Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a ca. 1910 dress with purple polka dots

It’s Rate the Dress day again!  Every week I feature a historical garment – whether an extant original, or an artistic depiction, and you have your say about its aesthetic merits within the context of its time.  This week we look at a ca. 1910 dress in lavender purple polka dots.

Last week:  1720s-40s theatrically-embroidered casaquin

For once I was absolutely correct in predicting the reaction to last week’s striking embroidered casaquin.  The white linen and vivid wool embroidered garment flaunted the wearer’s knowledge and sophistication, as well as their ability to afford an incredibly expensive informal garment.

Most of you were major fans, but a few of you weren’t having a bar of it.  I strongly suspect the casaquin was just as divisive when it was originally worn.

The Total: 8.8 out of 10.

Tons of 10s, a few middlings, and one spectacularly bad 2!  And a last-minute comment that was so beautiful that I went and updated the maths, even though I’d already done them, so it could be included in the rating 🙂

This week: ca. 1910 polka dots

This week let’s travel to 1910, and look at a 1909-11 day dress in lavender purple spotted silk with black and ivory accents:

The dark lavender of the dress sits just between the sweet half-tone pastels of the early Edwardian era and the vivid colours fashionable in the 1910s.

The combination of polka dots and stripes is another fashionable twist that I associate with the mid 1910s, but the rest of the dress, with its heavy use of lace in the guimpe, collar and sleeves, and black velvet trim, is quite Edwardian.

The combination of multiple coordinating fabrics, and the amount of detail work in the garment, suggest that this was a fairly expensive garment.  Note that there appears to be more fabric manipulation and detail work on the side of the skirt:

What do you think of this ca 1910 dress?  Do you like this lady in lavender, or do you find the purple polka dots quite pedestrian?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  Thanks in advance!)




  1. I quite like the combination of dots and stripes, but I find that the details of the bodice confuse my eyes. Black and white should work nicely as contrast elements, but somehow for me there’s just too much technique in the bodice – perhaps if the black bands were of narrower width.

    8 of 10

  2. Lalaith says

    Very pretty. The lace has aged a bit, but I assume it matched the white in the striped-and-dotted ribbon better when it was new. My only qualm is that center seam in the skirt. It looks slightly awkward to me. If the seam had not been there I would rate a ten.


  3. I really like the dress style and layout and the way the bodice comes to two points across the waistline, and I didn’t think I liked the polka dots (not a fan usually) until I realised that the second fabric with stripe and black dots is the one that is used to bring all the elements together. Every bit of the dress has a ‘companion’ element that makes it quite harmonious for something with this much going on.
    I like it immensely. I don’t much care for the colour scheme, which I find a bit cold – would it be a half mourning gown perhaps, combining lavender and black like that? Although it just seems a tad to ebullient for such a purpose.
    I really love this moment in time when fashion was transitioning.

  4. The silhouette; unobjectionable.
    The fabric; gorgeous
    The polka-dots; inoffensive.

    There is a bit too much trim. The velvet trim on the bottom of the bodice I find distracting. I also don’t like the white-and-violet striped trim across the shin-level of the skirt. Otherwise, I rather like it, though it’s not a perfect 10.

    7.5 out of 10

  5. Rachel says

    There’s something pleasingly Christmas-packagey about the dress – all the squared-off geometrical shapes and the contrasting ribbons. The lace plays really nicely with it (I love that little triangle peeking out above the waist), and the colors and different patterns are delightful.

    When I look at it as a dress, I’m not super enthusiastic. I like it, but not hugely. But it’s full of so many cute, quirky, playful details, and that’s what charms me about it.


  6. Buttercup says

    This dress reminds me too much of gift wrapping or that colourful wrapping that was once put around birthday cakes. The bodice is too busy and makes my eyes bleed! I’m also not a fan of the seam down the front of the dress. It’s distracting but it also takes focus away from the window trimming across the bottom of the dress which is a good thing. I’m giving this one 6/10 mainly because it’s purple

  7. I think there’s too much trim on this one. Otherwise there’s nothing really wrong but nothing really right. There’s nothing I really dislike but nothing I really like either. It’s just kind of okay.


  8. I’m amazed that they had put so much (dots, stripes, lace, geometric shapes) in a dress and menaged to pull off a dress that is pleasant to look at. I’m not a big fan of pigeon breasted ensembles of that center seam in front of skirt so:


  9. apricots says

    I’m not down with the bodice but there is something delightful about the dress. I actually quite like the colour and the way the different elements work together is well done.


