Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Deep Blue Day Dress

Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum

This week’s Rate the Dress dress is brought to you by my latest research and sewing deep dive. I’m obsessed with the big sleeves of the mid-1890s. I’ll show you the results of my research and experimentation in due course.

For now, it’s a slightly belated Rate the Dress – and an imperfect one. I’m having trouble with the ‘Comment’ function on the blog. I can see how many comments there are on a post. I can see the actual comments behind-the-scenes. Alas, however, comments aren’t showing up on the post so you can see what other people have written, and have a conversation.

If I can’t fix the problem we’ll just have an interesting experiment in which we find out what people think of a garment without seeing others reactions…

Last Week: a pink and green 1780s gown

Some of you liked last week’s dress, but no one loved it. Unusually for the 1780s it didn’t receive a single 10/10 rating. Everyone felt there was something not quite right: the colours too clashing, the proportions a little off, or the embroidery not worth the effort.

The Total: 7.1 out of 10

It’s a slight improvement on the week before, but hardly a stellar rating.

This week: an 1890s day dress in petrol blue

This week’s dress Rate the Dress is an upmarket, but not quite couture level, 1890s day dress.

Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum
Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum

It features a bodice with slim fore-sleeves in taffeta and large upper sleeves in silk velvet. The silhouette of the sleeves is made even more visually impressive by a matching velvet berthe collar. The collar travels up from the front of the bodice, falls over the sleeves, and hangs on either side of the back bodice seam. At the front it frames buttons which are both functional and decorative.

Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum
Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum

The fore-sleeves are decorated with widely spaced bands of velvet trim. The same bands are echoed on the skirt’s hem, forming its only trim. The strong horizontal lines are repeated in the back belt and in the standing collar.

Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum
Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum

The skirt is the slim, structured A-line of the late 1890s, and could easily be made from the Scroop Fantail Skirt pattern, with gathers instead of pleats and a slight train.

Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum
Day dress, 1897, Historic Deerfield Museum

The gathers of the skirt are repeated on the low collar, and an additional note of softness is added to the dress through dual rosette on the back and front of the velvet belt.

It’s an overall play of severe and soft, all held together with a harmonious colour scheme in one plush fabric and one hard fabric.

What do you think? Is this an elegant and tasteful gown for a place and situation when wearing Worth would have been showing off?  

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. Emma Louise says

    I really like it. It strikes the perfect balance between fashionable and practical. The blue is gorgeous and the dress as a whole is well thought out and balanced.

  2. Tracy Ragland says

    I absolutely love this dress! It’s my favorite silhouette and my favorite color. I like the fact that it’s not couture. A real middle class woman would wear this on so many dressy occasions.

  3. Buttercup says

    I like everything about this dress. It’s a winner and those rosettes are gorgeous. 10/10

  4. Astrid says

    Oh yes, I love it! I always seem to be drawn to the more understated dresses, and this is one of my favourites. 9.5/10 from me

  5. Stafford Belinda says

    Ummm. Is it top heavy? Too much dark plush on top without balance on the bottom?
    6 out of 10?

  6. Johanna says

    One of my favorite eras, and one of my favorite colours, and some of my favorite materials. It’s hard for me to find anything a fault with it so.

  7. Kathy Hanyok says

    I cannot find one fault with this dress, although blue is not my favorite color. I especially love the rosettes. They seem to airlift a more severe gown without looking out of place. Certainly a case of less is more. By the way, the teaser photo on Facebook made me think of 50 Shades. I thought we were diving deep for a moment. 10

  8. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I absolutely love the colours of this. I love the textures of the soft velvet and the moire silk (not sure if it’s actually moire or the ribbed silk moire-effecting in photos.) The greenish velvet goes so well with the deep blue. I really like how the velvet arrangement on the bodice almost looks like it’s a funky kind of velvet bolero-cum-harness strapped on over the top of a silk dress. I know it’s not, but I really like the idea now…

    I’m hoping that this posts. Anyway, I can see there’s some wobbliness where the belt fastens which I find quite endearing but it does bump a point off, so I’m going to go with 8.

  9. JessieRoo says

    I like the color scheme and the graphic quality of the trim. I’m sure if I worn this dress I would spend my day petting it just to feel the contrasting textures of the smooth silk and velvet. It seems like a perfect dress for someone who had minimalist tastes but still wanted to look fashionable. It does fill that spot for a dressy, stylish outfit that isn’t as ostentatious as a Worth or other couture gown.

