Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1850s elaborations in green

Two-piece dress, c. 1850,Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen. Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze

Either we’re all a bit argumentative (entirely possible) or I’ve been posting a lot of very divisive Rate the Dresses. They have certainly been distinctive, and I haven’t been going for obvious crowd pleasers. Perhaps this week’s dress will be more universally popular? Or perhaps not!

Last Week: a tailored walking dress in plaid

I recorded a fashion history lecture for the Costume Construction students at Toi Whakaari today, and one of the things I talked about was the perception of taste in the Victorian era: how they were obsessed with what was good taste and what wasn’t, and how different elements of the Victorian era have subsequently been judged very attractive or unattractive, all per the taste of the era judging them. The point is that good taste is very subjective, and last week’s dress certainly proved that.

You all agreed that the outfit showed a great deal of skill on the part of the maker. And that was the only thing you agreed on. Spectacular, hideous, dazzling, nauseating – all options were there!

The Total: 7.5 out of 10

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

This week:  a mid century ensemble in green florals and bows

This week’s Rate the Dress is a ca. 1850 ensemble in jewel green silk brocaded with lush florals, trimmed with narrow fringed ribbon with a small check pattern, and topped by apple green bows with large checked pattern.

Two-piece dress, c. 1850,Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen. Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze
Two-piece dress, c. 1850, Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen.
Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970,
Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze

The layering of green on green and pattern on pattern is relieved with a white undershirt, which emphasises the jacket effect of the bodice.

Two-piece dress, c. 1850,Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen. Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970,  Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague  Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze
Two-piece dress, c. 1850, Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen.
Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze

The layering of patterns on patterns is typical of 1850s taste, as is the overall effect of demure fussiness.

Two-piece dress, c. 1850,Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen. Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970,  Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague  Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze
Two-piece dress, c. 1850, Prague. Silk with a woven pattern, silk ribbons, linen.
Purchased from the Hainz family in 1970, Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague Uměleckoprůmyslove museum v Praze

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


  1. Pal K says

    What I find most interesting is what I thought was ribbon but up close appears to be strips of plaid cut into ribbons
    It reminds me a little of the trim used on Chanel jackets
    I wonder whether this is a common historical use by dressmakers

  2. Do not care for the silk fabric – the scale of the pattern is so large that it reminds me of curtains or a sofa cover, and I do not care for the fabric in the bows. I could do without the bows, but I would need them in a plain color against such a busy background. Although the large check of the ribbon trim is again pattern overkill, I do like the disposition of the trim lines. I also like the color scheme in general, just wish it were deployed in a more restrained fashion.
    7 of 10

  3. I wanted to love this dress. Green is my favorite color. I like the silhouette a lot, and some of the features–the split bodice with a blouse under it–was a bit different in a good way.

    But there were too many discordant notes for this dress to get a 10 out of 10 from me. The apple green bows clashed with the green of the dress silk. The shape and texture of the bows made me think “wrapper” not “gown”–too informal, almost sloppy-looking. The underblouse was a good idea, but it shouldn’t have had a turn-down collar–that contributed to the informal, sloppy look again. A stand collar, either small or high, would have been much better. (And I adored the lace on the underblouse! ) As for the silk print, the less said, the better. Probably Prague fashion is not to my taste.

    6.5 out of 10.

    • Your mention of “Prague fashions” led to a lightbulb going off in my head… A book about Czech fashion history I read mentions how in the 18th century (1780s?), green redingotes with red lapels were very popular in Prague (recorded, as these things usually are, by a foreigner).
      Now I cannot help but wonder if perhaps somehow that Prague love for green-and-red carried over into the 19th century. The problem is it works better in solids like in the 1780s redingote. 😀
      The dress is not completely representative of Czech fashions, though. It’s over the top. Portraits of the time I know of more often show ladies in dark solids (being genuinely demure without the fussiness :D).

  4. I sort of like it. My main complaint is the bows. The narrow plaid ribbon matches the fabric colours so well, and the light green looks very out of place. Even accounting for the fact that it might have faded, the patterns of the two plaids are too different for me to like the bows. I think it would be ok if they were dark red and white, to match the flowers, or just not there at all. I’ve never been very fond of that style of trimming with the row of bows down the front of the skirt.

