This week Rate the Dress is going from not-a-polonaise to actually-a-polonaise, with dresses separated in time by a century. Last week’s was exquisitely presented, this week’s choice less so – but hopefully you’ll find it no less worthy of comment.
Last week: a painted silk ca 1780s not-a-polonaise.
You thought this dress was practically perfect in every way: it even racked up a total of 360 points: a round of applause if I ever saw one! It lost a few points for the not-matched but not-not matched bodice, which I quite expected. But otherwise…pretty much fabulous.
The Total: 9.5/10
Since last week’s dress wasn’t an actual polonaise, I thought I’d pick a real one this week. Not a real 18th century polonaise dress, but one from another era that used the term.
1870s and 1880s ‘polonaise’ dresses were bustle dresses with the bodice and bustling overskirt cut in one, and the bustling overskirt opening over the (often contrasting) underskirt in a V, inspired by 18th century dresses which opened over petticoats. The overall aesthetic as well as the use of the term ‘polonaise’ was a deliberate nod to the 18th century.
Victorian polonaise gowns were just one part of the Georgian revivalism so fashionable in the second half of the 18th century (other examples I’ve covered are 1870s Louis heels, 1860s-80s Pompadour fabrics or Pompadour taffeta, and 1860s bergere , but they have contributed to the modern confusion around ‘robe a la polonaise’ dresses.
The front of this dress, with its open bodice front that evokes a stomacher, and open skirt, is classic Victorian polonaise. The back view is a little less straightforward: the butterfly bustle on this 1880s gown could just as easily be referencing 17th century mantua as late 18th century pick-ups.
This dress is an example I’d love to see given a full museum treatment and presentation. Auction houses are under significant time and financial constraints, so their mannequins and steaming are less than ideal, and it’s definitely not doing this dress any favours.
I know it’s not the ideal presentation, but let’s not hold that against the dress. What do you think of it?
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. 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!)