Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Tasselled fringe & gold

Gold silk dress with tiered, tasseled skirt Label- “Mrs. W. Wilds, Auburn, NY” American, ca. 1879-80, Silverman:Rodgers, KSUM 1983.1.156 ab

Last week’s dress was all sweet and serene. This week is the first full week back at Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School. All our new students have arrived, and we’re back into the swing of things. So I’m feeling a bit more dramatic. And what’s more dramatic than gold and tassels?

Last Week: a 1790s over-robe in pale pink

Most of you loved last week’s Regency over-robe, and thought it was a perfection in pink. And then some of you thought it was a bit….boring.

The Total: 9 out of 10

Still a very, very good score, but not as good as the preceding weeks.

This week:  ca. 1880s tiers of tassels

This week’s dress is VERY natural-form-to-second bustle-era Victorian. Trim and textures and layers upon layers.

Gold silk dress with tiered, tasseled skirt Label- “Mrs. W. Wilds, Auburn, NY” American, ca. 1879-80, SIlverman:Rodgers, Kent State University Museum 1983.1.156 ab
Gold silk dress with tiered, tasseled skirt Label- “Mrs. W. Wilds, Auburn, NY” American, ca. 1879-80, Silverman:Rodgers, Kent State University Museum 1983.1.156 ab

The pleats and tasselled fringe and metallic embroidery and damask silk and lace are all held together by a single colour scheme: a medley of apricot and gold.

Gold silk dress with tiered, tasseled skirt Label- “Mrs. W. Wilds, Auburn, NY” American, ca. 1879-80, SIlverman:Rodgers, KSUM 1983.1.156 ab
Gold silk dress with tiered, tasseled skirt Label- “Mrs. W. Wilds, Auburn, NY” American, ca. 1879-80, Silverman:Rodgers, Kent State University Museum 1983.1.156 ab

So what do you think? Dramatic but elegantly harmonious, or tasselled tackiness?

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


  1. This is just too much for me. All I can think of when I see it is overdone toilet tissue cover. The metallic embroidery looks incredibly heavy and almost painful to wear, and the tassels are just excessive. Since everything else is so heavy, the lace flounces on the sleeves seem like an afterthought. I do like the color, though.
    5 of 10

    • Julia says

      An overdone toilet tissue cover! I think that’s a perfect description for the skirt!

    • Elaine says

      I’m at work so can’t laugh out loud about the toilet tissue cover. But I really want to!

      I love the embroidery on the bodice (agree it would likely be uncomfortable to wear) and the color is nice. That’s it. I don’t like at all the way Victorians so often elaborately over-decorated women’s clothing so it looked like over-decorated heavy furniture. If the wearer were sitting on a similarly colored sofa, I’d be afraid someone would come along and sit down on her. 4/10

  2. Theresa Diaz says

    I absolutely adore this dress! The color and beaded trim are the best part. The fringe seems a little heavy, like home dec macrame, but not enough to make me dislike it but enough to knock it down half a point. The lace on the sleeves is so floaty and delicate, I can’t decide if it the contrast with the heavier fringe is deliberate or an oversight, it makes the fringe look coarse compared to it.

    I give it a 9.5!

  3. Daniel Milford-Cottam says



    Nothing really goes with anything else in this dress. And then the awful sleeves just take away the silhouette and make it shapeless, and not even in a nice way.

    The individual elements are all nice, but why on earth would anyone put them together and then think it looked good? I struggle to find anything redeeming. It’s not even amusingly vulgar or gaudy – it’s like some irredeemably tasteless but jolly client went to her dressmaker and said they had been told to try a limited colour palette to be tasteful, but still wanted everything flung at their dress as long as it was all in similar colours. The result? A dress that could have been enjoyably and rather likeably hideous instead comes out looking sapped and drained and the limited colour palette just emphasises how hideous the dress is without the fun horror of clashing brocades and garish colours to make it joyously horrid, as opposed to miserably colour-sapped horrid.

    There’s a lot of sewing and work that went into this dress, I acknowledge that, but yeah. It doesn’t succeed.

    1.5/10. Sorry. I tried to squeeze out a 2, but just couldn’t.

  4. Johanna says

    The sad thing is that I love the bodice, with the dramatic neckline trim and the beautiful lace cuffs, so if it had just been paired with a plain petticoat it would have been gorgeous. I just hate the tassel fringe though. As soon as I saw it my first thought was “oh no, another casualty at the trim warehouse”. The bodice saves the dress to a 5, I can always imagine that the wearer was only using it for dinner where the skirts would be hidden under the table.


  5. I love the colors of the dress. I love its bodice; the shape, the neckline, the silver leaf embroidery (which I wish I could have seen when it was new and untarnished).

    But I detest the skirt, for its tiers (a fashion I have never liked) and its extra-long and heavy tassel trim. And the lace cuffs on the sleeves seem a bit excessive, though I might not have cared about that if the skirt weren’t dripping with tassels. The dress might have been easier for me to rate if I could have seen it from the side and/or rear, but the photos that were available on line is what we have.