  10. Frances Dorrestein says

    I absolutely love it. The colour,the dots! Dots! The trim, the v’s in the design the lace, everything, except the placket opening in the front. I assume this is because of the detailing on the side, (which I want to see!) but it is a detractor. So,

  11. Wendy says

    This is fun the top seems slightly too ornate for a seemingly flat skirt. Too bad we cannot see the side of the skirt because it looks like it may make the skirt move more. I love the colors and the lace is lovely. The black trim is nice too. Somehow the whole thing seems just slightly disjointed. My favorite is the stipe with dots fabric and the way there are single dots at the top of the skirt ruffle


    • Funny, I almost wrote a description speculating how this dress opens! Without a back view, it’s really impossible to tell. It could open by a complicated arrangement where the collar unhooks at the at back or side, the diagonal front pieces un-snap, and one whole side of the front bodice lifts away, with a skirt opening at the centre front (much less common), or side or back (more common). But I’d really need more views to make a proper guess!

  12. I can’t warm up to it. The overall stuff wants me to like it, but then there’s what looks like a slightly rippled flat-felled seam running down smack centre-skirt, and the purple fabric looks slightly stiffer than it ought to be in the picture, and I just don’t like it, because with the narrow skirt and those crossed bars at the bodice, tge overall impression is suddenly restrictive rather than the lightness and smooth elegance I like about this era when I like it.

  13. A beautiful dress. I like the color and the decoration of the bodice. A back view would be helpfull, if it has more embellishment and how are the silhouette. Something worst happend to the center seam. As it is my favorite time and I could imagine to wear it
    9.5 of 10

  14. Johanne says

    My first response to this dress was “God, give me strength.” The bodice is much too busy, the front seam bulky, and the general effect clamorous. Just no.


  15. Helen McLean says

    I really dislike the crossover bodice effect with lace and ribbon, etc, looks too corset to me. The colour is off and I think the dots are over done. All in all, I’m giving this a 3.

  16. helen mclean says

    My first and last response to this dress is no, too much going on with the bodice with all that lace and ribbon and corsetry-look, and the polka dots are just too much. I don’t mind the colour, just because it’s different, and I quite like the silhouette of the dress. The bottom pleated ruffle is pure curtain. I give it 3 out of 10 but I thank you for sharing.

  17. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Right out of the movie Pollyanna! Or “The Music Man”. It’s definitely an upper-income stylish young matron’s dress.

    The clumsy front seam bothers me the most. It disrupts all the dotted striped pleated fun stuff in the skirt with poor craftsmanship. I would prefer to have lilac or white ribbon, not the black, but other than that the execution is brilliant.


  18. I mostly like it, but the puckering in the centre front seam of the skirt is really bugging me! If I’d sewn it I would have unpicked it and had another go, or handsewn it to stop that. As a result 6/10; without the pucker 8/10

  19. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    Had to think about this for a week. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like it. I don’t hate it, but I think it’s overworked and tortured. Too much going on, and the frill around the hem combined with the smooth cut makes it look bolstery and constrained. It looks very conservative, it’s fine for what it is, but it’s more Victorian than 1910 in its overall ethos. Much as I like purple, there’s something a bit dated about this particular shade in 1910 (it’s more of a 1860s-70s colour), and I find the polka dots in this dress a bit prissy, and the black ribbons and lace make it granny. It would look good on an older woman, so that’s a point in its favour, but as a fashion dress, it’s difficult to like.

    Its trussed up, smug, sanctimonious and feels like a dress for an interfering busybody fusspot who can’t mind her own business, someone who’s always scurrying about like a clockwork toy sticking their pincenez into everyone else’s affairs at the Ladies Church Weekly… So it works brilliantly as a costume for that purpose.

    I rate it 6/10, although I’m leaning lower. I do recognise it’s a very good example of a particular type of dress so for that purpose it deserves a little higher.

    • Daniel Milford-Cottam says

      Actually if the bodice had a more flaring skirt to suit the mid 1900s it would probably be much more likeable and feel more balanced. But it’s almost a suggestion of just how tightly trussed Miss Nimina Piminy must be in her corsets that everything is bulging out at the top and pushed out in front to give her extra momentum to scurry around nosing at everyone else’s embroidery or knitting or jammaking and judging it and telling how it could be done better.

      This is actually a very inspiring dress!

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