Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Pink & Green Polonaise

Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1

Apologies that the blog has been so slow: not much but Rate the Dress, and even that not on a weekly basis. I’m just out of pep at the moment. All my energy is going toward teaching, and everything else feels like slogging through molasses.

I’m hoping to wrap up some big project this week, and have more energy, and thus be able to finish some of the fun blog posts that are sitting 3/4 written. Fingers crossed…

For now, here is an extremely pep-y 1780s dress.

Last Week: a golden yellow moire 1860s gown

Not exactly to my surprise, not a lot of you were madly in love with last week’s dress. It was a lot. And even less to my surprise, the thing that received the most criticism was the rosettes. They were quite…distinctive. I really appreciated viewers who tried to imagine a person who this dress could really work on. While it’s not something I’ll every love for me, I could actually imagine a kind of person who it would suit and would look fabulous on, and who it would be so right for you’d just love it on them.

The Total: 6.6 out of 10

Eeep. Such a come down after weeks of 9+ ratings!

This week: a pink and green 1780s gown

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs describes this dress as a polonaise, and while it has decorative elements in common with some gowns that clearly are polonaise, the overall cut of this one is not typical of a polonaise. It definitely appears to have a waist seam, and its pointed back, while not clearly either an Anglaise or Italian gown, is definitely not the lobed skirt of a polonaise.

Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1
Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1 via Europeana Fashion

So, like many garments in the 1780s, an era of transition between styles, this dress has elements of many styles. In overall design it’s certainly a garment of its time.

Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1
Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1

The use of large quantities of a contrasting fabric for flat decorative elements is unusual in most 18th century fashion, but not the 1780s. In this dress the green trim is embellished with delicate metal embroidery featuring peacock feathers. Peacock feather embroidery was particularly fashionable at Versailles in the 1780s: the grand habit attributed to Rose Bertin at the Royal Ontario Museum features very similar peacock feather motifs.

Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1
Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1

While contrasting flat-trim appears in a variety of colour combinations in the 1780s, pink and green seems to have been particularly on-trend. I’m aware of at least four extant ensembles from this era with pink skirts and jackets trimmed with green facings. Given how many 1780s dress trends are named after actresses or characters in plays its possible that a particularly famous theatre costume came in this colourway and inspired the fashion.

Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1
Robe à la Polonaise (?), 1780-85 Musee des Arts Decoratifs, UF 70-38-1

I don’t know if the petticoat is original to the dress, or (more likely) one that was paired with it because it was a close-enough match.

This green, for the record, is not arsenic green: arsenic green is unsuitable as a colourant for silk because the copper turns dark in combination with silks sulphur content. Instead, this dress is an excellent example of how this shade of green could be achieved with natural dyes.

What do you think? Do you like this example of extremely-on-trend 1780s?  

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. nofixedstars says

    it’s candy-floss pink…all things fluffy, ruffly, bustled, and sweet. if you like sweets, here is a very macaron of a frock.

    (i don’t much care for sweets.)

    the acid green trim helps a bit. it is, overall, a great exemplar of the taste of the time that produced it. and although i have, through wearing a few outfits, come to appreciate this period of clothing more than previously, it will never be amongst my personal favourites.

    rating: 6/10

  2. Cyranetta says

    The green elements with the feathery embroidery are lovely, and although not to my personal taste, the pink is charming, but the whole made me think of a theatrical costume.

    9 of 10

  3. Deb Thomas-Wilton says

    First of all I reenact this era and I would wear this dress in heartbeat. The lace and embroidery are wonderful. I like the acid green I only wish the pink was a little deeper. I wonder what the original tone was. So I give it a


  4. Florence says

    Mh… love the back and I like the detail photograph, but the front just feels uninspired with the large green panels.
    Pink and green is a color combination that I only find attractive in certain shades and these are not it.
    Overall, an underwhelming 5/10

  5. I love the pink fabrics in the dress; the color is assertive without being rude or tacky. The draping is exquisite. But the green parts on the bodice and polonaise…! They look out of place. As though they came from another planet. It’s not just the color either–it’s the areas on which it’s deployed.

    Actually, the contrast makes me think of some of the clothing talked about in the Preppy Handbook, a humor tome of the 1980s that critiqued the look of people who bought their clothes mostly from places such as LL Bean, Lilly Pulitzer, and Lands’ End.

    6.5 out of 10.

  6. I think it’s lovely. I like the contrast with the pink and green, and the embroidery on the green fabric is beautiful.