    The colour scheme of the brocade is weird but I like weird historical brocade, it’s intriguing!


  5. Susan says

    LOVE the shape, love the styling, love the way the sleeves are constructed, love the trim; disliked everything else. The colors, especially in conjunction with each other, are too harsh for me, the lighter bows clash with the rest of it, the bodice arrangement looks like they ran out of time to finish it. The cuffs are fine but the collar looks like an afterthought. 6.5/10

  6. Connie Beaver says

    I like everything but the apple green bows. I agree that the apple green color of the bows clashed with the other green.

  7. Veronica says

    All the shapes are nice, but a bit too much patterning for me.

  8. I like it a lot. It has an aesthetic that modern patch-workers would appreciate – putting patterned fabrics together to complement AND compliment each other. I’m going to generously assume that the slightly off green in the front bows is either to do with the lighting or different dye/fibre combos changing over time in different ways. But I fully understand the heartache of searching for just the right trim for weeks, and finally settling for something that s close enough!
    I find so many individual aspects pleasing, like the layered sleeves and the overall shape. I love the use of a broken gingham weave to outline the shapes instead of a solid. I love many things about it.

  9. I actually really like this…if we could lose the ‘Oh, I could use the rest of this ribbon up here!’ bows down the front. But with the bows…8.5

  10. That is a lot of dress! Lots of things happening with this that individually I am impressed with the techniques used. As a whole garment, it is a lot to take in. 7/10

  11. Emma says

    I wish it didn’t have the bows as they don’t seem to go at all but I love it so much I can overlook that detail. I find the construction interesting, the silhouette is lovely and the fabric is gorgeous.


  12. Debbie Farthing says

    I love the main brocade fabric. I’m generally not a fan of pattern mixing, I do like the green plaid trim. However, I can’t get past the bows. The style of the dress is so lovely and graceful and I even like the use of the bows but the color just doesn’t work for me.

  13. Kathy Hanyok says

    At first, I didn’t know why this gown seemed so familiar to me. Then I read the caption – Prague. My grandmother came from Slovakia so this is the City Mouse cousin to the dresses she wears in pictures I have. This definitely has an Eastern European vibe to me and for this reason I love it. Like everyone else, though, I cannot accept those bows. That plaid looks far too modern – are they sure they are original to the gown, and not tacked on in the 70″s? By the way, look at that embroidery on the cuffs! Fabulous! 9.5

  14. vivien dwyer says

    Love all of it…yes even the bows!

  15. Tracy Ragland says

    Normally I’d be in love with a dress made in such a luscious green, but this is the exception. The print is too large a scale; I just can’t get upholstery out of my mind. Add to that the over-light green bows and the rows (and rows and rows) of checked ribbons and I just can’t like this gown.


  16. hedva-fashion.czMy reaction can be divided into “Oh, so that’s where Czech folk costume brocades get it from!” and “Yeah, but I don’t exactly like the majority of those, either.” (There’s definitely more than one reason why I’m making a folk costume that does not use them.)
    Everyone commenting on the fabric, feast your eyes on this selection:
    – those are modern Czech folk costume brocades. Some of them would totally work for Victorian clothes, too, probably because in essence, that’s what they are.

    Anyway. The dress. I like the principle of it, and am not entirely keen on the actual execution. “Demure fussiness” is just what it is, and also the reason why I prefer 1840s dresses over 1850s ones – because they’re usually “plainer” and less fussy. This is also definitely a fussier Czech 1850s number than I’ve seen in, say, some portraiture, and I suspect it used to belong to someone who was a bit of a wealthy show-off.
    Still, I like the principle of it, and am leaning more in the direction of those who like it, if only because of the insight it offers me into the clothes of my own country. Plus whatever you think of the materials, the construction is superb – with the materials at hand, I doubt it could have been done better.

    Given my previous rating methods, 8/10 seems fair.

