Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Chiné Française

Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs

This week’s rate the dress is focused on one of my favourite fabrics, and favourite dress styles (though neither necessarily means I love this example – when it’s your favourite you get picky!)

Last Week: a mid 19th-century ensemble in green florals and bows

Sooo…that was a no from you on the bows then? You thought they were too twee, or too clashing (or too twee and too clashing). The fringed plaid ribbon got a somewhat better response, with at least half of you thinking the mix of florals and checks was very effective. Of course, the other half thought it was very awful.

What was a win was my description of the dress’s style as ‘demure fussiness

A confession: I liked the bows! I felt their hue freshened up the colours of the dress, and their non-matching-ness was so perfectly mid-Victorian, and exactly the note of levity the dress needed. Lisa, Vivian, Paula & I can be team #gobowsgo (apologies if I missed any other bow champions!) (and extra mega-bonus points if you get the reference).

The Total: 7.4 out of 10

A few 2s & 3s really pull the scores down!

This week: a Robe à la Française in chiné a la branche

This week’s Rate the Dress is a Robe à la Française in warp-printed silk, or chiné a la branche – the distinctive soft, blurry pattern made by dyeing the warp threads of a silk before weaving.

Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs
Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs

Les Arts Decoratifs dates this to 1760. I wonder if it’s not from the very tail end of the 1760s: the flatter, more restrained trim and compere front seem more like a 1770s Française.

Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs
Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs

I also think it’s shown over paniers that are a tiny bit too big, and a tiny bit too high: it’s pulling awkwardly over them on the side views.

Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs
Robe à la Française, 1760, Les Arts Décoratifs

The small issue of display aside, what do you think of this française, with its careful pattern mirroring across the petticoat, skirt fronts and down the back pleats, and pattern on pattern trim, which almost disappears on the ground fabric?

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. I love the way the self-ruffle trim harmonizes with the print, and the meticulous print-matching on the back of the gown.

    On the other hand, I find the print itself a bit hard to love. Between the paleness and the blurriness, and the scale of the floral motifs, it makes me think of home furnishings rather than a gown.Granted the gown would be worn with accessories, but somehow I don’t think lace sleeve flounces would help in this case.

    I’m not feeling a 10 here. 6.5 would not be fair.

    So I’ll go with 8.0 out of 10.

  2. Now this is splendid. The skillful manipulation of pattern really creates something harmonious to the eyes. I see something worthy of being painted by Fragonard.
    10 of 10

  3. Elaine says

    I like the front a lot, especially the pattern matching. Interestingly, I was thinking last week that paniers would display the green printed fabric better (which for some of you would be a minus, not a plus). This is a lovely example of showing off the fabric, although I don’t care for the blurriness. 8/10

  4. Gillian Stapleton says

    I like the symmetry of fabric and design, and the measured restraint – like Georgian architecture realised with fabric!

  5. Jill says

    Perfection. It’s a grown up version of a little girl’s idea of a “Princess Dress”. Fancy, but not fussy.


    Just curious, could this dress have been for a woman who was pregnant? Asking because of the pannier situation..

  6. nofixedstars says

    i agree that the pannier placement seems a touch too high or generously sized or something…but overall, i love this dress. the train-back gowns are not my favourite, generally speaking, but this one has such gorgeous fabric and judicious trim that i can’t really fault it. i love a la branche weave; it’s like the western version of ikat, and gives such a beautifully soft-blurred design to a fabric. i want to put this gown on and have my hair up but unpowdered, and add perhaps a fine pearl choker, bracelets, and earring suite, and trail around a garden that is the perfect balance between manicured and romantically unkempt… just me and my tame lamb on a ribbon, LOL.


  7. Christina Kinsey says

    It is beautiful, l have a thing about pink roses as my wardrobe shows. Its lovely and graceful, not too fussy unlike some dresses. I must admit to a fondness for trains, though they arent maybe that practical
    The panniers could do with adjusting,so a 9.5

  8. I like ikat when it’s abstract geometric stuff, but when it tries to depict actual things I go “woah, slow down! Who put all those flowers on a conveyor belt?”
    But aside from the bluriness it looks fairly nice.


  9. Disien says

    Agree about the panniers, they are distorting the dress. But I’m not taking any points off for that, as it is not a fault of the dress design.

    This is a very beautiful dress


  10. I feel the need to stand up for this fabric’s hazy appearance.

    The blurry edges are not a flaw, but rather a feature of an incredibly complex style of textile production, which intentionally produces a soft image.

    I help but thinking that folks who might criticize this garment for having a hazy print are a bit like people who might criticize carrots for tasting carroty.

    The pattern matching on the front, back and apparently on the sides of this garment is superlative. I think this is a lovely garment.


  11. Susan W Walker says

    Oh my! Such an elegant gown! The chine de la branche fabric is lush. The “blurriness” of the print does not bother me. Colors are lovely, and the fern-like vine in the print is used very effectively. The gown’s decoration is restrained which puts the focus on the beautiful fabric. 9 out of 10 is my vote!

  12. vivien dwyer says

    Love the back…feel the front needs a bit of a lift somewhere…too much sameness. 8/10

  13. Johanna says

    Usually the compere front is my favorite style of francaise, but this time I don’t really think it works. It disappears in the rest of the dress, and looks like a bunch of bows that were just slapped on afterwards. I would have preferred a stomacher that was different to the rest of the fabrid. I love chine fabric though and in general its a beautiful gown.


  14. Julia says

    I like the back pleats, but generally don’t like much about this style. I find the colour and pattern of the fabric boring.
    Overall a very uninspiring dress. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it just doesn’t thrill me at all. 4/10

    • Julia says

      After reading the other comments this looks like it’s going to be an unpopular opinion!

  15. Kathy Hanyok says

    Strike up a minuet and fetch me some ratafia. This is a dream of a gown,down to the cloudy soft pattern. Also, take a look at the petalled (?) sleeve ruffles. I love it! 10

  16. Nannynorfolk says

    I agree about the panniers. But the dress is lovely, even if the fabric is a bit curtainy.
    Still 9/10

  17. Penny says

    The original wearer must have looked like a floating dream garden when she walked by!
    I would sooo wear a reproduction of this dress!!

    Ps, loved the green 1850’s & bows rule !

  18. Veronica says

    Now you’ve pointed out the paniers I can’t unsee them …
    Anyway, symmetry is very pleasing, but here I might like to see a plain trim (despite the recent flurry of trim controversy here) contrasting sections and highlighting details – the print seems to gobble up the pleats and exquisite construction details.

  19. Susan says

    I love the restrained trim – & most of all the compere front. I dislike the style of fabric in general, but can appreciate the artistry. The color palette is not my favorite, but the colors do all blend together. 7/10

  20. Cirina says

    Well, it’s elegant, but bit of… undefined? Lacking something?
    Maybe the self-trim is at fault, it strikes me as too busy and not visible enough all at once. It might be better off trimmed with silk ribon in matching color (matching some part of the pattern).

  21. dropping stitches says

    This is stunning. I just want to touch that fabric! What beautiful craftmanship to get that mirrored effect. The trim does fade into the dress, but I love this fabric and don’t want to spoil its watery, dreamy mood with anything else. I can see a woman strolling the gardens in this. Just beautiful.


  22. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I love it and I ADORE chiné silks, but have to take a point off for the way the stomacher seems to cut off very abruptly and straight across (I think the actual bottom of the stomacher may be being lost in the patterns) which makes it slightly awkward.


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