Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Crinoline Era Stripes

Stripes are a classic pattern which appear in almost every era of dress. Some fashion historians have claimed that they are most common and fashionable in eras where there has been upheaval and unrest, and there is a general desire for order and simplicity. My life certainly feels very busy and chaotic at the moment (in a good way), and this week’s striped frock, in a cool and relaxing blue and white colour scheme, just jumped out at me as the right pick for rate the dress. Maybe there is something in the claim!

Last week:  an 1890s wedding dress is muted purple with cream and mouse-brown

Everyone loves a bride, but not everyone loves a wedding dress…

Most of you felt there was a lot that was positive to say about the dress as a picture of restrained elegance and practicality. But there was also something not-quite-right about the trim, whether it was an unappealing resemblance to wasps nests, or the suspicion that it was a later add-on that wasn’t up to the general sewing and design standards of the original dress.

The Total: 7.9 out of 10

We’re dropping just a few points each week…

This week:  an 1860s day dress (part of a robe a transformation) in blue and white stripes.

This dress, from the collection of Les Arts Decoratifs, is a robe à transformation: a dress with multiple bodices, or alterable bodices, which allows it to be suitable for wearing at different times of day, or at a range of different events. Unfortunately there are no images of the other bodice to this dress available online, so we are rating the day bodice only:

Robe à transformation (day bodice only), 1868-72, Les Arts Decoratifs

Both bodice and skirt are made from a thin, lightweight (probably cotton, judging by how visible the hem is) fabric, in a rather bold blue and white stripe.

Robe à transformation (day bodice only), 1868-72, Les Arts Decoratifs
Robe à transformation (day bodice only), 1868-72, Les Arts Decoratifs

The stripe of the fabric is used to create visual interest and additional patterning, with a V drawing they eye up the back peplum to the curved back bodice panels which flow up the back like wing lines. The same Vs are repeated on the front of the peplum, drawing the eye to the bust darts. On the skirt the stripes show the exact grain of each skirt panel.

Robe à transformation (day bodice only), 1868-72, Les Arts Decoratifs

The stripes and the overall design play tricks with your eye, and your mind. From one angle the dress is almost clownishly playful, from another quite severe and restrained. Is it full of little design details, or austere in its simplicity?

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. Deanna says

    Ooh, stripes! It’s mostly lovely, all that light blue and white – the skirt stripes are just a bit “busy” in the side view. And the emphasized color in the hem looks a bit strange from the front view.


  2. Alyssa Hogan says

    The blue and white is pretty, and the oval hoop is one of my favorite silhouettes, though the stripes on the side of the skirt are awkward. It seems the perfect thing to wear to an outdoor event, with a straw hat.

  3. It could use a more elaborate collar, and a (wider? can’t tell if that blue at the waist is one or not) matching belt, but otherwise I quite like this one. A very elegant choice for summer.

    9 out of 10

  4. Tracy Ragland says

    It’s so pretty for spring! I have a couple problems with the skirt, however. First, the stripes meet very awkwardly at the side seams. Given how perfectly the bodice stripes were handled, this seems careless. Also, I would have lightly underlined the wide hem area so that the blue wasn’t so intense there.


  5. Pattie says

    I love this style; not sure about the stripes. 8.75 out of 10.

    I’m learning to see; I love your page

  6. Rachel says

    I love this shape of crinoline-skirts, and blue and white stripes are right up my alley! The stripe matching on the bodice is lovely! All this being said, I’m not crazy about where the bodice and skirt join, or the trim.

    I’ll give it an 8/10

  7. Trish Files says

    All my favorite things: stripes, blue and white, chevron matching.


  8. Mandy Duvall says

    These stripes read to my modern eye as very menswear-ish and I love the juxtaposition of that against a very feminine dress (even if it wasn’t the intention of the day). I wish there were a better image of the trim of the bodice.


