Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 20s velvet

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920's. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

Sorry all, jet-lag has done a number on me this week, and I’m very behind with Rate the Dress. So this week’s Rate the Dress will be a quickie: you’ll only have until the usual day to leave a comment. Hopefully you’re able to make up your mind quickly!

Last [last] Week: a late 1770s dress with fascinating fabrications

Last week’s Rate the Dress was another one of those ones where people either really liked it, or really didn’t. The lovers thought it beautiful and unusual, and the loathers thought it overly fussy, with dull colours.

The Total: 8 out of 10

Nice but not amazing

This week: a 1920s dress in complementary velvet hues

Today’s Rate the Dress is less ornamented than last week’s, but while this 1920s robe de style does have a simple silhouette, it’s not devoid of decoration, with a braided sash and beaded hem.

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920’s. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

Robe de styles were the alternative to the very straight, sleek 20s silhouette, with fuller skirts, and a softer, more romantic style. At their most most extreme, robe de style had very full skirts, with extra fabric at the sides so they could be worn over 18th century inspired paniers. They were frequently quite ruffly and pastel-y.

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920's. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions
Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920’s. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

Like many dress styles, there is no firm line between what was a robe de style, and what was a standard 20s dress. This example, with its moderately full skirt, simple neckline, and vivid, modern colours, straddles the line. Only the full skirt pushes it into robe de style territory.

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920’s. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

One can imagine a dress like this being worn by a woman who liked the shapes of robe de styles, but the more assertive colours and trims used.

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920's. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions
Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920’s. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

There is something quite artistic about the use of the complementary hues, and while the shape is simple, and the braided sash looks quite easy to do, the rather unexpectedly delicate beading around the hem speaks of the time, expense, and quality of the dressmaking.

Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920's. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions
Robe de Style, Sadie Nemser, 1920’s. Tangerine silk velvet, beaded hem, Whitaker Auctions

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. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    antiquedress.comWOW! That’s the 20s stripped down to the essentials … loose enough skirt for dancing, a bit of glitter in the skirt and pure color. Love it.

    I’m working through old French fashion magazines and the totally tubular “flapper” dress is not as common as fuller skirted ones yet. The full skirts just stay in fashion from the mid teens.

    Sadie Nemser was a high-end New York (10 E 46th in 1919) dress designer and maker with a small set of customers. First Lady Grace Coolidge wore her gowns. She reportedly did not repeat a design.

    Here’s a floofier robe de style by her:

    As for the orange velvet? I would give it a


  2. Tegan says

    This is one of those pieces that needs the accessories. Gloves, hair, jewels, shoes, all would add to this dress. Its a beautiful canvas for a woman to shine in, and I love both the color and the beading, but its a little meh for me. The twisted belt looks like an afterthought and the shape is too plain to give me a Wow factor.

    (just a comment to say how awesome that a fellow commenter knows this designer!)

    So. For excellently made, but non exciting I give this.


      • Steph says

        Oh poor Sadie Nemser! To have gone from designing dancing dresses to having her children argue in court about amputating her foot!

      • Cara says

        That is fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

        For anyone without time to read. Ms. Beamer became infirm and had gangrene related to diabetes in her foot. A doctor recommended amputation and said it was potentially a matter of life and death. She was unable to give informed consent, and one of three sons felt – for concrete reasons – the amputation wasn’t medically appropriate and refused to consent. The other two did consent and sued for a court order authorizing the surgery. The court refused to give the authorization, partially because the refusing son had more evidence on his side. But, most of the ruling is the court saying to the hospital “if it’s really a matter of life and death, you don’t need my authorization. That’s your decision. If you need me to decide, then it’s not really life and death, and I won’t do it.” And ranting about medical professionals asking the courts to get involved. I have to wonder what courts would think of this now. It hasn’t been that long, but the face of malpractice litigation has certainly changed.

  3. The shape I find lovely. The color splendid, and I like the trim.
    However, I find the heaviness of velvet and the flimsiness of the bodice style a mismatch. If this had been fashioned from a light silk, I would have graded it higher, but as it is…

    8 of 10

  4. Melissa says

    7 out of 10. The fabric seems too heavy for the delicate lines of this style of dress. I do love orange, and the embroidery at the hem is gorgeous. The sash takes away from it, I think a different one (not braided) would look better.

    • Sharon Micenko says

      Silk velvet isn’t heavy, though. It’s very light and utterly gorgeous.

  5. Tracy Ragland says

    I’m a sucker for velvet! I like the simplicity of the design a great deal. I’m scoring it down only because I really hate the colors.


