Rate the Dress: Embellished prints, 1920s

I know I just did a 1920s dress for Rate the Dress the week before last, but this week’s 1920s day dress, in printed silk, is so different from the gold and orange evening number, that I don’t think it’s too much of a repeat

Last week:  a ca 1870 dress in deep raspberry pink, with two types of fringing

I feel like last week’s Rate the Dress was an apple. All December I fed you a diet of decadent treats: chocolate, and puddings, and cakes, and sugarplums. And then the first week in Jan comes, and I hand you a piece of fruit, and no-one is interested! Those who did rate liked the dress well enough, but it certainly didn’t set any records.

The Total: 8.1 out of 10

However, if I could find a way to factor how many comments and votes a dress got into it’s rating, this would have fared much worse. It did not attract your interest!

This week: a 1920s day dress in printed silk

This mid 20s frock may be a day dress, but it is anything but informal. The style and embellishments would have made it suitable wear for a wedding guest, or at the most formal of garden parties or afternoon dances.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The printed pattern of the silk is embellished with glass beads, which add glitter and movement to the fabric. They are more than just decorative though: the weight of the beads is helping to hold the hem in place, and to keep the waistband sitting properly.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The silk fabric is patterned with an abstract feather design which is reminiscent of Egyptian art: a similarity that is made more pronounced by the careful placement of a curved feather motif around the neck, where it evokes a wesekh collar.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The overall effect is both bold and subtle. It attempts to balance extremely trendy and extreme tasteful.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

Does it succeed?

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. Although my own preference is for bolder colors, this is so exquisite that I can’t fault it for its pale subtelty.

    I would so love to see it on someone in motion to get the full effect of the beading.

    10 of 10

  2. Rachel says

    I like this a lot – so elegant and assured of itself, but still relaxed. The texture reminds me of snakeskin without being too literal or obvious, adding to its sinuous quality. It’s a bit busy, but it still works.


  3. Buttercup says

    I prefer brighter and more vibrant colours but there is something very elegant and sophisticated about this dress. I like how it drapes so beautifully and reminds me of Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. I’m giving it 9/10.

  4. It is exceedingly clever. I see how the beading is essential to make the dress hang properly, keep the waistband in place, etc.

    But in my opinion, it’s definitely not a thing of beauty, let alone a dress that would make a woman look more beautiful. The horizontal lines of the print clash with the flowing curves of the embroidery, and the delicacy of the print motifs make the dress itself appear to be washed-out in color.

    If last week’s dress was an apple, this one’s a rice cake–healthful but unappealing to many.

    6 out of 10.

  5. Jill Corbie says

    I really really don’t like the colors of this dress, but I can’t imagine it being any other way– the shapes in the print echoing the hem and the beading probably couldn’t really be achieved otherwise? It seems superbly planned and executed, very elegant, and yet understated somehow.


  6. dropping stitches says

    I’m new to the blog (such gorgeous work!) and this is my first rate the dress. Hope I do it justice. I love the beading, particularly at the waist and the scalloped hem. The print is an unusual choice but it works because they’re muted colors. A long strand of pearls and a fabulous cloche and you’re all set.

    8.5 of 10

  7. I like the shape of the dress and admire the quality of work. I do not like the fabric pattern at all. 4/10. Sorry.

  8. Gillian Stapleton says

    I’m not usually a huge fan of 1920s dresses, but this one really is special – exquisite fabric, tasteful embellishment, well thought out details. A gorgeous piece.

  9. I know it is hardly fair to pin the 1980s obsession with the 1920s on an original 1920s dress, but this just reminds me so much of the 80s. Especially fabric with little binkies on it in washed out colours. I do very much like the beadwork and it does sit well and it has lots of lovely delicate details. I can imagine this worn with a wide brimmed straw hat with golden raffia flowers looking amazing. However I can’t love it. It’s just Curate’s Egg – not equal to the sum of its parts.

    • And thank you, MrsC, for introducing me to the expression “Curate’s Egg”. Now that I’ve looked it up, I expect to have many uses for it–and not just for Rate the Dress!

  10. Christina Kinsey says

    A beautiful dress! I woulden’t suit such a style , but the fabric has a lovely subtle colouring and pattern. Looking at it again I can see how the pattern has been used to enhance the design and the beauty of the beadwork. Interesting sleeves too.
    Overall a 9 , as it is not the easiest style to wear well but could look stunning on the right person

  11. Sam Sam says

    Not a huge fan I’m afraid. I dislike the print and the washed out colours and the cuffs and sleeves, I think it’s just going to look voluminous even on someone tall and slender. I’m going to give it marks for the beading which is pretty and is doing a very good job of giving form to the dress.


  12. Mimsy says

    I disliked this dress on first glance, and wasn’t even going to comment – but it keeps growing on me. It’s one of those cases where a thing isn’t my style but I’d almost feel guilty docking points for that because it’s excellent at being what it is.

    I love that it’s subtle, sophisticated, that the beading both blends and rises out of the pattern in such an organic way that it seems all one whole thing like the skin of some strange beast. The pattern and color initially reminded me of the worst of 90s corporate upholstery but staring at it longer – and most importantly taking into consideration the subtle beading – makes me think instead of some kind of graceful female water fowl, whose plumage may be muted but still lovely.

    So although I’m still wobbling between this and a much lower rating, at this moment I’m feeling like:

  13. Sandra says

    I’d give it a 10. It’s beautiful, delicate and refined.

  14. rachel says

    I love the delicate patterning and the flow of the fabric.


  15. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    Can’t say it’s setting my world on fire either. It’s a well conceived design in a kind of blah fabric in sort of blah colours in a sort of blah print which hides/camouflages how beautiful the beading really is. You lose the beautiful bits in the boring bits, as opposed to the beautiful bits elevating the boring bits. It’s a nice enough dress, but hopefully the wearer was un-blah enough to elevate it.

    Because there’s elements of beauty and clever design lost in the blah, I’m giving it 4/10.

  16. Crumpled Rag says

    Well, I usually love brown tones, but this is yuk. The beadwork and overall style of the dress is lovely, just not in this print… oh well. 5/10

  17. Do not like. In fact, it’s everything I dislike about 1920s style turned up to ten (which is the only kind of ten it could ever dream of getting from me). My instant reaction was “patterned sack”. It could be worse, but at that point, it would almost have to be *trying* to be worse.


  18. Julie says

    I’m torn on this one-while I readily acknowledge the cleverness of the design, I rather feel that the print drowns the beadwork (or perhaps the beadwork is too delicate for the bold print). It nice to see a more subtle take on 20’s glamour, but this just looks unremittingly drab to me. Points for the careful and deliberate print placement-the back neckline is ingenious, though, again, the beadwork just looks misplaced.

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