Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Bustle Era Roses

Blue-grey silk faille day dress with applique, embroidery, and beading, Label- Mme. Chamas, 66 rue des Petits Champs, Paris, France, ca. 1890, Kentucky State University Museum 1983.1.178 ab

Last week’s dress wasn’t exactly a universal success.  But it did spark a lot of very interesting conversations about what it was worn for, and what inspired its design.  And interesting discussions are what Rate the Dress is really about.  So, whether you like it or not, hopefully this week’s pick will be equally interesting.

Last week: A young lady’s formal day dress, ca 1915

Half of you loved the ca. 1915 day dress, or could at least see what it was going for, and rated it consequently.  But the other half of you didn’t like, well, so many things: the not quite white colour; the almost symmetrical front and back; the way the ruffles didn’t carry around to the front of the skirt; the fussiness; the details on details; and most of all, the vertical bow.

I really enjoyed all of the suppositions about the design influences and purpose of this garment: Mrs C showing how effective it would be in black and white photography, Hvitr’s guess that it might very well be inspired by the Knossos excavations, Susan pointing out that it would be perfect for a piano recital.  Interestingly, no one online noticed that the vertical bow that vexed so many of you was probably based on obi.

The Total: 6.9 out of 10

I hope our young lady did better at her piano recital!

This week:

Since rose red wasn’t such a hit last week, this week I’m trying for literal roses: or at least figural ones, embroidered on an 1880s skirt.

I think we’ll all have to agree that the embroidery on this dress is spectacular.

It’s lush, opulent, and unique.  And the pairing with the appliques is quite striking.

I really wish there were more images of this dress, showing the details and the angles.  Sadly, we’ll have to rate it just on the front view.

What do you think?  Is embroidery + applique a success?

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!)


  1. The workmanship of the embroidery is truly remarkable, and I love the subtle sophistcation of the color choices. The placement of the embroidery on the jacket beautifully reinforces the lines of the figure.

    The only niggle I have is that the scale of the roses on the skirt strikes me as slightly too large, but that may simply be a matter of personal preference, so I’ll still rate it 10 of 10

  2. What a shame we don’t have any other images. I’d love to see the details and I bet it’s doing something interesting round the back. From the front I love it. The use of colour and pleating to highlight the decorative elements is very good, and the embroidery is beautiful, and I always appreciate an asymmetrical skirt.


  3. Gorgeous! What a standout! I think the embroidery and applique work well together especially on the asymmetrical skirt. The colors are lush and the bodice pleating is a great detail.


  4. I had high hopes for this dress when I saw the header. Roses! Bustle! When I look at it, I don’t like it though. I just want to rip off that front panel with the embroidery and the appliques, it looks too much as if she just took a matching table cloth and wrapped it around her. I can see the wonderful workmanship, but it just doesn’t get me excited. I do like the trim on the bodice, but I guess it was just too much for me on the skirt.

    It’s still wonderful workmanship, and I like the bodice so

    6 out of 10.

  5. 10! Roses, applique and embroidery, large scale, asymmetry, blue ish) and brown together, so many things I love!

  6. Laura Macfehin says

    I love it! The front panel reminds me of embroidered silk postcards (which is a good thing in my mind) I love the scale of the embroidery and the colours together. The blue looks a little faded around the hem– I wonder how bright the blue was originally? Strong 7.5/10

  7. Lynne McDonald says

    I agree with Laura – the front panel is like one of those postcards. Which is good in a way, but a bit unsettling. I love the applique work, and the dress is stylish. But what I’m working my way towards, is that I don’t feel the embroidery goes with the applique. I’d drop the roses, on both top and skirt. How’s that for revolutionary?

    8 out of 10.

  8. This doesn’t look like a young woman’s gown, but the embroidery and applique are exquisite. I love the combination of the fitted bodice and the spreading floral embroidery. And although the color scheme is not one of my favorites, it is perfect and harmonious in and of itself. It would look smashing on a blonde woman, or perhaps a strawberry blonde.

    This is another dress that I wouldn’t wear myself, but which I still think is perfect of its kind. A perfect 10.

  9. Emma says

    I like this one a lot but I think it needs either the roses or the trim. I just don’t think they really go together. (At least on the skirt, on the bodice they do better.) I still like it though. It’s unusual and very striking.


  10. april pressley says

    It is beautiful, the display dummy is perfect too. Love all of it, so

  11. Wylie says

    Gosh this is delicious. I can’t find a fault.


  12. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    One other picture – still full front, but it shows it has a train back there.

    Meh. I like the shape of the dress, the color of the silk, and it’s a sedately rich dress to entertain in, BUT the combination of applique and roses does nothing for me – because they do nothing for each other. If the applique had been of smaller roses or rose leaves or if the roses had had red in them to back up the red and gold of the applique they would be better.

    As it is, it’s like they were picked from a checklist of what is in fashion with not thought to a harmonic whole.


  13. I like a lot about this dress, especially the curving front lines of the bodice (for average- or lesser-endowed women, perhaps?) and the color. Even in its faded state. The rose embroidery is lovely, and I, unlike a lot of other commenters, actually like the shape and gold trim of the applique work. But there is one jarring note in this otherwise harmonious ensemble. The dark red of the applique, while a nice color in its own right, does NOT match the rest of this dress’s color scheme at all.
    9 out of 10…in a black and white photo you couldn’t tell the red clashes, after all.

  14. Hearthrose says

    A sophisticated, elegant dress – with interest.

    Of course the embroidery and the applique are amazing. I think they set each other off well – that the gold highlights of the applique match the embroidery, and that the red brings depth to the whole.

    I’m seeing this on a woman with red highlights in her hair, someone in her 30s or up.


  15. Elizabeth says

    I think it’s a lovely example of lavish restraint. (If that isn’t too much of an oxymoron.) In my opinion the dark red adds a spark to what would otherwise be a rather boring color scheme.

  16. I think it’s beautiful. I find the symmetry of the decoration on the bodice and the asymmetry of the decoration on the skirt very effectful together. I especially like how the embroidery on the skirt is on top of the pleats at the top and then seemingly continues under the pleat at the bottom. I wonder if it’s wisteria behind the roses. Might there be a Japanese influence? I think the colours work very well together. It’s too bad there are no better photos. I would have liked to be able to look at it in detail.

    10 out of 10

  17. Magdalena says

    The embroidery is quite something! The colors don’t really jive with me, but the rest is beautiful.


  18. Heather says

    I want to like this but it just doesn’t work for me. To my eye, the two trims don’t make sense in relation to one another. I’d love to see this dress with a trim that complimented the rose appliques a bit better. The whole effect with the current trims is a bit cluttered and busy for me.

  19. Nicole B. says

    Wowzah! This is everything I love about late Victoriana! It is so sharp and yet so feminine!
    The cut and appliques really, really accentuate the female shape–without over-exaggerating it. The sleeves aren’t too tight nor too poofy. The asymmetrical layout of the skirt decoration looks Asian-inspired but the combination of the applique and embroidery is sumptuous. The colors are subtle but interesting. Also, I want to rub that silk between my fingers!
    I, too, wish we could see all 360 degrees of it.

  20. Christine Krebs says

    I give this dress a 10/10 given what we can dee of it. I find the combination of colors, embroidery/applique, and shaping absolutely beautiful (especially for a lady who is out of the firt blush of youth). I only hope that hte back of the dress is as lovely and tasteful.

  21. Elizabeth Job says

    Beautiful. The colours are amazing together, and the balance of intricate embroidery and applique in such a simple configuration on a quite plain dress with just a few pleats works so well, like a feature wall!
    10/10, would wear.

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