    So where does that leave me? I agree with Johanna that with a plain (or at least un-tasseled) petticoat, this dress might have been gorgeous. As it is, however….

    7 out of 10 (I’m prepared to be a bit more generous than Johanna for that wonderful vision of the silver-embroidered leaves).

  6. nofixedstars says

    it is a little tacky, yes. i cannot deny it; the use of tasselled trim is excessive. and clearly, the wearer didn’t plan to spend any time around cats. the lace somehow fights with the tassels, though i can’t explain how. the whole thing looks like a boudoir pillow from a fairly high-end bordello grew up and became a dress…

    and yet…

    in some strange way, i cannot really hate it. i like the apricot colour. i like (in smaller doses) the tassel trim. overall, though, the dress reminded me of something; i couldn’t put my finger on it at first, and then it hit me: in a (doubtless) completely unintentional way, it reminds me of minoan crete! the minoan ladies wore long, tiered skirts with ornamental flounces. the netted areas on the tassel trim even recall the net design so popular in cretan textiles and art. if the jacket/bodice lost the lace and peplum, and was cut to curve around and under the breasts, it wouldn’t be too far off of the high-collared, nipped waist minoan bodices worn with those flounced skirts. if the whole thing were done in shades of russet red, blue, and white, the resemblance would be even stronger.

    so i had to wrest my mind back from that association, and refocus on the dress as it is. and to me, that is neither particularly horrid nor truly appealing. boudoir pillow dress, i rate thee at a 6/10.

    • Mary Ann Hadley says

      Thank you! I kmew it harkened back to some historic era. Without the exposed breasts!

  7. Disien says

    The top of this dress is just beautiful – that embroidery trim is stunning. But the skirt is dreadful – looks like a lampshade with all the tiers and tassels. I’m giving it 7 out of 10 because of that glorious bodice and the fact it saves the overall outfit.


  8. Debbie Farthing says

    I agree with some of the other posts that the bodice is beautiful but the skirt is a head-scratcher.
    It’s in such great condition that I think the original owner had buyer’s remorse and thus barely wore it.

  9. Nofixedstars saw Minoan, I see Victorian does 1680s-1690s. Let’s add the lace from the sleeves to a towering hair confection, and a mantua train, and there you are: fancy dress Baroque. To go with your heavy Baroque dining room suite at dinner in your New York City townhouse, you know.
    The fringe is too coarse for the dress, IMHO, and the lace at the end of wrists could be tamed, and it might then be a better dress. The fabric is handsome in a autumn-among-the-beeches-and-maples way. It’s very much of its time: cascading ruffles were the very thing, and the bodice is clever.
    I haven’t a clue how to rate it. 6, I guess.

    • Heidilea says

      Except Auburn is 5 hours from NYC! It’s interesting for me to see this overdone confection…I live an hour from Auburn and the town (much like the rest of the mid size towns in the US) has seen better days. Though, it retains a bit of it’s Grand houses, so I can certainly see a lady wearing this in one of them.

  10. Carol Goodwin says

    I love the bodice (5/5). But the skirt only works if it’s an aristocratic attempt at gypsy fancy dress costume -which I assume it is not. (0/5)

    that totals up to 5/10 from me

  11. Kathy Hanyok says

    I like the bodice, although the embroidery is too heavy and the sleeve above the lace is shapeless. The color draws me in though, and I think it’s not so bad. But I hate the skirt. The bodice gets an 8 , the skirt -2. So the dress is a 6.

  12. vivien dwyer says

    Reminds me of a lampshade…one of those ones with macrame edging.

  13. Alexandra says

    I love this! Just imagine how all the tassels would swish while walking! Gorgeous, would wear it while walking the dog.

  14. Christine Gregory says

    Like others, I adore the bodice, especially the sleeves. But the tassels!


  15. Christina Kinsey says

    The bodice is lovely, but the skirt……looks like someone raided a haberdashery to be honest. Loo roll over comes to mind….
    Fraid i have to give this a 5, as I like the bodice

  16. Pal K says

    My favorite part is the tassels
    Do you think I could get away with a tier or two today?

  17. Julia says

    I love the bodice. There’s just something about the shape and style of this era that I really love. And the trim is gorgeous! Like gilded leaves.
    The skirt on the other hand… It looks like a very large, very ugly lampshade. And It doesn’t match the bodice. I think one layer of pleats and fringe could have worked at the bottom or maybe even at the top but it’s just too much.
    I want to love it because it’s from the 1880s but I can’t. 6/10

    • Julia says

      AHA! I have figured it out! After reading all the comments and carefully studying the pictures I have come to the conclusion that someone has accidentally put this bodice and a lampshade together!
      Somewhere in storage there is a beautiful golden puffed, embroidered and lace covered skirt sighing for the beautiful bodice that left it behind. And somewhere else is a very large lamp base that someone else mistook for a very small coat rack.

