Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Robe a la Cypress

Last week’s Rate the Dress featured bright pink silk velvet and gold lace. This week’s features humble furnishing cotton with wool embroidery made into a very posh dress – will faux simplicity fare better than brash finery?

Last week: a pink velvet & gold lace 1910s evening dress

If we counted Instagram & Facebook reactions last week’s dress would easily be a 9.9 out of 10 – there was SO MUCH LOVE.  However, I do not, because I can’t go back and find them later (and because it’s too much work – and I do have to actually work), so only the ratings here on the blog count.  And they were decidedly more mixed, with some loves, and a few real NOPES.

So the official rating is…

The Total: 7.5 out of 10

So so

This week: a 1770s crewel embroidered Robe a la Francaise

This striking Robe a la Francaise made such a stir on the internet when Cora Ginsburg’s 2018 catalogue came out that I thought it was unfair to show it as a Rate the Dress option immediately.  But it’s been a few months, and cypress motifs in art and textiles have come up three different times for me this week so it’s clearly a message that it’s time to rate it:

Rather than the typical brocaded or flat silks, or printed cotton, this ca 1770 française is made from a midweight cotton embellished with cypress trees worked in wool crewel embroidery.

Ginsburgh’s catalogue suggests that the fabric was intended as a furnishing material, and that the dressmaker or wearer made the unusual decision to use it as dress fabric instead.

The heavy cotton of the dress is balanced by the embroidered net lace trim, its delicacy providing a counterpoint to the bold cypress motifs.



  1. The cypress motifs are well executed, and attractive. But as dress ornamentation? I fear they do not appeal to me (I’ve seldom been attracted to prints that are pictures of things), and the translucent ruffles look too much like tissue paper.

    If I give it a few points for novelty and nerve, I still don’t get past 6.

    6.0 out of 10.

  2. The scale of the cypress motifs are just too large for my taste, and I find the effect from afar as if the wearer were being overrun with some sort of insect life.

    The whole strikes me as heavy and ungraceful.

    6 of 10

  3. I love that someone thought of it, made it and wore it. It’s Scarlett O’Hara in her green velvet curtains! I am a big fan of furnishing textiles as they push the boundaries of texture and scale. This is not a pretty princess dress, it is the crocheted kaftan of Robes. and a hippy earth mother like me cannot resist it!

  4. I think it’s very interesting and different. I would certainly wear it. 9/10


  5. Ava Loy says

    The net lace seems limp and offers a distraction, not an embellishment. I like the scale of the cypress pattern. I spin several interesting scenerios of why one would fabricate a dress from home furnishings fabric in my imagination.

    I love the attention to detail regarding how the pattern is repeated across the back. I wish there was a solid green portion somewhere on the dress, to give the eye a little rest.


  6. I love it! Trees are fabulous, and I’m a huge fan of using upholstery or drapery fabric for clothes. Plus I love how the sheer trim looks with the distinctive print. However, this does feel slightly costume-y rather than clothes-y, so I’ll give it a 9.

  7. Costume-y rather than clothes-y is a good evaluation – it feels to me a bit like a Christmas display or something (I didn’t realise those were cypresses the first time I saw it).
    Still, I rather like the simplicity of the fabric with the froofy francaise style.

  8. Erin says

    Well, I love this. I find it lovely and amusing at the same time. I appreciate the differences in texture, weight and scale of the embroidery juxtaposed against the trim and I think the fairly plain front works very well for balance.

  9. Janine says

    No….it remind me of Christmas trees, even if these are cypresses. The first thought was, the lady should pick red jewelry to make the look perfect. The placement of the ornaments at the sleeves are odd. The overall form of the dress is nice and well balanced, but this won’t rescue it.

    • The placement of the ornaments on the sleeves is in keeping with cutting techniques of the time – if you look at striped dresses, they also have the stripes going that way.
      It’s not my era, so I have no idea why, but for me, noticing that was a fun detail.

