Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Puffed sleeves & pailettes

Evening Dress, French, c. 1817, silk and wool gauze with silk satin, iron floral pailettes, silk embroidery, silk-wrapped paper, cording of silk around metal core, and glass beads, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1958-74-1

Post an ‘interesting’ dress, get an ‘interesting’ set of responses!  This week’s puffed sleeves & pailette embellished Rate the Dress pick is a little more subtly interesting: possibly somewhere between last week and the week before.  Let’s see what you make of it!

Last week: late bustle-era velvet, beading, and patterns

Not surprisingly, there was a wide range of reactions to last weeks late 1880s bustle dress.  Ratings ranged from 3 to 10.  It was not a dress that was compromising, or trying to please.  It was a dress with a definite viewpoint, and a definite opinion.

The Total: 8

I strongly suspect that the wearer of the dress wouldn’t have cared a fig what we rated it, and whether we liked it or not.  She liked it, and that was the only opinion that mattered!

And that fact rather makes me like it even more.

This week: a late Regency era evening dress

This week I’ve gone simple and classic, but with hopefully enough interesting details to keep it from being boring, with a ca. 1817 evening dress.

This week’s dress keeps to the most popular evening dress colour scheme of the first half of the 19th century: whites and very pale, muted shades.  These pale hues stood out in dimly lit rooms, reflecting the glow of candles.

This dress also features star-shaped pailettes, glass beads, and other and touches of metallics in the elaborate hem embellishment, which would have added further gleams, glitters, and sparkles to the frock.   The wearer would have twinkled her way across the dance floor, or caught the eye across the table every time she turned to her dinner partner.

What do you think?  Are the embellishments enough to suitably enliven this simple white frock?

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!)


  1. Elaine says

    I spent some time staring at the sleeves and neckline in the top picture, finally concluding I didn’t like it. But then I scrolled down and saw the hem. I really like the ornamentation of the hem, and the sleeves and neckline balance it. I love the shape of early 19th century dresses, and this one is very elegant. I’m still not crazy about the sleeves. 8/10.

  2. The embroidery, beading and applique work around the hem is lovely, unique, and well-executed. I’m a bit less fond of the gathering strip at the center of the bodice, but I like the quirky puffed-and-barred sleeves, and I’m disinclined to deduct points for the gathering strip when it works with the sleeve motif.

    As you say, Leimomi, it must have glowed, glittered, and quietly sparkled under candlelight. Under modern lighting, it would at best seem drab, but I think it unfair to penalize this gown for being so well designed for the circumstances under which it would have been worn in its time.

    10 out of 10.

  3. The embroidery on the skirt is luxurious without being blatant, and I actually like the unusual binding treatment of neckline and sleeves.

    I would love to see this in lanternlight to get the full effect of the embroidery, satin bindings and pailettes.

    9 of 10

  4. Deanna says

    Ooh lovely. I don’t care for how tightly banded the center of the sleeve is, it makes the arm seem so constricted and I feel uncomfortable looking at it. The overall silhouette is graceful, (apart from the sleeve), I like the shaped pailettes, and the wonderful embroidery, if it is a wee bit large and heavy for my taste. I love the pomegranates and the rhythm of the branch with the pomegranates and leaves combined. I am astonished that silk-wrapped paper seems to have survived intact.


    • Deanna says

      Oh, and now I am amused that pomegranates and oak leaves are growing on the same branch/vine!

  5. Emma says

    I don’t completely understand the sleeves, but overall I think it’s lovely.


  6. Karin says

    It is very pretty but I do not care much for the sleeves or neckline.
    Otherwise though it is beautiful!

  7. JessieRoo says

    It’s absolutely perfect! The only thing I see wrong with this lovely frock is that it’s not in my wardrobe.


  8. Emma says

    Lovely. The sleeves are unusual and very pretty and the embroidery is fantastic. I also really like the spangles. I don’t like the neckline as much as the rest but it’s different and interesting and works really well with the dress so it doesn’t detract from the overall look at all. In all I think this dress is elegant and beautiful.


  9. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Classic Regency dancing frock with some original touches, but not as overdone as some.

    I love the hem decor, do not like the lower sleeve in solid peach satin.


  10. Oouh. I like this one a lot – the star-dots aren’t at all what would first come to mind when I think Regency, but they aren’t so off-the-wall that it takes me completely out of it. I even like the sleeve puffs – it makes me wonder if it’s one of those cases of deliberately incorporating a historic design into what were then-modern styles. There’s something about the overall design that isn’t quite hitting a ten for me, but I would still say yes to this dress!


  11. Felix says

    Ooh, interesting! I like the unusual sleeves. They look almost like Tudor slashed sleeves- a touch of historicism? I also like the way that unlike most Regency dresses, it doesn’t have a very defined high waistline. It looks almost like a princess cut, although it probably has got a seam in there somewhere. And the details around the neckline that look almost like architectural dentils. This is a dress of unusual and interesting detail, and I like that a lot. And it doesn’t have the awkward shape of a lot of late teens/early 1820s dresses. 10/10

  12. Nanny Norfolk says

    This is lovely and it would have looked so much better by candlelight and the hem really makes it as without that decoration it would have been rather boring. I always wonder what the wearer looked like in all the rate the dresses.

  13. Sam Sam says

    I love how this is a cross over from the very simple dresses from earlier in this period to the 1820’s with big puffed sleeves and heavily padded hems. You can see those Tudor elements, with the sleeve details, but they aren’t taking over yet. The embroidery is detailed but not overwhelming and the sparkles would have been very pretty when new.

    The only bit I’m not sure of is the bodice shape and (although this isn’t a problem with the dress) I wish there was a picture of the back.


  14. Laura G. says

    An exercise in restraint of ornamentation.
    (Love the star shaped pailettes.) The satin on the sleeves doesn’t bother me. It piques my curiosity. It makes me wonder if it was an addition.


  15. Nicole B. says

    Gasp! It’s glorious! It also looks very, very expensive.
    I had no idea they used sequins/pailettes in such a way at that time–it really spiffs up the simply shaped skirt. The little poof sleeves are charming. My favorite part, though, is definitely the exquisite hem embroidery. It has so much dimension and depth to it!


  16. Elizabeth says

    I don’t think there is anything I’d change about it

  17. Magdalena says

    I’m one of those weirdos who actually *like* Regency dresses, and this doesn’t disappoint! I especially love the hem embroidery and the sleeves, which definitely add interest! For being understated but still adding interest, I’ll rate it a solid

  18. I love 1810s and -20s fancy hems!

    Personally I would have pulled up the sleeves on the shoulders, but I understand from looking at fashion plates that the almost off the shoulder look was in vogue.

    Silk and wool gauze — sounds like it would be quite soft.

    I would have liked to learn what kind of underdress the museum chose to pair it with and why. E.g. why not a coloured one.

    And most of all I would have liked to see detailed images. It makes me really appreciate the museums that provide high resolution images on their webb sites.

    What I like most of all is the contrast between the serrated and smooth edges in the depiction of the pomegranates.

    10 out of 10.

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