Admire, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a ca 1900 day dress gets the blues

1900s day dress, 1900s fashion

Last week’s 1750s Robe a la Francaise was far better received than I had anticipated.  I thought the muddy colours and square shape would put people off.  If they weren’t enough, there was the lacklustre presentation and dreadful wig.

Despite all those, you found the back pleating sufficiently swooshy, and the fabric sufficiently luxurious, to keep all your ratings at 6 and above.  The ratings averaged out at 8.3 out of 10.  8 (or 8.5) was the most commonly rated # for the dress, so for once the ratings reflect the general reaction.

This week: A ca. 1900 day dress

This week I’ve chosen something in a nice bright, bold colour: a ca 1900 day dress in deep blue printed silk:

The silhouette of this dress, with its drooping bell sleeves, not-yet-excessive pigeon breast, and gored skirt with ruffled hem, is absolutely typical of fashionable 1900s dress.  The S-curve has yet to reach its most outrageous proportions, but is definitely in evidence.  The only throw-back is the sleeve heads, which retain a slight fullness.

The delicate but elaborate trims and ornamentation are also pure Edwardiana.   The rows of tiny pintucks are interrupted by lace insets, creating rhythms of vertical and horizontal lines.  The vertical lines converge at the centre front and centre back of the dress, drawing the eye in, and emphasising the wearer’s small waist.  French knots creating textural polka dots on the lower sleeves and collar.  The knots reverse the white-on-blue colour scheme of the primary floral fabric.  This ties the sleeves back into the garment, and bounces the eye back and forth between the different colours and textures.

When the wearer moved the hem ruffle would have fluffed around her feet.  The slight train would have swooshed an attractive ‘follow me’.  The lighter lower sleeves would draw attention to artistic hands.  Imagine them folded demurely at the front of the dress, or gesturing in conversation.  The fullness of the lower sleeves would enhance the impression of small, delicate hands.

The most work the hands in the sleeves might have done in this dress was fancy-work or flower arranging.  This ca 1900 day dress is definitely the gown of a woman of leisure: and not just for everyday wear either.  The combination of silk fabric, vivid colours, and delicate white details would have made this extremely difficult to launder and care for.  I’ve called this a day dress, but it could equally be described as a reception gown.

Those troublesome (for the maid) vivid colours show the transition from late Victorian fashion to Edwardian.  The fabric and print are both lighter and more delicate than those typical of the late Victorian era.  However, the rich cobalt hue is more robust than the delicate half-shades and pastels that were the predominant fashionable colours in the first decade of the 20th century.  The geometricised florals may be surprisingly modern too our eyes, but weren’t unusual at the time.

The lace trim was most likely a closer match to the blue of the silk when the dress was made.  It has probably simply faded or colour changed differently over time.  The greenish tone it has taken on is a common effect of dye change.  Despite that, it is possible that it was originally this shade.  Particularly when it came to lace, the Edwardians were not fixated on matching exact hues.  It’s possible they thought the slight variations added to the overall effect of textures and layering.

What do you think? Do the swooshy skirts and subtle details make you swoon with delight?  Do you like the combination of delicate and bold?  Or do you think it a dress divided: pulled between eras and design details?  Or does it just not work for you for another reason?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10




  1. This is just lovely in all respects. Even though I can’t wear blue, I can’t discount on someone who can wear blue this would look fabulous.

    The embroidery, tucks and lacework strike me as being very well balanced and aesthetically arranged.

    I’ve always had a fondness for this particular silhouette – gracefu, natural and not too restrictive.

    10 of 10

  2. Tracy Ragland says

    Swoon! I love almost everything about this dress! It has tons of embellishments yet stays a bit understated. The line of the skirt is lovely and the way the pleats come together center front and back is so nice!

    I’m taking a half point off because I don’t care for the geometric print. Personal preference and nothing more.

  3. SueAnne says

    This dress may have been a pain to care for, but its colors, lines, trim, and fabulous sleeves make it too good for me to not give it a perfect score. I really like the way the lace in the bodice plays up the silhouette (an optional illusion of sorts that I may not have truly noticed was happening if you hadn’t pointed it out), and the mix of texture and color on the sleeves really seems to work.

  4. I love the color, and the print; divine! The lace trim on the bodice and sleeves enhances the orderly effect. But there is something about the combination of the sleeves, neckline, cut and pattern of the dress that makes it look too much like a Granny gown, to me. (Yes, I know this is a standard period style!)

    So 8 out of 10.

  5. I adore the style of this dress! The slight sleeve cap fullness combined with the trim and elegant vertical tucks balance the bodice nicely and that swishy floaty hem is divine.

  6. Madeleine says

    Wow. I don’t like this era/sillouette, nor blue, nor bottom ruffles (I prefer pleats); however, I’m trying to set all that aside to judge this dress on its own merits.

    Still trying.

    Nope. Other than an appreciation for the stylized floral design on the fabric, I really can’t find much to like about this dress. In fact, it rather reminds me of a dress I wore in middle school to a formal function in 1977.

    Sorry: 3/10

  7. Claire Payne says

    Swoon! 10 out of 10. I LOVE this dress. I love the colour, the detail on the back, the print of the fabric, even the lace works. I can’t find a single fault. Oho!