  6. Olivia Sanders says

    I like this dress a lot. Reminiscent of a Renaissance or Medieval gown with the deep orange and rich velvet, it has a princess air. It also makes me think of the hippie skirts that would come in the next 50 years. I’m not a huge fan of orange myself, but I appreciate it on this dress. The beading is delicate and the sash adds interest.


  7. Veronica says

    I’m not a big fan. I’m even lucky enough to be able to wear orange in real life (and not look all Caroline Bingley!) but something about the chunky sash on top of the rich velvet is a bit much. That said, I can admire it for the era, so I’ll be nice to it. Do other people find that certain decades/styles are polarising?

  8. Debbie Farthing says

    The colors are perfect. If there was some embellishment on the bodice this would be a 10.

  9. I LOVE this one as well!!! I am currently 1920’s wardrobe phase, so I would wear it. This would be perfect to wear here where I live most of the year. Perhaps with a little jacket of some sort. 10/10. I’d score it higher if I could.

  10. Draquin says

    I love it! I would wear it today.
    Love, love, LOVE the colour
    It’s vibrant & sparky & fun.
    The beading is sweet & would twinkle when one danced.
    I do feel that the sash looks a bit like an afterthought & I’d probably have gone for something different. Beaded organza perhaps. Toying between knocking off half a point for the sash & not…
    but I love it anyway.

  11. Lynne says

    Adore the velvet and its colour! Love the shape. Crazy about the beaded hem. Pity about the blobby sash. Lose it, and add a beaded velvet belt to go with the hem, and it would be perfect.

    As it is, 8 out of 10.

  12. Sue says

    Wow, the colour is a knockout! Gorgeous fabric balanced by a restrained shape. I really like this. The beadwork is lovely, though it would look better if the gold beads used for the stems and leaves were as visible as the pearl beads of the petals. (Maybe they’ve tarnished with age?)

    The belt is interesting, but too heavy for the delicate beadwork. A belt like that needs some kind of ruched work, or a very textured trim, near the hem for balance. One point off for the belt.


  13. I love the color scheme, the velvet fabric used, and the beadwork at the hem. I don’t care for the belt; to me it looks amateurish, and for that reason does not blend well with what is a simple but very elegant dress.

    8.5 out of 10.

  14. I do think the bodice is a bit plain, though. Some harmonizing beading around the top of the bodice, or a beaded belt instead of the braided thing would help.

  15. Jill Corbie says

    10/10 oh my God I want this dress so badly! I would wear a black coat or sweater with it to make it a Halloween outfit. And a cute witch hat and macabre jewelry with bones and stuff.

  16. Jules says

    I find this one intriguing. The simple lines done in velvet (which I find more compelling than discordant, unlike other commenters), and the wonderful hem decoration! The belt is the fly in the ointment, though. I wonder how it looked originally-in it’s current state it looks slapped on, and rather cheapens the whole thing (as if they spent too much time on the hem, and then needed a belt with pizazz to make it work for that night). I’m upping my rating because I’m envisioning the swish of that silk velvet *sigh*.


  17. dropping stitches says

    I love the shape. Very modern. The beading is beautiful but is so much better up close. It loses something in translation from a few steps back. Orange is my least favorite color, but I appreciate the bold lady who wore this hot orange number. I don’t care for the braided sash. It’s too bulky and rope-looking. It makes me think of 1970s macrame.

    7/10 for the shape and ‘statement’ of it all

  18. Kathy Hanyok says

    If not for the velvet, I’d think it a perfect Summer’s Day of a dress. The beading is delicate perfection but the belt, while I like the contrasting colors, is a little too clunky. (Caroline Bingly, ha ha). 9/10

  19. Nannynorfolk says

    Quite like this apart from the horrible belt which really spoils it, it looks clunky, one wonders why so many vintage dresses are spoiled by having things added when by adding something simple they could be fantastic. As others have said a small beaded belt would have really looked fabulous.
    So the belt spoils it and it’s 8/10

  20. General lines and decor is amazing. Not a big fan of that crazy bright orange so:


    (Probably being unfairly harsh)

  21. Elaine says

    I like the rich color and fabric, and the beading is lovely. The shape of the dress wouldn’t suit lots of women, but is elegant for the right person.

    Like so many commenters, I’m stuck on the belt. The bow on the side looks particularly limp and unattractive. But I’m not so sure a beaded belt in the orange velvet would improve things. I think that might be just too much unrelieved orange, As it is, the yellow and darker orange make a nice contrast. 9/10

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