  10. I’m known for wearing the weirdest prints, and I would not hesitate to wear that dress had I lived in the 1770’s. I would probably change the trim though. 8/10

  11. Lucy says

    What a lovely change from the usual pastel fluffballs! The trees are so elegantly stylised and the colour balance is beautiful. Wonder what kind of reaction it got when it was first worn?
    Might have worked better with a non-matching petticoat or some dark green trim on the back.
    Just goes to show -every era has its eccentrics
    I want some of that fabric

  12. Emma says

    I like the dress, the trim, everything except the cypresses. I cannot like them and cannot get past them. Still, I’ve seen worse.


  13. Buttercup says

    I’m not thrilled about this dress. The cypress print is a bit out there but the horizontal cypresses on the sleeves kind of won me over. It looks like the kind of dress where the maker was experimenting with fabric, pattern placement and style. It’s not shut your eyes awful but it’s somewhere on that scale . I’m giving it 7/10 for creativity and bravery in fabric choice and pattern.

  14. Anne Gloucester says

    I love it – and would definitely buy the fabric und use it for myself.


  15. Erika says

    I had to laugh when I read ‘MrsC’s’ comment about kaftans. I have a crisp white caftan with cypress trees on it! It is perfect to wear on unpleasantly hot days, when I would rather be sitting under a cypress tree gazing at the azure Aegean sea. So, while I do find the placement of the pattern on the sleeves to be odd, and I don’t like that you can see the pattern through the lace net trim, I think this would be perfect for a unpleasantly hot day in circa 1770. 8/10

  16. A. says

    I like it for its sheer independent mindedness. 9/10

  17. This is quite wonderful and brave while at the same time being rather strange. I love the look from a distance, but not the way the trees look up close. If you are going to the bother of putting embroidered trees in large scale onto fabric, you should work on the trees actually looking like trees. (Not ‘I love this goldcoloured thread, so I am going to use it regardless.’)

    I don’t like how large scale motifs turn into very random things when you use them on a style with pleats and the like. I am glad someone explained the sleeves. But still, there are many parts where I think plain cotton would have been a better choice.
    What to score? hmmmm. I guess 6/10.

  18. Such an interesting piece – I imagine this being re-used bed curtains or hangings. Plus I do like topiary as a graphic motif. I would certainly wear this lovely gown.

  19. Nicole B. says

    It’s so fun (and so symmetrical)! I love the way the trees are executed and how they are placed. I would prefer that the trim were more opaque (reminds me of gauze bandages), but it is nicely applied.

  20. Magdalena says

    New commenter here! Personally, I think the dress looks strangely… Flat, from the back. And the design on the fabric just seems odd for the dress. I quite like the front, however; the plain bodice is a sort of respite for the eyes, and the silhouette is nice. I rate it 6 out of 10.

  21. Joy says

    I like the front of the dress more than the back. The tree design just seems odd for a dress, and it just looks strangely flat and rectangular from behind. I quite like the front, though; the plain bodice seems like a respite from the rest. I would rate it a 6/10.

  22. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    It’s all about the embroidery. And it feels unfinished.

    This is like a large but sparse polka dot – clunky.

    The rigid motif placement bothers me, one what is usually a soft style of dress.
    Fewer motifs, better placed, perhaps just around the hem, or in asymmetric groves. Or spaced like this but with a connecting tendril of hills to unify them.


  23. Wylie says

    Looove this! Very cute and modern in a pop-art kind of way. Not a huge fan of the trim though.


  24. Heather says

    I know we are well past the window for rating this, but I just discovered this dress and I love it so much that I am contemplating ordering custom crewel embroidered fabric to make a reproduction of it! It is so weird and unique and I love everything about it. If I am able to successfully make a reproduction of it, I would also like to make a solid green petticoat to go with it as well.

    10/10 would wear at every opportunity possible

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