      • I’m afraid they don’t ship internationally except to Slovakia, though… 🙁 Although if a group of people fell in love with a specific pattern, maybe a bulk order could be arranged, or something, you never know. 😀

        They’ve expanded their colour schemes and pattern selection in the e-shop since I first discovered them. I realised upon further browsing that one of the reasons I do often browse through them these days is that they have a much smaller percentage of the really obnoxious colour schemes than they used to. 😀
        They’re mostly rayon, so still good quality and breathable and a bit more affordable than silk brocades. (I did get to touch one physically in a shop once – I have no real comparison to silk brocades but it’s definitely a much nicer fabric than the modern cheap polyester ones.) The prices are still pretty steep for me to justify buying one of those for a costume when I can get by with other fabrics, but I am eyeing some of the smaller-patterned, less obviously Victorian ones…

  17. Miriam Griffiths says

    I want to hate it. I should hate it. The fabric is OTT, the trim even moreso. But somehow it’s actually not that bad.

    That said, the fuzzy ribbon (fabric strips?) would drive me nuts.


  18. Anna says

    I mostly like it except for the green check bows- the dress is a lot even without what I view as a bow additions that don’t match the rest of the dress.


  19. Cirina says

    I don’t like the bows, and the trim is way better from afar than in detail. Both would be better in solid color.
    But I love the lines of it and the sleeves are pretty.

  20. Malin says

    It’s a bit much, but I do generally like it. The shape, blouse construction, colours and main brocade are all very pretty. Like many others I think it would be better without the bows, and maybe with plainer ribbon around the sleeves etc. The overall impression is pretty but a little OTT and fussy.

  21. nofixedstars says

    i actually really like this one. i’d wear it! i love the jade green with touches of red; one of my favourite colour combinations is green and red in nearly any shades of each. i’m happy with the checked trim, i really like the silk brocade, and i like the general shapes and lines of the dress. i do agree with others that the apple green bows are badly matched to this dress, though. really surplus to requirements, anyway, and clashing on top of it. but…they are eminently removable, so a sharp pair of scissors can undo their nugatory effect. with the bows snipped off, i’d rate this


  22. Julia says

    It’s pretty. I don’t mind the plaid and floral combination. It just works with this dress. I wasn’t too sure about the white shirtfront from the first picture but once I saw the full view I liked it.
    Just one change. Can I please, please take the bows off the skirt? I don’t like them. I don’t mind the not matching, I just really don’t like the placement.
    The overall effect is good. It looks balance, is cheerful but not garish and would look nice on a lady who could wear that colour. I wouldn’t mind having one myself, sans skirt bows that is ;).

  23. Elaine says

    I think I might like the fabric a lot if you could see it better. As it is, it isn’t shown off, covered as it is with lots of trim and obscured by all the folds. It ends us looking messy to me. On the other hand, if the fabric were simpler or even a solid, then I wouldn’t mind all the fussy details (except for those bows!). The shape is very elegant. But the whole thing together is just not doing it for me. 5/10

  24. Stephanie says

    This dress is a real split down the middle for me. I love the shape, the style, the sleeves, the under blouse, even the colour. But the fabric is just too much. It looks like wallpaper or upholstery to me. And I don’t like bows.

  25. Lisa A says

    I love it, even with the bows. As my mom used to say, sometimes things don’t “match” but they “go with.” Without the bows, I might love it more, as something complex, feminine, and elegant. With the bows, I see it as complex, feminine, and whimsical, which may have perfectly suited the original wearer. As other have noted, it is exquisitely crafted, as well. 9.5

  26. Claire Payne says

    All I think of is hideous curtains when I look at this and the apple green bows are the final insult to good taste. Admittedly, it is well constructed but oh my! That pattern! The colour! The awful bows! Lawks! Pass me my smelling salts. As ever, I appreciate you sharing but definitely not a favorite rate the dress for me.

    2 out of 10

  27. Paula Perry says

    I love it. The silhouette is exquisite, as are the colors of the silk brocade.
    The trim really accentuates the lines. I like the light ribbon bows down the front, from a distance. They look ok, I would just take them off to wear it.
    I do have a question – does it open down the front? If so how to those “straps” work?
    I especially like the linen shirt. It goes well with this silk dress and it would go with blue jeans.

  28. Hannah says

    Oh, I like it. It looks so very of its time, graceful and fussy in somehow a charming way. I don’t mind the bows, and I like their placement on the skirt between the angled stripes of checked maybe-not-really-ribbon. (I will concede that their color is off a bit.)

