m actually quite partial to that shade of red, 7/10.
    It would have been 8, but that symmetricality…

  28. mom says

    To me it looks like a really unsubtle ploy of a suffragette pro-menstruation-awareness group. Those absolutely randomly placed blood-red bows and crimson “waterfalls” at knee height and the virginal white background suggest the dramatic message “Iiiiii bleeeeeeeed.”



  29. Michelle Ball says

    Personally I am not keen on the red bows, although an 1880s person miÄŸht have loved them. I think that with all the other details going on the colour is distracting, they might have worked better to modern eyes in a colour nearer to the overall colour of the dress amber, dark cream or the like. Rating is difficult, the dress is great, but not keen on the shade of red colour, if it had to be red then a plum or deep maroon maybe, but probably something similar to the dress.

  30. Humm. I like the dress itself, including the bottom hem details. The ribbons.. I like the color combo, actually. I think my problem is that the red isn’t used anywhere else on the dress other than the bows. If there was some trim in the color, too, it would work for me. As it is, it looks like she was going to a Christmas party and stuck the red bows on to make it festive. 8 out of 10.

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