Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1880s evening pastels

I’m feeling a little sad that I missed so many of the amazing creations at Gala Night at Costume College, and a little sad that I couldn’t ever have taken a heavier, more elaborate dress as a Gala outfit anyway (luggage allowance woes), combined with a bit of peace that I won’t be going again anyway.

So I’ve been dream Gala dress browsing: enjoying all the heavy Victorian creations that I could never fit into a 23 kilo suitcase. This week’s dress reminds me a little of my Juno gown. Once you assembled all the accessories and undergarments they would need either would be too much of a space and weight hog to take. So we’ll just have to enjoy them online!

Last Week: a 1900s suit in ruby red wool

Last week’s red suit was clearly a bit costume-y, but in the right way, because so many of you wanted to dress your favourite heroine (or anti-heroine) in it, from Carmen Sandiego to Irene Adler.

The one bit that some of you weren’t convinced by was that neck bow with dangling tassels.

The Total: 9.5 out of 10

Practically perfect in (almost) every way.

This week: a late 1880s evening dress

This week I’ve chosen a late 1880s evening dress as the Rate the Dress feature.  This lilac and cream confection was made by Parisian label Mme Ludinart. While Ludinart’s known clients and contemporary media mentions suggest she never achieved the status of Worth, Pingat, Doucet or Drecoll, she appeared to have some devoted admirers, as well as the inevitable cachet of a Parisian couture house. Her surviving creations have a distinctive style which suggest that her clients chose her garments for their own merits: not just as cheaper alternatives to Worth et al.

This evening gown has a number of elements that appear to by typical of Ludinart’s style: muted half tones in pinks, creams and gold, a confident hand mixing textures and fabrics, and contrasting areas of plain fabric, and then highly textured trims.

Evening dress of silk brocade and chiffon, Label- Mme.Ludinart, 129 Boul. St.-Honore, Paris, French, ca. 1889, Kent State University Museum 1983.1.202 ab

There are certainly some unusual trims on this evening gown: bows on the shoulders elaborate enough to become sleeves in their own right, stiff gathered pleating demarcating the hem, and a cascade of lace frills down the back of the bodice, hiding the lacing closure, and tying the dotted net over-layer of the bodice and skirt front to the heavier patterned silk of the bodice back and train.

Evening dress of silk brocade and chiffon, Label- Mme.Ludinart, 129 Boul. St.-Honore, Paris, French, ca. 1889, Kent State University Museum 1983.1.202 ab

What do you think? The work of a dressmaker of distinction in her own right, or B-level Victorian couture?

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.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. 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. Well.

    The colors in this (blue-tinted pink, gold) are lovely, and go well together, and the fabrics are exquisite. I especially like the dotted overlay of the dress proper. And the workmanship is excellent.

    Otherwise, nothing thrills me about this dress:
    * I don’t like trains;
    * I think the gold ruffle trim at the neckline and hem of the dress looks awkward;
    * The wreathed print on the train is too wallpaper-y for my taste;
    * The long-tailed ribbon bows on the shoulders are too HUGE!

    On the other hand, this dress would not embarrass itself on the ballroom floor, either; it’s not odd, just not as elegant as I would like given the colors and materials it’s made from.

    6.5 out of 10.

  2. Even though for myself the cream and lavender-pink are not colors that would suit, they are lovely, and I like the balanced use of plain and fancy, and I find the print graceful.
    I immediately think of someone posing for Sargent, with the shoulder bows framing the face dramatically.
    9 of 10

  3. Hmm. Not a fan of pastels, especially pastels with gold, but I will ignore that. I like proportion and drape of the shoulder bows and the treatment of the back.

    I don’t like the tacked on embellishment around the bottom of the dotted net over pink skirt. It looks out of place, and instead of anchoring the piece, it’s just distracting. Plus it fights with the bodice neckline trim.

    From the back – 7.5 out of 10. From the front – 4.5 out of ten. Let’s average that for a whole-dress score of 6,

    • Elizabeth says

      The hem ruffle is a bit stiff, and I think the dress would be prettier without it. But I still rather like it.

  4. Christine F Gregory says

    I really like how the back flows out. the trim on the bottom seems like it could have been done better. 7/10.