    • Wonda says

      I agree about the modern nod to menswear (which is why I’m attracted to it). It’s very interesting about the stripes being a social marker of upheaval. I like that it seems to sit in between serious and playful-mascline and feminine. I love the “V” in the peplum. I really want to see the other bodice or an example of what it might look like (I’m not too educated when it comes to the historical clothing-just interested and different kind of cultural scholar).

  9. This would make a great summer dress (perhaps that was what it was made for?), what with is being so light colored and sheer, it would be nice and cool.
    I like dress on the whole, the blue and white stripe is nice and classic.
    The only thing I am not a fan of is the peplum and its accompanying triangular front attachment things (I can’t remember their proper name for the life of me).
    I give it a 9.

  10. Rebecca hileman says

    I see green in the stripes but maybe it’s my computer screen. If there are a few subtle green stripes it would make sense of the green peplum trim. I love the pleats in the skirt but the peplum trim seems heavy. Matching stripes in the sleeves has a nice effect and shows skill. Nice lines. The blue and white fabric is classic. I give it an 8 and wish I could see the other bodices.

  11. Karen Motylewski says

    I love this. It looks feminine, but the stripes keep it cool and elegant. The striping angles keep the dress interesting as you notice new details from each angle. So sad that we don’t have the other bodices.

  12. I think I wish there was something more going on at the collar, but other than that I have no complaints about this one! I really like the pointed peplum – it’s just enough to give the dress a little something ‘more’ without being overwhelming.


  13. Emma Capponi says

    I want to wear this dress to the seaside! I wish we could see the other bodices too!


  14. Lindsey says

    I think it’s a beautiful warmer weather dress. The stripes on the sides seem a bit funky in the photo, but they also look consistent and I imagine that it would be a smoother look if the wearer were walking. I rather like the peplum and the bodice shaping, but I’m not so sure about the very blue of the hem. I agree with the others that a facing or something to tone down the brighter overlapping stripes might be nice.


  15. Kathy Hanyok says

    Yes, it does remind me of Renoir, but it also reminds me of a down comforter. Not my favorite, although I do admire the construction.7/10

  16. Becky says

    Love the stripes. I’m trying to decide if they should be closer.. Too close would make it a shirt! Great craftsmanship!

  17. Nicole B. says

    Magnificent execution with those difficult stripes! I love the color, shape, piecing, and playful presence of the dress. My only reservation is the transparency of the fabric. I don’t like the effect it has on the hem, or how it would allow all of the undergarment lines to show. I suppose it would be cooler to wear, but it would still have a corset and etc. under it, so how much could that help?

    I give it a 9.

  18. Veronica says

    I love the silhouette of mid-Victorian fashion – something about the huge skirt that just so far away from modern fashion is really appealing. Impractical, but I like it nonetheless. Blue and white is a whimsical colour scheme, rather pleasant really, so that’s a bonus. I agree that the side stripes look a bit funny – maybe it wasn’t properly smoothed out (or whatever the term is) for the photos. But overall, I’m adoring the neat little Vs all over the bodice where the stripes match up. (Side note: I’m terrified of making anything with stripes or chevron pattern for fear that they won’t all line up!)

  19. Crisp and clean looking as I dream of Spring. Blue & white very pleasing, though not a fan of stripes. Not sure about the peplum; I see that it elevates the dress from simple around the house to receiving guests, but to me it looks like an afterthought despite the lively stripe matching in back.

  20. dropping stitches says

    I like the shape and the stripes. I feel like the bodice is too buttoned up for a summer, lightweight dress. I don’t expect a low cut neckline, just the slightest V-shape so the poor lady can breathe and be cool! The full skirt is lovely and fun. She can hide her bare feet underneath and walk on the beach.


  21. I’m a big fan of this era.
    I see this dress and I immediately want to know who wore it, where she wore it, how she felt wearing it, was it her favorite summer outfit? What did the other bodice look like. Did she wear that one more often and so it did not survive? Did the other bodice experience a fatal tea or marmalade stain during a visit to the sea side that one summer. What assessories were chosen ? Not to mention hair styling. And the really big question, what was her life like? Who was she, what was her legacy?
    I love this, and not a ruffle in site. I love the deep V peplum, and the silhouette of the dress. I love the blue stripes and how they look on the skirt, their effects on the bodice and peplum.
    This is the type of vintage dress that motivates me to sew one up for myself, to experience what it would be to wear this beautiful dress.