  10. nofixedstars says

    i really rather like this one. i love that shade of blue (prussian?), and the black trim works well. i think it would have been a very flattering dress to wear—nothing over the top in ornament, but not bland either, and the lines are really good. i feel a lot of thought went into it, perhaps more than it might seem at first; it’s a deceptively simple dress at a time when over-ornamentation was often A Thing. the only thing i’m not crazy about is the way the large sleeves and the berthe sort of blend visually and almost read as a bolero, but are not one. it jars my eye in some way. but overall, really a very pretty dress.

    rating: 9/10

  11. OMG the contrasts of velvet and satin really make this dress in my opinion. I also like the overall outline and shape. But maybe I’m a sucker for big puffy leg-o-mutton sleeves and a tiny waist. I also find how they made the roses out of a strip of both fabrics so that you get a an even more dimensional flower really cool and something to remember for a future use. My first time to rate but I would give it a 10. If I have to give a dislike (it is really minor) I’m not crazy about the gathers on the collar at the back. Like I said minor.

  12. I love it! That’s one of my very favourite colours and I am quite envious of the fabric. I love the lines and silhouette.
    I don’t love the two tone rosettes though, I would have made them a bit smaller and only in one fabric, or left them off entirely.

    Aside from that, I have nothing at all to criticize! The belt looks a bit slumped on one side, and rough where it overlaps, but I’m guessing that’s just due to the ravages of time.


  13. I like the stress a lot. The the two shades of blue that are used really complement each other. If I were to reproduce this dress for myself I think I would extend that back lower collar all the way around it instead of having the gap in the back. I’m not sure if I like the gold buttons on it or not perhaps if they covered the buttons in the velvet that could be another choice as well I’m giving this a 10 out of 10.

  14. Elaine says

    The color scheme is very dark. I feel like it is something I wouldn’t like, and yet I really do. I love the dark blue. Somehow I like the sleeves, too, and normally I absolutely hate those huge sleeves with a passion. Not sure why they’re working for me, but this time they do. I like the trim, except it appears there is a black band running down the inside of the sleeve. I don’t care for that, but the colors are so dark maybe I’m not seeing it correctly. Overall, a very elegant dress. 9/10

  15. This dress is timelessly classy. Honestly, if I could get away with wearing it in my modern office life I would. It’s got the trademark 1890s style, but the subdued colours and the minimal-yet tasteful ornamentation avoid some of the excesses of the period.


  16. Mariana says

    I adore this! I know I’m being swayed by my absolute favorite color, and in a different color I would probably find the design more meh, but that just means they chose the color perfectly for this garment! I love it and can’t really find anything to critique.

  17. Frances Dorrestein says

    I give it an 8. I like it on the whole, and the sleeves are quite lovely, as leg of mutton sleeves go. And it is blue! I love blue. The velvet and taffeta play nicely together, in texture.

  18. Overall I find the combination of fabrics quite pleasing, and the silhouette elegant.
    The only trouble is that the photos are dark enough that it’s hard to appreciate the details.
    9 of 10

  19. Nannynorfolk says

    What a lovely combination of colours and fabrics, I even like the rosettes. Very elegant.
    I wonder what others think!

  20. I love this! visually simple enough that emphasis is given to the shapes, and the colour is even one of my favourite ones.


  21. 8/10
    Love the colours and the contrast between fabric types, but I’m not convinced about the stripes on the sleeves and I hate that flower.

  22. It’s gorgeous! Lovely lines, with just enough trim to keep it interesting but not enough to make it ornate or overly fussy.
    This is making me think I have underappreciated the 1890s in the past.

  23. kathy loomis says

    Too much stuff around the neck and shoulders for my taste, and two velvet collars are at least one too many. The front view is nice, and if the velvet had been just a short jacket instead of the collar in back I would be much happier. I like the rosette on the waist but how about front OR back, not both. I can’t get it above 8.

  24. Chrissie Paller says

    I love the simple elegance. The woman wearing this dress didn’t need to be the focus of attention, but would draw many admiring stares. The lines are beautiful and the rich color makes this dress. I don’t love the rosettes. They just seem like an add-on to feminize a rather severe dress. It was better left alone for the woman who had the presence amd power to wear this.

