I honestly didn’t mean to repeat last week’s random button theme this week! I was a bit at a loss as to what to pick for Rate the Dress, and just went browsing. It wasn’t until I’d selected this dress, because I thought it was an interesting play in monochrome textures that I realised that it relies heavily on lots of button-ness for its decoration (and isn’t even monochrome – it’s patterned!). But it’s an interesting garment, so hopefully you’ll enjoy discussing and rating it.
Last Week: a 1910s suit with all the (button) trimmings
Quite a lot of you really liked last week’s suit (9/10 liked), but only a few of you loved it. And enough of you didn’t care for either the fabric, or the jacket closure, to pull the rating down just a little bit more.
The Total: 8.6 out of 10
Very nice, but not spectacular.
When I first saw this dress, I assumed it was monochrome: an experiment in what you could do with one fabric, a bit of trim, and lots of fabric manipulation.
Then I looked closer, and realised that it’s two fabrics: a muted purple, and a small blue and gold paisley print that blends into muted purple from a distance.
It’s a classic example of Victorian more-is-more-ness, with two fabrics, layers of texture and trim, and details upon details. Even the abalone shell buttons (half of which are purely ornamental – just like last week’s dress) are decorated with flowers and braided rims
Interestingly, though the dress is late enough for the sewing machine to be relatively common, all the visible stitching on the dress is done by hand. The elaborate trims and ruffles of the 1870s and 80s were partly made possible by the sewing machine, which made extensive hemming and decorating much faster. However, some of the most expensive dresses were still made entirely by hand, while others combined hand and machine stitching.
Without examining it in person it’s impossible to tell if this dress is fully hand sewn, or combines the two techniques. However, the places where the hand sewing is most obvious on this dress are on techniques that most 1870s sewing machines couldn’t do: ruffling, and buttonholes.
It’s also a perfect example of Victorian practicality. The ensemble comes with two bodices: a fitted cuirasse bodice for more formal indoor wear, and a looser jacket, for wearing on the street.
The jacket does not appear to be intended to be worn over the bodice: it’s sleeves are too slim to fit over the decorative ruffled cuffs of the cuirasse bodice, and in any case, a matching jacket over a bodice would be extremely unusual in the context of late 1870s-early 1880s fashion.
Instead of being outerwear, the jacket is an outfit extender: helping the owner to make full use of the skirt, which requires the most fabric and time, and thus the most expense. With two bodices, she could get double the use of the skirt.
What do you think?
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!)