Rate the dress

Rate the Dress – Artistic eu de nil

Woman's Dress and Coat Ensemble, silk with metal embroidery, ca. 1920s, Glenbow Collection, C-16492 A; C-16492 B

This week’s Rate the Dress is brought to you by great gibbering gibbons beneath the gibbous green moon. Say that three times fast!

Last week:  A House of Worth Reception gown of ca. 1890

1/2 of you Raters loved last weeks dress (maybe with a few tiny niggles).  1/4 of you thought it had a lot of good elements – but also some that just weren’t working.  And the last 1/4 of you thought it had so many terrible elements that it was a totally washout – just like the colours.

The Total: 8 out of 10

Still eminently respectable.  (personally, I loved the idea of it, and I hated almost everything about the execution except the purple and the bustling – which is so good I can almost forgive everything else when I’m looking at the bustle.  I keep trying to ‘fix’ all the rest in my mind, and can’t, and that’s driving me crazy).

This week: A 1920s artistic ensemble

I’ve had a rather full week. When I went to choose a Rate the Dress ensemble I was practically gibbering with exhaustion.

My thought process literally went like this:  “Gibbering…sounds like gibbons.  Something monkey fur?  Too creepy…  Gibbous though…something moon coloured?  Too boring…  But it is made of green cheese…”

So you have a green dress (and coat).

This 1920s ensemble combines the simplified, sleeker lines of 1920s fashion with the more artistic sensibilities of the Aesthetic & Arts & Crafts: design movements that were still influencing less mainstream fashion.

With pleated and smocking details, and Medieval inspired embroidery, this outfit shows continued impact of stores like Liberty of London, and designers like Fortuny.

What do you think?  Does it successfully balance high fashion and personal taste to create a distinctive and appealing outfit?  Or is it Eww & Nil for 10?*

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating — feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting. However it’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

(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!)


*OK, so you can’t actually give a nil rating, because 0 isn’t on a scale of 1 to 10!



  1. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Ahhhh I love the sheer coat with applique, the pleated Fortuny look. It’s ethereal and feminine.

    But what have they done with the cuffs? That thing at the wrists of the coat! It goes from floating to confining.


  2. Hearthrose says

    The detailing is lovely.
    The color is matronly.
    The silhouette (with the jacket) is matronly. The dress on its own might not be, but who knows? I don’t think the jacket works with the dress *at all*. The mood is all wrong.

    As a matron, I’m yawning. I feel like this outfit should be on an episode of Golden Girls.


  3. Ava Loy says

    I kind of hate it. But if I saw it in person, in motion, I might be more forgiving. I don’t like the smocking. The color is washed out, but maybe time has eroded the green. If the fabric had a nice flow, before it became brittle with time, it would negate my reservations about the garment’s shape. So I’m forced to give it a…


  4. I find it lovely. For me the color is sophisticated and the embroidery is magnificent (giving it a Miss Fisher dash). Matronly the shape may be, but it looks divinely comfortable, and I can see the woman wearing it (along with an appropriate straw hat) relaxing in a wicker lawn chair in a sun-dappled garden.

    10 of 10

  5. Hana - Marmota says

    I like the colour but this may be too much of it. It would very much depend on the colouring of the person wearing it. A more lively blonde, I think.
    Basically, it’s lovely but not completely impressive despite the impressive technuques, so I think that makes it a 7/10 in my book.

  6. I love the name eau de nile, which is so perfect for a time when all things Egyptian were de rigeur even the colour of the water in the Nile!
    I also had one of those second look moments with this outfit. My first look was EEW, so frumpy. But my second look was more MMM, look at all the glorious things you notice with a second look. All the things I love – texture, handwork, details, and also my personal favourite:
    A dress that does not say it is important to look young and thin. Because the aspiration to be younger and thinner at all times is what holds women back. So, while I do love a good little waistline shape too, it is lovely to see clothes that let that go.

  7. I am a bit confused about the bottom of the sleeves. It would have helped, in this instance, to have a model with arms.
    I think the dress is a bit too matchy matchy with the coat. All the extras the coat showcases are dulled by too much of the colour and the pleating in the dress.

  8. Nicole B. says

    Oooh, I WANT it! (I just don’t want to try and clean it.)
    It lacks a feminine silhouette, like all of those waistless twenties tubes, and I think my eye is trained to catch on pinched-middle Cinderella dresses, so I thought nothing much of it at first. Then I realized that this was a sophisticated daytime dress, not a waltz-your-beau ballgown, and my perspective shifted.
    What an ideal dress for going around visiting in warm weather! It is forgiving of figure and a bit conservative, but wow, does it pile on the charm. Every little detail is classy. The cuffs give the elaborate coat a casual finishing note. And look at the little motifs at the ends of the belt! I even love the subdued color–it evokes nature and would compliment the decor of the period.
    I think it may strike some of the commenters as frumpy or matronly because current styles favor contrast rather than perfectly matched elements, and because it isn’t as eye-catching as an edgy little flapper number. However, for the kind of dress it is, and for what I consider wearability, it is stellar.

  9. LisaW says

    I think this would have looked lovely as the wearer moved; I can imagine the volume of the coat’s back falling and billowing from the delicate smocked yoke. I find the gathering of the sleeves strangely off-kilter – if they had to be gathered, why not repeat smocked elements? Personally I would have preferred wide kimono-style sleeves and feel that they would have suited the flowing lines of both dress and coat, and the linear elements of the embroidered motifs.

    The embroidery is gorgeous and I love the way the right-angled, stepped pattern on the sleeve sits at a different slant when worn. The tiny motifs on the ends of the belt and the neckline of the dress play up the deceptive simplicity of all those wee pleats and tie the whole outfit together.

