Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Puffed sleeves & polka dots

Last week’s Rate the Dress was very spring-y, and extremely popular.  This week’s puffs and polka dots Rate the Dress looks towards winter, and the coming holidays (because November 20 is my arbitrary date for Christmas-y stuff not being disgustingly early).  Will it be equally popular?

Last week:  an 1770s-80s pink gown

Well, strawberry ice cream is everyones favourite flavour of dress, because no one disliked last week’s dress.  In fact, every score but one was a 9 or above.  And most were 10s.

The Total: 9.9 out of 10

In Rate the Dress terms, that is a PERFECT score!

This week: an 1890s dress in dark green ribbed velvet and chiffon, with appliqued polka dots, puffed sleeves and more

Jeanne Hallee isn’t the most famous of late 19th century label, and unlike her better known contemporaries (Worth, Pingat et al), she is considered a dressmaker, rather than a couturier.  Nonetheless her creations were very high end in their own time, and certainly came with a fair bit of cachet.

Her extent garments all show the unmistakable signs of being extremely well made, and generally have a very distinct character, almost a quirkyness.

This week’s dress is no exception.  The soft, draping ribbed velvet (almost a silk corduroy), blouson bodice, and full, sloping sleeves lean towards the aesthetic movement.  Their swish and slight droop setting them apart in an era of stiff fabrics and aggressively padded sleeves.

Dinner dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), 1894—96, French, cotton, silk, metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.374a, b

Dinner dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), 1894—96, French, cotton, silk, metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.374a, b

The dress is made more unusual, even amongst its aesthetic counterparts, by the touch of vivid crimson at the neck, boldly contrasting with the moss green velvet and chiffon, and by the playful polka-dotted appliques which adorn the chiffon of the upper bodice and skirt stripes.

Dinner dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), 1894—96, French, cotton, silk, metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.374a, b

The dots are so similar in hue to the chiffon that from a distance they would be very subtle: visible only by the way the light caught the ridges of the velvet.

Dinner dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), 1894—96, French, cotton, silk, metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.374a, b

Up close they are a bold, distinct, and integral part of the dress design.

Dinner dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), 1894—96, French, cotton, silk, metal, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.374a, b

In contrast to the almost graphic simplicity of the skirt, the bodice yoke and sleeves are elaborately detailed and ruffled.

The fine pleating of the chiffon echoes the ridges of the corduroy, and the metallic banding, now sadly tarnished, is used to form trompe l’oeil bracelets and necklaces at wrist and yoke.

This is definitely a very distinctive garment – one for someone with a strong personal sense of style.

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!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)


  1. I love it! Visually interesting without being overwhelming, creative, and the colour is fantastic.


  2. Although I’ covet the fabric, I’m less covetous of the garment itself. While I can appreciate the skill that must have gone into its construction, I find the quirky elements discordant rather than quirky. I could appreciate the polka dots if the collar and cuffs were of a simple netting, preferably dyed to match, The visual magnet of the dots vs. the visual magnet of the fancy collar/cuffs make my vision zigzag uncomfortably. The red ribbon trim makes me think of a misplaced large rubber band.

    7.5 of 10

  3. ‘Whimsical’ was the first word that came to my mind; so correct with the high neck and fully covered arms but…the dots just made me smile. I could imagine the wearer to be someone who didn’t take herself too seriously and was rather fun to be around. ‘Quirkiness’ is a good word, too, but I didn’t find it terribly discordant. In fact, the more I look at it, the more fun it seems. 10/10

  4. Charleen says

    10. Although there are elements I don’t like, it all looks lovely when put together.

  5. You must have missed my score last week; I was the exception with an 8!
    This one I’ll have to let marinate for a bit, it’s late and I was just curious if there was a new RTD at this point in time…

    • I didn’t miss your score! You were the ‘but one’ in “every score but one was a 9 or above” 🙂 You definitely got counted!

      • Oops, so I guess I was more out of it than I thought!
        This one, I’m finding out, is too quirky for my liking. The details are very lovely, but the whole is too inconsistent.