    I’d gladly wear this.

  29. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    “demure fussiness” … it nailed it. The whole bows and sleeves and trims thing.

    The zig-zag background to the granny’s drapes florals is interesting. Like most of the earlier commenters, it’s the clashing greens in cloth and bows that puts me off. It was the way of the times, but I can still dislike it. I would have used a rust or cream.


  30. dropping stitches says

    It has a nice tailored shape and the undershirt is dainty and neat with pleats and a frill. I do like emerald green. Otherwise, this one has much too much going on. I can’t handle the busy print with the zigzags and gingham check fringed ribbons. Just not for me.


  31. ElOmbu says

    Everyone else has already said all the things. The bows….

    But I love everything about the main fabric of the dress, and the green and white trim is beautiful. So I give it an:


  32. Heather says

    This isn’t my favorite. It combines a rather boring silhouette with rather too many busy small details for my taste. The color is nice though.

  33. Lauren says

    8/10 with my thanks for ‘demure fussiness’. I recognize it as a personality trait, too! : )

  34. Florence says

    Ugh, too much, too much, too much – of everything.
    “demure fussiness” actually captures it well.
    Only one of the elements in a pattern and the rest in solids would be much more successful.

  35. rateadress says

    To me the fabric isn‘t quite right for a day dress. It looks a bit like an 1850s , honorable bourgeoise is aiming for a 1750s aristocratic grande dame and the result just isn’t quite as gorgeous the original inspiration. For instance: those bows. They look neat and they could be worse but I find them a bit odd on that dress. Compare this with portraits of the Marquise de Pompadour and how much grace, ease and panache she is able to express with something as simple as an array of bows on her dress. That being said I think this dress here might look quite nice with an 1850s ballgown bodice: short sleeves and evening bertha revealing the shoulders. Well, too bad it isn’t a ball gown. It’s a day dress. So down it goes from 8 to 6.5. So for the record: 6.5

    • “Honourable bourgeoise aiming for grande dame” is basically what I was going for with my “a bit of a wealthy show-off” comment, just a lot better expressed. 🙂

  36. I’m knocking a point off for the bows, which I somehow glazed over in my first look, but now that I’m seeing it again, I can’t help but see it.
    I love the lines and the green of it, and it’s just such a wonderful dress overall.


  37. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I love the colours, and I love the pattern. I think the white chemisette really makes the neckline and the green pop, and I really like it overall. The touches of red enliven the lovely shades of green, and the touches of white freshen up. I also like that the skirt is not hugely full. It makes the dress feel more accessible, and I feel like the woman who wore this was a nice person.

    I’m going to give this a 8 out of 10.

  38. S. A. Cox says

    I think that if I had been raised with a different aesthetic sense it wouldn’t bother me at all, but the different greens, in the patterns they are, clash to my eye; so do the checks and the floral. I think it’s possible I could like checks and floral in a different combination, and I might even like the greens if they were arranged differently, but this one just isn’t doing it for me.


  39. Disien says

    This would be completely lovely if it didn’t have those dreadful bows. I’d have been at them with the Quick Unpick if it were my dress. What.Were.They.Thinking!!!! I’m astounded at how much they detract from the ensemble. Without the bows this would have been a 9, but with them…….


  40. Saskia says

    I really like the shape and sleeve detail, and I think the shade of jade green is lovely. Without the bows it would certainly appeal to my modern eye a lot more.

  41. By the way, it’s totally going for the jacket effect – it even has pocket flaps! Completely nonfunctional pockets, I’d guess – too short a space for them! So I’m guessing this basically is a very genteel and purely stylistic and… demurely fussy… take on the Regency “riding habit as a walking outfit” idea, by now completely divorced of the “riding habit” and “practical outfit for a degree of physical exercise” association… now it’s an outfit for seeing and being seen. 🙂

  42. Ahna says

    Usually I am not keen on green, but this has a luminous quality, along with the pattern, of painted porcelain. Gorgeous! The trim breaks up the pattern just enough to allow the eye to reset. The gentle line of the shoulders and not-over-full skirt seem wearable, one wouldn’t be struggling against your own clothes to move. 1pt demerit for the ties down the front, they just seem so afterthought, rummaged from whatever could be found.

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