Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a 1920s Fairytale

Child's 'Dainty Blossom' Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C

This week’s Rate the Dress is very on-theme for the seasons here in New Zealand. Spring is in full swing, daffodils abound, and the first butterflies are out. So I’ve picked a frock with daffodils and butterflies, perfect for frolicking through meadows of blossoming bulbs. Maybe next week I’ll pick something very autumnal, for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere!

Last Week: a ca. 1880 afternoon ensemble

The ratings for last week’s dress were pretty clearly divided into three camps. Quite a lot of you thought the muted colours and single tonal range balanced the excessive details nicely, resulting in a good, but not great dress. And some of you thought that more is more is more is fabulous, and gave it a perfect (or nearly so) score. And then, there were those who thought the dress was just awful, resulting in an extremely unusual proportion of 3s and 4s!

The end result?

The Total: 6.9 out of 10

An average which accurately represents the opinion of exactly one of the raters!

This week: a 1920s child’s frock.

This week’s pick is very different to last week’s: a simple silhouette, with simple trim, and a simple, but unusual, mode of ornamentation.

This mid 1920s child’s ensemble is decorated with hand painted butterflies, daffodils, and a fairy riding a snail’s shell chariot.

Child’s ‘Dainty Blossom’ Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C

In addition to the whimsical hand painting, which has echoes of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite’s fairies, the dress features ribbon trim held on with french knot embroidery.

Child's 'Dainty Blossom' Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C
Child’s ‘Dainty Blossom’ Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C

The colour scheme and decoration are an excellent example of the merge between the aesthetic of the Arts & Crafts movement, and conventional design and fashion. While the fairy suggests Outhwaite, the daffodils suggest John Henry Dearle’s work for William Morris.

Child's 'Dainty Blossom' Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C
Child’s ‘Dainty Blossom’ Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C

The outfit is most decidedly a luxury item: a decadent piece for parents to show off a beloved child at a garden party, carefully chaperoned and attended while the guests cooed over them, before they kid was given sensible clothes, a bit of ice cream, and allowed to go make mud pies on their own!

Child's 'Dainty Blossom' Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C
Child’s ‘Dainty Blossom’ Ensemble, Daisy Stanford, Hand-painted silk, c. 1925, FIDM, 2003.5.24A-C

The FIDM blog (linked through each image) has more information on the dress, and the fad for hand painting in the ‘teens and ’20s.

What do you think? Is this so utterly adorable that its impracticality doesn’t matter, or is it terribly twee?

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. Not everything a young child is given to wear needs to be practical. Children should learn the difference between fancy clothes and clothes for everyday activities, after all.

    Now, to business! I think the frock and cape, with their simple ribbon trim and the lovely hand-painting, are exquisite. The hat, though very period, looks–kind of silly. It gets in the way of the lovely fantasy of child-as-sprite that the frock and cape evoke. Spoils the mood considerably.

    So, making a deduction for the hat, I come to…

    8 out of 10

    • I had that reaction to the hat, and then I imagined it on my daughter. Her ridiculously thick and long hair would come down in a braid under that cap and be utterly adorable.

  2. Olivia Sanders says

    I love this outfit. Charming, simple, innocent. The bonnet calls to mind something a kindly field mouse would wear in a Thumbelina tale, or something similar. The cape is adorable. If people still made clothes like this, I would probably dress my (nonexistent) children like this for parties!

    10/10, wonderful

  3. Tracy Ragland says

    Absolutely charming! Completely impractical, but who cares? 10/10

  4. Kathy Hanyok says

    Too charming for words. I think it is absolutely wonderful and would like to recreate it for my granddaughter (but she’s only 9 months old). I love the hat, the cape and the fairy in her shell carriage. 10, 10, 10.

  5. Eleanor Rust says

    I’m really intrigued by this 1920s fashion for hand painting! Could you please link to the FIDM blog post itself? The image links take me to the images hosted on their blog, but I can’t find my way to the blog post through them. Searching their blog for “Daisy Stanford” hasn’t helped either.

  6. Lynne says

    I think it is beautiful, and I’m sure the little girl who wore it was so proud of it! Such a breath of spring.

    10 out of 10

  7. Susan Stein says

    Love it. The hand painting reminds me of silk scarf painting my mother did in the fifties.

  8. Nannynorfolk says

    Really sweet, gone are the days when you could put a child in this. Pity.

  9. dropping stitches says

    Sweet and dreamy. I love the cape lining and ribbons. The art is straight out of a fairytale book. Just perfect for a little one. Stokes the imagination. I would have hated that bonnet as a kid. It matches the look but resembles Miss Muffet’s tuffet.


  10. Artistic and engaging. Totally love this, wondering if the child went to tea with Mom or Grandma? I can imagine her skipping atound to make the cape billow out.

  11. Penny says

    I’m sure she felt special every time she wore it.
    The cap reminds me of ladies jockey caps popular in the early 1800’s.

  12. Stephanie says

    I totally love it. I would have loved to have worn it as a child to the fancy teas my mum used to take me to to train me to be ladylike (it sort of worked). 10/10

  13. Helene says

    It’s perfectly adorable! I would have loved it as a child, Had I had a daughter I would have loved to have such a dress for parties. (I have a son.)
    I now feel inspired to learn how to paint textiles and make a grown up version with just the daffodils.
    I almost can’t stop saying how much I love this dress, just looking at the photos made me feel happier. One of the best dresses ever. OK, stopping now to give this a 10+/10.

  14. Eileen Smolenski says

    Love the dress. My grand daughters (age 4 & 2) would love the dress but it sure would get dirty quickly, and the cape looks nice and “spinny” (it spins out when you twirl around) the most important characteristic of a perfect dress. Love the daffodils as our are only up in April and May ;-( 10/10

  15. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Charming, just the sort of thing a doting aunt would have bought.


  16. Shashwat says

    The dress is lovely but a bit too sweet.The cape,however makes the look edgy which really compliments the look.The hat is disappointing though
    9/10(I would have given a lower score,had it not been for that beautiful cape thing….)

  17. This is the sweetest and most amazing thing ever, and my daughter would have gone nuts for the whole thing.


  18. Shashwat says

    The cape gives an edge to this simple outfit,and really completes the lovely ensemble.Sweet,but practically perfect in every way.That hat is a bit disappointing though,but why wear one when you have such a cape.
    10/10-Capes please!

  19. Jill Corbie says

    So sweet! I know several little ones who would love to wear this, and then get it absolutely filthy in seconds. Spinny clothes are still spinny when covered in paint and mud!
    One point deducted for impracticality but nine points for AHHHH SO CUTE.


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