    Colour? Perfect for lounging on a riverboat or shaded pavilion sipping champagne in summer heat.


  10. Wylie says

    I really really really want to love this. The colour is beautiful, the sheerness of the jacket is stunning and I really appreciate the details at the ends of the sash.

    However, the jacket is far too unstructured. It looks like a daggy down-filled snow jacket at the shoulders. I would love to have seen the dress on its own.

    It looks really comfortable though, so I’ll give an extra point for a great mix of comfort and glamour.


  11. Nanny Norfolk says

    Love the colours although I couldn’t wear it,it is so classy. It may look matronly but that was the style then, shapeless. Maybe an older woman wore it anyway.

  12. Lucy says

    -ugly blob shape, would be unflattering on anyone (particularly larger women!)
    -ugly dishwater colour, would be unflattering on most people
    -3 points for interesting embroidery and looking comfortable

  13. The ornamentation is beautifully executed, elegant, and gorgeous. The pleating on the overrobe is exquisite. The fabrics are divine. I even like the color, pale though it is.

    But the shapes of the garments are graceless. That peculiar little collar on the overrobe! The odd cuffs. And the pair of garments, as a whole, look like a nightgown and negligee created for an egg–not a human–to wear. That is a disappointment, because this outfit could have been positively celestial.

    As it is, however, a 6.5, because I’m feeling generous.

  14. Cara says

    Nope. I can’t see it as anything but dowdy. I tried to imagine it floating around someone with an ideal 1920s body, and I still think it would be unflattering. The shape, the color, the overall effect just don’t work for me, even though there are some lovely details.


  15. The embroidery is very pretty, and I have a special fondness for washed out pale greens and blues, so I love the colours. I don’t much like the smocking though, and am confused by the weird scrunchy cuffs.
    I think the simple dress underneath is very nice, but that it would work much better if the hem sat lower than the bottom of the coat instead of cutting off at the same height.


  16. Ruth says

    I love it: colour, comfort, elegant detail, I can just see Dottie from Miss Fisher wearing it as a more adventurous daytime outfit. 10/10

  17. Elizabeth says

    Rather pretty, especially if you lose the cuffs. BUT – it looks more like a negligee ensemble than a daywear outfit. Negligee yes, dress no.
    7.5 because its a dress.

  18. Brit says

    6/10: In many ways I like the style of the roaring twenties. This dress is a little too matronly, but that may be because my eyes are trained to prefer a waistline. The fabric and color is very rich looking, but the color scheme still lacks something.

  19. Emma says

    I love green but this green is not a great one. The cuffs of the undersleeves seem odd and kind of bulky. The smocking on the back seems rather fussy compared to the rest of the dress. The embroidery provides some interest and is probably it’s best feature. The whole thing is kind of uninspiring and kind of reminds me of nightwear.


  20. Nancy says

    Unfortunately my initial reaction was it reminded me of a 10-15 year old garment my 80+ mom wears while the details are lovely, I agree it looks like it came off”Golden Girls” the way it is deplayed. On someone younger and accessorized a la Downton Abby it might look better.


  21. Grace Darling says

    What a shame it is so unimaginatively displayed – on a living woman with
    accessories, be ab fab for a matron judging the geometry of lamingtons in the
    County Women’s Association tent at the fair.


  22. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    In some ways it’s beautiful, especially the embroidery and the colour, but it also reminds me of lingerie with the gauzy coat with blowsy sleeves over the delicate silk dress (or nighty?) and the pale colour. But then the length makes it look like its been curtailed a bit brutally so it feels a bit uncomfortable – almost too intimate and flimsy for a day dress, but too short and restrained to be truly enjoyably decadent lingerie.

    I think it’s probably a 20s tea gown and coat, which are definitely not garments you see surviving very often or illustrated in books on 20s fashion in general, but which do show up regularly in the House of Worth 20s design books at the V&A. So it makes it difficult to view contextually because we’re either used to Day!wear or Evening!dress, and less accustomed to such transitional event wear (unless it’s pyjamas).

    So, firmly setting aside visual reminders of 60s-70s grandmas in their best frocks of polyester and nylon organza at weddings, and considering this as a rare 1920s survival… Also, if I hadn’t seen the House of Worth tea gown designs (viewable online on the V&A website) I would probably have given a much lower rating because I wouldn’t have understood what I was looking at. Anyway, because it’s actually a really very beautiful example of what it is, and because it shouldn’t be judged as lingerie or as day wear, I’m going to say


  23. Bridget says

    This is an interesting piece, and like every other reviewer, I think the detailing on the “coat” is lovely. I really like what some of the others said about our culture focusing on youthful looks and small waistlines, and that this could be elegant and freeing for a mature woman. I’m very sympathetic to that view, however I just can’t bring myself to like this piece. The silhouette still looks frumpy to me. I appreciate the last reviewer giving some context for the purpose of this garment, and I really like some of the similar designs he linked to. But even though those dresses are loose and free flowing, the ones I like most all have some kind of belt or ornamented waistline details to relieve the straight lines. The paltry sash on this dress isn’t good enough, it needs something wider and more ornamented.

    The collar and especially the cuffs are not attractive, and I think the “coat” part should have had a shorter hemline than the skirt, as it is with them the same length it’s dull and undifferentiated.

    Though I won’t judge the dress for this, I feel like they did a lousy job presenting it. They could have used accessories to at least hint at context, like for instance boudoir slippers. Also since this is a rather plain garment, a mannequin decked out with some well chosen jewelry and shoes/stockings might have gone a long way towards making this ensemble look chic. I suspect this dress would look better on a mannequin with arms and legs. Also, the sash seems tied very loosely and carelessly.

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