Miscellenia, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Scarlet Suit-ed

Last week’s Rate the Dress was very Southern California summer: perfect for sunsets on the beach and glam parties in the dawning years of Hollywood.

This week’s pick is much more Wellington winter: just what you need for keeping cosy while going to an Edwardian soiree where you want to be sure you’re dressed better than that upstart Annie Beauchamp.

Last Week: 1920s dress in complementary velvet hues

Orange is having a moment, and that may have helped with the response to last week’s sunset hued number – or perhaps it was just that the luscious velvet was irresistible. When the dress did come in for criticism it was mostly for the belt: the braiding did not age well, and many of you thought it was clunky, heavy, and looked like a last-minute addition.

Interestingly, I thought the belt, while it clearly had suffered the effects of age, was what ‘made’ the dress, and the beading was the pointless afterthought! It takes all opinions!

The Total: 8.5 out of 10

That may be the best rating we’ve ever had for something orange!

This week: a 1900s suit in ruby red wool

This week’s Rate the Dress is rather like last weeks: a bold splash of colour on a style of garment that was usually more restrained.

Late Victorian and Edwardian suits usually came in dark practical hues. Browns, greys, dark blues, or heathered or tweed-y hues were the norm. The wearer of this suit, in contrast, decided to throw restraint to the wind, and opted for a striking, deep scarlet. She would certainly have been visible and noteworthy coming down the street!

Suit, Frances & Co., Paris (French), 1902, French, wool, silk,
Gift of Miss Frances M. Dickenson, 1955, Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.55.65a–c

Frances & Co was a high end tailor, and anything with a Paris label carried a certain cachet in 1902. It’s almost certain that the customer who ordered this suit was a woman of significant means, who could splash out on a statement garment, knowing that she’d be able to buy a new one next season, and not be perpetually marked as the woman who wore a red suit.

How do you like this suit, which marries a bit of Edwardian frill, in the form of the neck bow and slightly flared skirt, with the sleek silhouette typical of suits at the time, and a vivid colour that speaks to a wearer unafraid to flaunt convention or practicality?

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. I love this. The red with black combination strikes me as classic, and the suit is quite elegant in its utter simplicity.

    The only thing I’m not sure I like is the bow at the neck and the tassels (?) hanging down the front. So, a slight deduction from me.

    9.5 out of 10.

  2. I pretty much echo Catherine Raymond. The dress as a whole has a sleekness and looks to have been inspired by equestrian wear, and the black-and-red combination is both exciting and dignified. Whatever the black stuff is on the bodice area right of center (?) just confuses my eye.
    8.5 of 10

  3. “Where in the world in Carmen Sandiego?” You catch a glimpse of this dress turning a corner into an alley…it’s pretty great! Striking. Not at all a match for my personality, but I imagine that someone with cool aplomb would carry this outfit well.

    • Oh, whoops!
      7/10, only because I think the black trim is too wide to be offset that way, and I think it would look better centred.

  4. Nina says

    That red is so striking and fierce, I love the tabs and buttons down the side, the fact they are spaced wider as they go down. It’s a flamboyant look at me but all buttoned up and prim and proper. Also a necktie with giant beaded (?) tassels! This is something I can see your sometimes model Priscilla wearing with glee.

  5. Elaine says

    I think I might like this a lot if I could see the details on my monitor. I love the deep red color and black accents, and the overall shape is elegant. But that’s all I can see. I clicked through to the Met site, and that didn’t help. [sad face] So I can’t score this.

  6. Melissa says

    I’m going 10 out of 10 on this one, I love everything about it. The color combo is great, it has graceful lines, and I love the trimming.

  7. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    It’s chic. I like it a lot. Love the deep red and the elongated lines and the neat silhouette. I’m not super keen on the long tassels on the neck ties as it’s a bit of unnecessary faff for the design, much as I love a dramatic tassel. They interfere with the accents down the front. But overall, it’s so smart and elegant and neat that I can just see Mrs Pritchard approving of it.


  8. Betsy Urbik says

    I LOVE this. I would wear this. I want one just like it – tassels and foof and color and all. 10 out of 10!

  9. Michelle Patton says

    10 of 10. I love the beautiful detail and the vibrant color. If you look at photos and catalogs of this era, there was lots of grey, black, navy except for the summer white. What a bold decision to have a dress that everyone would remember.

  10. It’s fabulous! I do wish there were more pictures so we could see what’s going on with the cuff.


  11. I love it! I feel warmer just looking at it 🙂 It’s bold in colour, but restrained enough in cut and trim not to look like Too Much. (I’d wear it in Wellington winters myself, if I was that shape.)

  12. Veronica says

    Well, I love the colour red, and this seems to epitomise 1900-odd suits. I would definitely wear it.

  13. Claire Payne says

    Very nice. Simple lines to let the colour speak. I’d wear this if I were an Edwardian lady.

    9 out of 10 from me thank you.

  14. Jules says

    Ooh! Predictably, the solid, striking colour and severe lines with starkly contrasting trimmings make my heart go pitter-pat. The colour is gorgeous (and she would certainly have stood out in a crowd…), and the trim is just right (for my tastes). I wish I could see the sleeve trim better, it looks like it might be spectacular.


  15. I’m in love, not quite so keen on the neck bow, but when I first saw the dress I didn’t even notice that; the whole garment had that much of a positive impact. Because of my first impression I’m going for 10/10

  16. dropping stitches says

    Taking off only 1 point for the tassels. They confuse me. But I love everything else about this! Striking black and red, slim waist, gives the wearer a tall and formidable look, but still fashion-forward. I’m ready to strut around in this! Wish I could see the back and more detail.


  17. Jamie LaMoreaux says

    10 out of 10, I ADORE this dress. I love the color, the design, and the decoration.

  18. I’m with several other commenters and am not a big fan of the tassels/bow thing. I’d totally recreate this without them, if I lived anywhere that needed something this warm.

    So with that:


  19. Susan says

    10/10 for me, I would definitely wear this. Who wouldn’t want to be a Scarlet Woman in this?

  20. Nannynorfolk says

    Wow, a statement dress and it must have had a very confident wearer.
    Like others I think it could have done without the bow and tassels.

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Very striking, sleek, something Irene Adler would have worn.
    The huge tassels on the neck bow, however … nope.
    Subtracting for the tassels, but otherwise it’s fabulous


  22. Mmm, I think it’s lovely! Definitely a statement color but it’s not over the top in other ways, such as with trim. I’d wear it! 10/10.


  23. Denise Dano says

    I love this! The shape and design are classic Edwardian and the red and black command attention in an elegant manner. I wasn’t sure about the tassels, but I tried imagining it without them and found it lost character and individuality.


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