    A hard 9.5 for me! Love it!

  25. What a fabulous colour. Somehow it’s not one I would have associated with this era although I do know that the Victorians were far more daring with colour than we often give them credit for. Over all I really like the dress, even the huge sleeves that I’m not normally a fan of. The silhouette is elegant and feminine and the juxtaposition of the different fabrics adds interest. On the other hand it loses points for the waist rosette which is somehow rather at odds with the fairly severe tailoring of the rest of the dress and for the back of the collar which just looks odd. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to award it an 8 or a 9 but in the end that gorgeous colour won me over so it’s a 9.

  26. Vivien Dwyer says

    something not quite right at the back of the collar…do not like the divided look. Love everything else. 9/10

  27. Alright, it’s definitely different (weird?) to comment without seeing other people’s reaction!
    But I love it! Absolutely adore it! That color alone is amazing, but the silhouette, the marvellous play of soft velvet and shiny silk… Gorgeous! I’m especially struck with this take on huge sleeves. Normally I find the thick sleeves of the 1890s not very appealing, but these are perfect. Especially with the continuation of the velvet into the Berthe – it looks almost like a bolero.
    All in all, a wonderful dress for a confident woman who knows what she likes and how to get it. 10/10

  28. Cirina says

    Well I like it overall.
    Just the split in the pelerine… is bit too batwing for me. And the rossetes are a bit off. But I would wear it in a heartbeat.


  29. A very interesting dress, in two beautiful colors. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the two colors–a dark blue with an even darker green velvet–really work together. It’s original and well-made, but it doesn’t seem to me to have the special something that makes a dress worth a 10. (I also think the skirt could have done with a third band, but that’s a relatively minor point.)

    7.5 out of 10

  30. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Lovely monochrome scheme, good use of contrast texture with the velvet and taffeta. Restrained, almost simple for it’s era, but definitely in fashion.

    The only thing I don’t like is the split at the back of the collar. I think that a fully rounded collar would have looked better … but that’s just opinion.


  31. ElOmbu says

    Yep, comments are a mess, but this dress is spectacular. It’s one of my faves ever–but I’m a huge sucker for velvet trim, and the band around the sleeves and bottom of the dress, echo the high collar so perfectly. I hardly ever give a perfect score, (maybe you should hide the other comments more often, LOL) but for me, this is a perfect

  32. I’ve been following Rate the Dress for a while without commenting, but this one dress was so magnificient I simply had to ! The color is one of my favorite shades of blue, and I love the contrast brought by the black velvet. I appreciate the way the cut underlines the shoulders, especially on the back and I find the two roses an exquisite detail. I also find the two dark lines a welcome addition to the shape of the skirt.

    10/10 (I wanted to rate 12/10)

  33. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    Comments are still screwy. I can see a weird bunch of fragmentary comments on this post, but only the most recent five comments, only about 20 words of each comment, and three of them are for the Te Aro sample makes so not even for this specific post. Hope they can fix this soon – it’s really frustrating not to be able to see what everyone else thinks!

  34. Ralf says

    I think, there are situations, when a gorgeous but showy dress feels a bit uncomfortable for the wearer, because it’s not in harmony with her surroundings. It’s autumn in Europe now and the colour scheme of this dress fits well with dim daylight, rainy skies or a pale Winter sun. The velvet gives it a warm and soft feel. I think, I’d prefer it, if the back of the Berthe collar would form just one smooth line without the gap in the middle. And I can’t tell from the photos, but on the first photo the seam at the hem of the berthe collar looks a bit sharp compared to the soft gathering at the top. I don’t know if there is a way to finish the velvet in a way, that brings out the smoothness of the material more; maybe by involving some hand stitching. However, it might be just fine, once you see and touch the actual garment. I give it an 8

  35. Martina says

    I’m sucker for dark blue and black velvet, and I love the sleeves. 8/10

  36. Dropping stitches says

    I love the stately, moody colors. The buttons in front have that slightly severe, military look. I like it here. I like the velvet caplet and sleeves. Definitely adds some no-nonsense attitude. The back is a little odd with the flaps. And that rosette in the back annoys me, because I know it would bump into every chair back and be uncomfortable to wear in the lower back.


  37. Carol J Nicholson says

    This dress was for a dignified and serious woman, like Eleanor Roosevelt.
    10 out of 10

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