    • Claire Payne says

      I see I”m not the only one swooning. Perhaps we should rename this dress the “Swoon Frock.”

  8. Pat Leroy says

    I love all the details, especially as you have described them. Except how the sleeves have been sewn, not exactly in front each line, this dress is a delicate art work.
    Sorry for my English.

  9. I like the transitionality; full on pigeon breasts and swooshy Edwardian full sleeves are too much for my tastes, but this is a pleasing middle ground.
    And I’ve been wowed by this one before. Although – I can’t lay my finger on why, but it’s not a full ten. Maybe it’s the bottom sleeve shape after all?

  10. I like so much about this dress — the fabric is beautiful, the lace and knotting details are lovely. I like the pleating on the sleeves, but not the fact that the dressmaker didn’t bother to align the sleeve panels.
    I like the design of the back bodice, but the front bodice seems a little overdone. Then again, maybe it’s just my general dislike of the pigeon breast.
    The wearer must have felt beautiful and confident in this dress.

  11. Alice says

    I’m swooning just looking at the size of that waist! Lovely blue color and fabric pattern and I like the tucks and other embellishments. I really dislike the white fabric on the sleeves–it seems like a needle scratch for me. It looks like a fancy workdress to me rather than a proper reception dress. I’d say 7/10.

  12. Tegan says

    Oh this dress is just darling. I would love to wear it. And swish around my mansion looking busy and doing nothing. Very feminine, yet pretends to be practical? And all of the cute little pintucks! I’m less a fan of how busy the lace + the pattern appears across the bodice, but it’s still outrageously cute.

    9/10 for not perfect but simply DELIGHTFUL

  13. Tegan says

    And my husband points out that it looks like it was influenced by the Orientalism craze around that time. So I think the fabric might be a Japanese or Chinese silk, turned into this frothy concoction of a gown. 🙂

  14. Heather says

    I love this dress! The colors make me think of springtime strolls by the sea, and the fabric manages to convey a sense of lightness and delicacy without being saccharinely sweet. In white or pastels this dress might be boring or overly young looking, but the strong color balances out the wallet Edwardian silhouette.


  15. Elise says

    I think part of the high scores is that you are wonderful at interpreting shape and color and print. (Don’t stop!) Had I not thought about squared hips as fantastic frames for the wonderful fabric, I would have turned my nose. Your wonderful description help me like this dress even more.

    And I love this dress. 9/10

  16. I love the Dress. It is blue, it has flowers and lace. And the form is amazing. If I had the chance, I would wear it.
    10 of 10

  17. It’s so delicious, it reminds me of the 1970s Edwardian revival in Indian cotton. The blue has more than a hint of denim about it and the double top stitching details reinforce that. Hardly the fault of a gown made 65 years before any such things existed, but it delights me!!
    I’m giving it a 9 because it feels so familiar and comfortable while also being en pointe of its time and exquisitely high maintenance. Not a bad double act to pull off!

  18. Florence says

    I love the silhouette and the lines that draw the eye to the waist!
    I am deducing one point for the fact that the lace is not matched at the sleeve seams and the asymmetrical sleeve bottoms – the pouf is only on one side. I understand it’s so the hands are not covered, but still…

    So overall, 9/10.

  19. Rachel says

    At the first pic, I was quite enthusiastic with all those pleats and the crisp print. Seeing it in full left my eye a little confused – but now I’m enthusiastic again. It’s busy and involved, but the scale of the dress is large and swoopy enough that it works. Plus, I have a weakness for those redundant 1970s calico Gunne Sax dresses, which this dress is so clearly a precursor of.

    If there’s one area where I would’ve pulled back on the embellishments, it’s the bodice. But the colors are great, and it’s just fussy and eccentric enough to be fun.


  20. nanny norfolk says

    Easy to see where Laura Ashley in the 60s / 70s got her inspiration.
    Looks lovely but I’m not keen on the sleeves. 8/10

  21. I like this one a lot. The lace panels on the bodice are especially lovely and I really like the colour. I really don’t like the sleeves though. They’re an odd shape and the colours are strange. 7/10

  22. 9/10, mostly it’s nice, but the back is my absolute favourite thing ever. Those lines!

  23. Rachel says

    I rate a 9.9! It would be a 15/10 for me, if the white trim on the sleeves matched up perfectly even.

    Even though, as you pointed out, the lace would have been dyed the same color, and has since faded, I really like the pairing of the green and blue.

  24. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I love it. It’s graceful, proportioned very well, in a gorgeous colour and I don’t mind the colour variation in the blue lace. I think it works very well and is very evocative of its period. The print is great, and the lines are good. It’s not too ridiculous to look at, although it is indeed impractical, but its impractical in a way that looks graceful and elegant. 9/10!

  25. apricots says

    That blue fabric is stunning! And as you say, surprisingly modern. I thought it was a modern make based on the first picture! Now I have severe fabric envy.
    10/10, would love to wear it.

  26. Katie says

    I love this dress – the colour and print is amazing, the silhouette is dramatic and soft at the same time. I like the strong colour more than the “Room With a View” pastel colours. Uneven fade or not, the different coloured lace is distracting to me – I would rather something was a contrast or exact match – nearly a match is annoying, but that’s just personal! 8/10 from me.

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