Rate the dress

Rate the dress: Red bow redux

Last week we took a break from Rate the Dress to take a look at suffragist fashion in New Zealand.

The last Rate the Dress was an embroidered 1880s dress which received two main reactions: love, because it looked like a film costume in all the right ways, and ‘nice, but somehow not exciting’.  Still, it came in at 8.6 out of 10, so the fans were in the majority!

I posted an 1880s House of Worth dress in pale stone with red bows 7 weeks ago, and it didn’t do particularly well.  So I was fascinated when I found this 1880s dress from the MFA Boston with the same general design scheme:

It’s so similar, but in cotton rather than heavy silk, with soft ruffles and scallops rather than crisp pleats, and as a day dress rather than a reception gown, the overall effect is quite different.

Is it different enough to get a significantly improved (or reduced!) rating?  Would you like it more or less if I hadn’t pointed out the similarities to the other one?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(obviously it could have used a good steaming, as always try not to take presentation too much into account with your rating!)



  1. I’m afraid it’s still a no. I find the basic dress lovely, but the bows make me think that someone was madly decorating the house for Christmas and mistook the wearer for something to be decorated.

    All three -shape, size and color – of the bows I find distracting, but I admit that I can’t think what I would suggest in their stead.

  2. SueAnne says

    I went back to the previous bow dress for comparison, and I think I liked it better. For some reason, silly looking bows seemed more fitting for a reception gown than day wear, possibly because I prefer practicality over dazzle. I gave the other one an eight, but I think this one gets a 7/10. This dress was too plain on its own, but red bows don’t seem to be the answer.

  3. Trying not to let unsteamed cotton interfere with my rating….

    The good news for this gown is that the vivid red bows are symmetrically placed.

    The bad news is that there still isn’t a coherent ornamentation scheme. We have the pretty, unobjectionable but staid lace trim around the neckline, bodice front, and hanging cuffs. Then there’s the blood-red bows dotted around the waist and down the rear of the skirt, and a single, thin red line (embroidery? ribbon?) about 12 inches above the hemline. What’s up with that?

    The cut of the dress, especially the bodice, is nice so 6.5 out of 10. I won’t give a dress with such a disjointed ornamentation scheme more than that.

  4. Bows are annoying as is the red ” line” above the lace near bottom of skirt. It would be “acceptable” with out those.
    As is 6/10

  5. So, I generally love the cream-dark red colour scheme. But those bows at the front waist are just awkward. Generally, it would be preferable if the bows had a function, you know… But then there is the bow at the neck, that’s kind of pretty again. It could be demure in the front, party in the back… So, I guess 8/10.

  6. The colour scheme is pretty and I like the basic dress very much, but those bows look like an afterthought, as though the original owner was ‘updating’ the dress in line with a current trend. That’s no bad thing, but they don’t really fit with the rest of the gown (at least in my eyes!) 7/10

  7. Stephanie says

    Blech. The dress is lovely and I don’t mind the bows, but together they look like a themed department store Christmas tree. 3/10

  8. This one (aside from the wrinkles) avoids my major problem with the other one, which is the mismatch in textures, but the bows look limp and eh and the narrow stripe across the bottom that doesn’t match anything else in width or style seems a bit random. I give it a 7.

  9. Buttercup says

    Nope, I’m not feeling any love for this dress at all. The hideous fabric, blah colour, Christmas tree bows (really?) and that pointless red line that circumnavigates the bottom of this frothy confection. I doubt if even Pollyanna could find something nice to say about it. 1/10

  10. Tracy Ragland says

    I’m not loving this. The bows and red piping on the skirt distract from the lovely lace and delicate fabric. It looks like a bad Christmas craft store project.

  11. Hearthrose says

    The fabric of the dress is so light and airy, and the fabric of the bows is so heavy, they don’t match. I rather like the color combination, if the bows were 1/10th the size with a bit more red trim here and there, it would get more enthusiasm.

    As is, the bows seem like a heavy afterthought. Did we take a summer frock and put winter bows on for Christmas? Christmas in NZ, which in the summer? It just doesn’t work for me.


  12. Catherine says

    I really like the basic dress, with the scallops and the shape. I think the bows on the wrists are actually cute and the ones on the bustle are inoffensive, though I would have chosen a colour that matched the scallops rather than contrasting. The others are over the top (do i spy a bow on the back of the neck?) and distracting.

    8/10 because I love scallops

  13. Emelie says

    The bows clearly do not fit the dress as is, but without them it would look empty and sad. Now it looks as if someone’s three-year-old was set on decorating it. The positioning of the bows is just awkward, and even with a overall more red theme to the dress, which would make them not stand out as red sores, they would still be awkward. I don’t honestly see an easy way to fix it.


  14. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I actually think it’s even worse. At least the Worth had some randomness which kept it interesting. These bows almost look like fringe, they’re so regimented and precisely placed, and the ecru lace just looks grubby and dirty next to the white cotton.