  6. Rachel says

    There’s a fun quality to this dress I enjoy. It almost looks like a costume for an eccentric lady in a steampunk or historical fantasy movie. And it has its own rich elegance.

    But it also likes really toady and bilious to me. Which isn’t necessarily bad, if you like toads (and why not like toads? They’re cute.), but it’s not a particularly flattering look. The overfussed collar is quite jarring and almost looks like a parody of that style – again, a bit like a modern costume reflecting on the absurdities of the past.

    This would be a good costume for a witch character who almost comes across as a normal, conventional person, but not quite. Along with toads, the dots make me think of a bubbling cauldron

    This is definitely a dress you can swan around in, but you’re going to raise some eyebrows.


    • Rachel says

      That should be “looks really toady and bilious”. I should’ve focused less on toads and the spelling of bilious and more on proofreading!

  7. JessieRoo says

    So different, yet just as lovely as last week’s dress.

  8. Ava Loy says

    The placement of the polka dots on the bust isn’t quite getting in done for my tastes. The scale is too big or something seems off. But the neckline is just wonderful. So are the sleeves, and I think I like the silver bands better tarnished and darker. Velvet combined with chiffon is an elegant combination and the burnt orange pop at the neck is a nice detail. I like the lower polka dots.


  9. J H Madison says

    Like the dress overall. Don’t like the polka dots on the bodice (just not fond of big spots on clothing….reminds me of eyes!!) Not crazy about the red around the neckline…kinda reminds be of a pimento in an olive. Score: 7.

  10. Crumpled Rag says

    It’s gorgeous, I want to wear it now. Helped by the fact that green is my favourite colour!
    (I might just remove the frilly bow, as that’s a personal dislike of mine)
    I’m even trying to figure out how to turn the faded old green velvet curtains I’ve got into a version of this!

  11. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    I would so wear that! With a red silk petticoat that matched the ribbon, and a hat with a red and green feathers. Maybe even red kid gloves.

    It fits well into the era’s style but in an individual way. The ribbed silk is luscious, the sleeves and collar perfectly in style, and the trim très amusant without being gauche.

    I would love to see the back, but I have a feeling it’s a simple pleated flare that is easy to sit in.


  12. Grace Darling says

    Something about this dress makes me wonder what it would look like restyled for
    later fashions; the poofy sleeves and lacy frills pared back. Perhaps handed down to
    younger sisters, less fortunate cousins. Definitely a frock to go the distance.


  13. The color of the silk velvet, when seen in a strong enough light, is beautiful. But this dress is another dress plagued by diverse design elements that do not work well together.

    7 out of 10.

  14. Elaine says

    “Too much everything” sums up this dress for me. I’ve given it 24 hours trying to be fair, and I still think “Too much!” 5/10

  15. Sarah Gabbey says

    I love the deep, lush green, the pop of red-orange, the contrasting textures, and the dots. This dress is definitely weird, but compelling weird. I think I would wear this, and I do not generally care for the 1890s.


  16. I love this, as green is a favourite colour. But I have wondered If the date of the dress is correct? I think it has all the characteristics of an early 1900s dress, about 1904-05..
    It is still a gorgeous design!

    • I agree that those characteristics of this dress do look more Edwardian, but they were seen earlier in aesthetic inspired dress. It’s a classic case of a niche movement going on to inspire and influence widespread fashion a few years later. Hallee’s work is pretty well documented, and the Met has had a lot of resources to devote to dating, so I’m going to trust that they are accurate with this one.

  17. Breanna says

    I love it! Definitely something I would have worn had I been born during that time. It was made just a few years before my great grandfather was born actually! 🙂


  18. Sam Sam says

    Very arts and crafty! I love it, especially it’s quirkiness. There’s one thing that bugs me though, it’s the bodice fabric where it joins the yoke, the velvet is just a bit too heavy to lay nicely with the organza and it gives a bit of a saggy boobs look. If the seam was a bit higher or the yoke had a curved seam where it joins the velvet I think it would have laid better.

    It’s a 7.5 from me.

  19. WENDY says

    generally i love green velvet but this dress just has way too much going on. Five different elements to the sleeves, not counting the silver bracelets? I think not. 5/10

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