    10/10 !

  22. Mary Ann Hadley says

    Nice and simple, as a day dress should be. I love the color, the stripe, the silhouette overall. It is so easy to dress up or down with a few accessories like a jabot or collar and cuffs. I see a simple straw hat and a beach side stroll. It’s a welcome change for those of us who are in wintry conditions!


  23. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Love it! It’s so cool and crisp looking, like summers in the park, flirting with French sailors and eating ice cream.

    Wonderful job on the stripes in the sleeves, peplum and bodice front. The back misses, but that seam layout is the enemy of stripes. The pert “follow me” chevrons on the peplum make up for it. The skirt doesn’t seem to match stripes, but it might be the way the folds are going. They are matched at the upper edge of the hem very nicely, giving the darker ‘trim” appearance.

    Sheerness doesn’t bother me, because a sheer dress with a lacy corset cover was the 1860s version of a 1960s miniskirt … daringly revealing.


  24. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I’m sure I’ve seen this in a Monet painting. I love its freshness and cleanness and simplicity. It looks light and buoyant and summery and I would love to see it accessorised. My main criticism is that there’s not much to criticise, but it is deeply pleasing, so 9/10

  25. Jennifer Wells says

    I love it. I love the “go big or go home” stripe. Love the colors. In the summer, I often wear collared tunics out of muslin or chambray (almost always blue or white or a combo) that are basically the modern rendition of this dress. I really would really love to see the other bodice options! The only thing knocking off points for me are the hem’s color problem (lining would help, but then again, adds bulk so…) and partial mismatched stripes (so obviously well done in the bodice that the lack thereof becomes more noticeable in the skirt). I too would like to understand the hem depth. Is it extra fabric available to repair worn or dirty skirt bottoms?


    • Deanna says

      I would think the hem depth was at least partly to add weight, in this case. Hopefully someone can share more about it.

  26. Johanne says

    Because this reminds me of Monet’s “Women in the Garden” which shows this style in movement and because it pleases me in every way . . .


  27. Bridget Clancy says

    I am surprised at the dating range given. This dress is clearly not from 1872. To my eye, it could also easily be from earlier than 1868.

    Anyway, I love blue and white stripes. This is a nice breezy day dress for summer. It also gets points for the nice use of stripe placement along the seams of the basque/overskirt. I kind of wish there was more of the clever use of stripes in the bodice. Overall, though, this is a solid “it’s fine” for me. I want to be swept off my feet by a dress. This is perfectly lovely, but it doesn’t do that.

  28. Dr Baugh says

    I love it. I love the “v” on the peplum. The fabric is timeless–something we see still. The comment about upheaval is interesting. I would love to see an example of what the other bodices would have looked like. I love this dress. I don’t even like to wear dresses and I would have picked this one-I guess it is that nod to modern menswear the previous commenter mentioned! 10!

  29. Wonda says

    Love the “V”. Seems to be both serious and frivolous, masculine and feminine…I love the stripe. Very interested in finding an example of the other bodice. I find it facilitating that stripes may appear in times of upheaval…I wonder why. Is it rooted in some type of subconscious thing or something more about some kind religious symbolism/ideology. So much to learn!


  30. Nynke says

    during the cloudy and rainy late-winter weather we’ve been having this dress immediately made me daydream about being in one of Monet’s summer picknicks… lovely in its relative simplicity. only the hem is a bit odd, maybe a white facing would have helped?


  31. Ahna says

    *swoon* utterly sublime. Beautiful in its simplicity, not fussy yet enough interest to hit that sweet spot. Absolutely deserves a garden party to show it off. Pity we can’t see the other bodice.

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