  18. Malin says

    Too much. The lace and embroidery and huge tassels and pleats… despite the coherent colour scheme which I really rather like nothing manages to match anything else. 5/10

  19. Just a little too much. These are all good details on their own, and the whole thing almost works on a few levels. I actually feel like both the bodice and the skirt could work better with a different bodice/skirt, but they don’t really jive together. The more I look at the skirt the more I like it- if it were paired with a more restrained bodice in a closer shade to the tassels it would come off rather nicely. I bet those tassels are super dynamic and fun when the wearer moves/walks! Sigh. 6/10.

  20. Melissa says

    I love the colors on this. I love the bodice trim but it seems out of sorts with the skirt trim. Not a huge fan of all the fringe but it does look lovely all together. It’s a bit over the top on the whole for my taste. I’ll go 7/10.

  21. Emma Louise says

    I like elements of this dress. The embroidery on the bodice and the colour being the best parts. But I really don’t like how any of it has been put together. I’ve rarely been a fan of tiered skirts and this one isn’t changing my mind and there is something bugging me about how the lace has been attached to the sleeves – baggy maybe?

  22. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    As an example of Victorian excess … it’s superb. Pleated, tiered, tasseled and embroidered with lace that is embroidered. With a peplum as homage to the Pierrot jackets of the ancien regime. And an Evil Stepmother high collar with more lace!

    The blended shades of gold and apricot keep it from going over the edge into gaudy tackiness. It may be clinging to the grass at the top of the cliff, but it’s hanging onto fashionable by its fingernails.

    Wold I wear it? That skirt is a hippie tiered skirt with macrame and tasseled fringe … dump the bodice and let me head for Woodstock.


  23. Lauren Sancer says

    7/10 and the 7 is only for the bodice. I love love love the bodice and if I could give that a 10 alone I would but that skirt is atrocious… I’ve never been one for tassels tho….

  24. The bodice is okay, I don’t abhor it, but having worn sleeves like that, I’ve come to dislike them because no matter what I do I’m always trailing them in food. I like the structure of the bodice portion, and the trim is bordering on over the top, but not horrible.
    So, if it was just the bodice 7/10.

    But, it’s not.

    That skirt is horrible. I don’t really like tassels all that much, and there are so many of them. Then macrame doesn’t excite me, I might have liked it in another circumstance, but here I dislike it.

    Just the skirt: 2/10

    So, for the whole thing…..


    I did the math.

  25. It’s interesting. It looks like it could easily be a costume from some historically inspired fantasy movie.
    It’s a bit too much, but I kind of like it. I like the late 17th century influence, and really wish I could see the back. The leaves are lovely, and I like the lace but it doesn’t really go with the rest of the dress.


  26. India says

    I loathe it. It’s a costume for the evil stepmother in a Cinderella pantomime. True the outline silhouette of the bodice is lovely (well, if you disregard that froofy collar thing) but the shapeless sleeves look as if they were tacked on as an afterthought from leftovers. The skirt doesn’t bear thinking about; it’s like a skirt version of an overcrowded, overdecorated, overstuffed Victorian parlour.
    The colour’s OK so….

  27. materialexcess says

    “Just because you like it all, doesn’t mean it all goes together.” One of my friends made that comment about an eccentric building lobby decorating scheme back in the mid-1990’s, and IMHO it applies to this dress just as well. I love all the individual elements, but they just aren’t working together here for me in 2020. 6

  28. dropping stitches says

    I like the colors. The sleeve lace is lovely. The bodice design is alright. Auburn, NY is in the Finger Lakes. A pretty region of sunsets over the water and colorful season foliage. That leafy design goes along with the natural beauty of the area. But I cannot bring myself to like tassels. The skirt says ‘lampshade’ to me. Too many moving parts.


  29. I like the shape of the bodice but that’s about it. I don’t like the colour much and it’s so over-decorated it looses any charm for me.


  30. Wow. Someone has put a lot of work into this creation. I do think the movement of it would be rather lovely, and as someone said a few posts back, imagine it in candlelight and we’re closer to the truth. The fabric would probably glow under dim light, and the moving tassles might look rather fabulous.

    Here and now, it’s certainly not my cup of tea, but back then? Who knows. When more was more, no one could say this was ‘less’. Not really sure how to mark it, but I’m going to go with a…


  31. Ratingadress says

    I like the bodice and the overskirt. The sleeves need an actual shape, more fitted and with some draping to show off the lace. The skirt should be plain and be made of a lush fabric like velvet in a contrasting colour (maybe a shade of green that talks with the gold-ish colour of the top part). This would make it work. So I give this a 6.5 because it‘s not hopeless.

  32. Sylvia Lott says

    I like the bodice and feel like the embroidery is enough embellishment. I would have made the skirt all one color without the tassels to draw the eye up to the bodice. I would have cut the sleeves closer and used the sam e trim at the bottom as was used around the neck. Rating 5.

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