    Plus, was it REALLY necessary to put almost all the red bows around the waist just so we’re seeing lots of red around that particular area of an otherwise white/dress dress? Very, very questionable taste level there.

    So, basically, we’re looking at a tasteless, unsubtle, badly conceived, dubiously executed, uninspired looking dress that looks like it’s supposed to be the Before look for some 1880s sanitary product commercial, if they had such things then. I’m not even sure that steaming would make it look any better.

    1/10. I don’t often give ratings that low, but this dress is disastrous on so many levels.

  15. nanny norfolk says

    Horrible bows. The dress without them would have been a suitable summer dress. I wonder if the lace was actually cream or maybe a faded red, it’s a funny coloured cream.
    It would have probably been creased then, after all some poor servant would have had to iron it with a flat iron. No non iron fabrics then! Cotton creases easily.

  16. I loved the other one, but this one is kinda meh. While the overall dress is sweet, those bows just attack your eyes from all that sweetness and light. … and no good metaphors from 8am me, so I’ll just rate it and be done.

    6/10 for a lovely dress that would be better with 2 mins of seam ripper love

  17. I love the dress, the fabric, lace, cut, draping, just not those red bows, or the red (it looks purple on my monitor) line near the hem. What a shame, because it really is a beautiful dress. Without documentation we won’t know, but let’s pretend that the red bows were added for some kind of special luncheon: Valentines, Independence Day, a birthday; then I can accept the silliness of them. 6/10 for me.

  18. Alas! Madame’s new dress causes her to blend in with the white painted walls! Ne vous inquietez pas! We shall add some unmissable bows and then she will stand out a mile!
    I’m with Daniel: this is WORSE!! For one, the dress is so pale, it looks at first glance like an undressed mannequin, on which bows have been pinned. I appreciate, this wouldn’t be a problem if the dress was actually being worn … but at that point, I’m finding it impossible to imagine /anyone’s/ complexion suiting this colour scheme.

  19. Catherine says

    I’m still not a fan of the bows at the front base of the bodice, but the ones on the wrists look quite cute, and I think the bows along the bustle could look quite nice if steamed and pressed so they weren’t quite so sad.

    Comparing this to the Worth gown, oddly enough, to my eye this day dress is better in nearly every particular. The different fabrics of the Worth dress all seem to clash to me – the light, frothy organza looks like it’s fighting the heaviness of the rest if the dress and the shiny satin does nothing at all for my appreciation. The cream lace on this, contrarily, seems to complement the white, and I really like the red accent (the bow at the base of the neck is adorable), even if, if it were my dress, I’d be tempted to use some of that red ribbon as trim instead! I also quite like that one strip of – is that red piping in the same color/fabric as the ribbons near the hem?

    I might edit the bows slightly, but I think I’d be willing to wear this!

  20. Deborah Thomas-Wilton says

    I’ll give it a 7 if you remove all the bows except at the wrists and lose the red line at the bottom. With the bows it’s a 5. I tried picturing it with other colors and it just seems odd with all the bows. I agree with a previous rater that the reception dress doesn’t seem as odd now. Still don’t care for all the bows on it either, however it seems more appropriate decoration for a reception than a day dress.

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Dress is light and elegant
    Bows are heavy and dark
    It’s not working for me, because of the texture and tone mismatch

    If the bows were a cream and red stripe, or cream and red plaid, or anything except a solid dark color they would appeal to me more.


  22. Rachel says

    The white dress, while very pretty, feels a little too bland, and the placement of the big dark bows is graceless. I’m not sure how to really make the dress look bold and unified, though the right accessories would probably go a long way towards balancing the bows out.

    It feels bad to score a perfectly-fine-except-for-the-bows dress so low, but the bows are just so THERE and splatted on.


  23. JessieRoo says

    My first impression is of how light and pretty the whole thing is for a highly structured, rigidly bustled 1880’s gown. Although, it would be ever so much nicer without quite so many bows, and with a better balance of trimmings from bodice to skirt. If it were up to me, I’d leave the bows on the wrists, the points of the bodice front, and maybe incorporate one or two into the bustle draping. Then I’d add a wide band of the red material, and just one bow to the skirt where that thin red line is. I’m obviously in the minority though. 7/10

  24. Bernice says

    I actually kind of like this dress better than the other one…obviously I think it would be much ‘prettier’ in an obvious and slightly boring way if the bows weren’t there, but I’m inexplicably a little bit partial to them. I’ve realised that my problem with the previous dress was slightly due to the fact that I didn’t like the red/stone mix but oddly this colour combination looks nicer to me. Also, bows always seem a bit frivolous and fun, to me, and this outfit (which I can imagine being worn on a summer outing) kind of suits bows better than the dignified reception gown. The bows are quite sudden but somehow they work and make the dress bolder.
    Also, adding bows in a light pastel would be a disaster- the dress would look like yet another generic shepherdess/summery/bland summer gown. Especially if the bows were in a really obvious colour like blue or pink.
    Overall, 9/10. *sees other ratings* Oh. Well, at least nobody gave a zero…

Comments are closed.