  5. I enjoy the shoulder bows, but the rest of the details feel uninspired. The net is not really adding anything. Everything feels like a person was making do with what was in their sewing trunk. Examples are:

    One fabric on the front of the bodice, a different one is used on the back

    A lonely, tacked on looking trim along the hem

    An odd lace flounce, possibly hiding regretable closures on the back

    It does feel like B level couture. Like, “Come Jane, let’s make Charlotte a gown for the season. We must hurry and get her married off, before everyone learns we are bankrupt and she has no dowery.” “What do we have?” “A pair of curtains from the upstairs bedroom. There is netting from grandmother’s poster bed…” “I have this box of trim, but we have no buttons…”


  6. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I’m not loving it, I’m not hating it. I think it looks designed for a portrait painting rather than for proper wearing as it has strong, simple details and accents and muted colours that would allow the sitter to appear to advantage. But then I try to imagine it in movement and I’m not so convinced. I’m not particularly excited by it. Everything is nice, but somehow I’m missing a touch of personality or whimsy or individualism, and that would be the woman who wore this dress. This is one of those dresses where, as Jean Muir said of her work, “the woman makes a statement and the dress helps.”


  7. I love the pink I love the cream Just not these two shades together. I like the simplicity of the dress and the trims. 7/10.

  8. JessieRoo says

    Well, this isn’t the most dramatic fashion-statement-y dress, but it is very pretty. Sometimes dresses from this era are just too overdone; I really like how this one has large swathes of unadorned (but not plain) negative space. I also appreciate what appear to be rather subtle references to 18th century fashion that are the train and the trim at the hem. This would be perfect for someone who wanted to wear something nice, but didn’t want their clothes to steal the spotlight.

  9. Valerie says

    I like it. If I were duplicating it I would use a slightly narrower ribbon on the bow, make the train detachable and omit the trim along the hem. I like that the front is simpler than the back. Rating-9

  10. Emma says

    I really like this. It’s not over-the-top it’s just pretty and elegant. The colours go beautifully together. I don’t usually like large bows but these ones just seem like an interesting sleeve so they work really well. In fact I like all the trim (unusual for me) except that around the hem. I don’t like that so much but it doesn’t detract from the overall dress too much.


  11. Clare says

    Not a fan of this one. It feels a bit as if I am looking at two different dresses, one from the front and one from the back and they don’t entirely gel…. The colours are a little wishy washy and the pink just feels a little lacking in detail. I can’t get bathroom wallpaper out of my head…..

  12. Kathy Hanyok says

    Sorry, I’m not feeling this one. Take off the things I don’t like — the train, hem trim, the front bodice different from back,THOSE BOWS! Of course, then the dress is blah so I guess I don’t like it at all, except the color. 5

  13. vivien dwyer says

    Like the sleeve bows. Don’t like the hem trim or the train…..I’ll give it a 6.

  14. Elaine says

    From the back this isn’t bad, but not too exciting. The train looks nice and full until it gets to the floor. And then suddenly it looks flat and skimpy. Maybe that is simply due to the way it was arranged by the museum? I think the front is boring and the trim looks drab at the neck and hem. Again, maybe it just hasn’t aged well. 5/10

  15. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Color is good, like raspberry and orange cream sherbet.
    Nice silhouette, although the train needs a better foundation.

    It lacks cohesion, as if the customer had a punch list of fashionable details and materials and they were tacked onto the base dress.

    The lace at the neckline and down the back looks wispy compared to the shoulder bows and the hem trim. If the lace were replaced with the same fabric as the pleats and bows, pleated on the neckline and draped on the back and maybe a pleated edging to the train.


  16. Meh

    It’s okay, the colors don’t excite me. I don’t like the trim at the bottom of the skirt. It works okay on the neckline, but I dislike it on the hem. The train is okay, but as a general rule, meh.

    6/10 Not great not terrible

  17. Lily Lowe says

    I just discovered your site and love it. I am currently going through the “rate the dress” posts, so if you feel bombarded by my late comments, I apologize.

    I think this dress screams “French” in its fabrics and design–the bows, the fabrics, the detailed back in a contrasting color. I love the colors. I love the fabrics, and it looks well constructed and sewn. Overall, I like the dress, but I’m ambivalent about the Swiss dot tulle layer, but I think that’s because the bottom ribbon trim is fighting it.

    The bottom trim of the skirt looks too heavy, and too heavy handed, in relation to the delicateness of the tulle. I assume it was meant to balance the bows, and possibly keep the tulle weighted down and held in place, however, if it were me, I would maybe have trimmed the bottom from the underside of the hem, so you only got a peek of the trim. I feel like that would have mirrored the bows without drawing your eyes down so much, which I have to say is a pretty amazing fete given the size of the bows. That being said, this dress is all about the decolletage, so she could have left it off all together.


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