  7. Lilium Argentum says

    I do like the colors of the dress, but it would require a wearer with as much confidence and eccentricity as the outside of the gown. Such vibrant colors before the invention of aniline dyes is quite remarkable so I will give it an extra half point. Overall, I like:
    The gathered skirt in the back
    The delicate and beautiful embroidery
    The contrasting colors
    However, I don’t really like:
    The two colors (pink and green remind me of a cartoon or ridiculous Met gala ensemble, I’m not a fan)
    The score would be a 7 but for the extra half point for the vibrancy if the colors.

  8. Delicious. On my screen the pink in some photos reads as pale coral, and I’ve long been a fan of coral with light green.

    The front view made me wish that the green panels were either narrower, or extended all the way around the overskirt, but the back view – what draping! – is so superb in pink that I changed my mind. I wonder how it would have looked with a green petticoat under a solid pink skirt. The side view is charming, and the green looks balanced there. I think the petticoat works very well with the dress. Altogether, the ensemble is fresh and feminine and spring-like. And I really like the color combination.


  9. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Wow … that is so preppy! Spring green and apple-blossom pink.

    The embroidery is wonderful – just a hint of glitter on the green. Nice striped (is it woven ribbed like seersucker or is that printed stripe?). The tiny floral sprigs are a delicate touch.


  10. Tracy Ragland says

    I really love the color combination! The green softens the aggressive pinky coral. The underskirt incorporates the green very subtly. Although this isn’t the clothing era I like the most, this is a lovely springlike confection.


  11. Christina Kinsey says

    The embroidery is beautiful, a pretty colour combination too. I am not a great fan of looped up skirts usually, but this is the style of the time. The kind of dress that l feel would suit one of those big picture hats of the time to set it off
    I think an 8

  12. I would not have thought to put those two particular shades together but I really like the combination. I want to really love this dress but I feel like it is missing “something”. Perhaps accessories? I give it 8/10

  13. I’m a sucker for pink and green.

    In this case though I’m not so fond of that shade of pink – it’s a bit orangey for my liking. Do love the acidey green though.

    The style of the dress is outstanding – so typical of the era. The gathering/draping on the back of the skirt is wonderful. It is beautifully made.

    I imagine a younger woman wearing this, with a big straw hat.


  14. Nannynorfolk says

    At primary school many years ago the headmaster had a saying ‘ pink and green fit for a queen ‘ which I then thought was odd. It really depends on which greens and pinks are put together, this weld yellow based green really doesn’t go with the shade of pink. But the embroidery and lace are lovely but rather overwhelmed by the green. Had the green been a more subtle shade it would have been so much better and not in your face. A nice dress though over all.

  15. Emma Louise says

    I like the pink and green combination in some of the photos but not in others, so I’m left a bit undecided about it. At it’s best it’s fresh and spring like but at its worst it’s gaudy. The embroidery is interesting and the Polonaise like draping is nice but there is something about the placement of the green at the waist that widens the dress at what I think should stylistically be the narrow point. Overall it’s not my favourite dress of its period.

  16. Gillian Stapleton says

    I like the green and pink combination, and such a vibrant green too. The panels of green on the skirt seem a bit too wide for visual balance however – just my personal opinion. Other than that, it’s lovely. 9/10

  17. april pressley says

    If someone told me I was to receive one of the wonderful wonderful gowns/ensembles etc you post, I would be ecstatic, if it turned out it was this one, I’d be devastated. Gosh, I don’t like it. It WOULD look great as part of a painting or theatrical scene though and I can see that it might be a bit charming on the right person so

  18. JessieRoo says

    I can almost taste fresh cantaloupe dress with lime juice and chili powder when I look at this, it has such a light, fresh look to it! I probably wouldn’t wear those colors myself, but the tart green keeps the peachy pink from being too disturbingly and overwhelmingly fleshy. The shape of the green facings on the skirt is a little clumsy; I’d like it to be a bit narrower and more gracefully shaped to set off the waist and the shape of the skirt. The embroidery and lace on it have such a lovely, airy look that it keeps the effect from being too heavy. As for the petticoat, original or not, it works very well by coordinating without perfectly matching the dress while adding some texture and pattern. Not my favorite outfit ever, but still very pretty.

  19. Cirina says

    I like the back view, I like the side view, I like the color combination /bit wild, but pretty/ and the embroidery is cute.
    The front is disappointing. The neckline is strange, the cut of the bodice is ungracefull and the green panels, so interesting from sides, are just meh.


  20. Elaine says

    I like the green fabric and the edging. The back is also draped prettily. I’m not enthusiastic about the color combination and I very much dislike the front. The green on the skirts looks awkward to me, as does the bodice. 5/10

  21. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    There’s something faintly distressing about the colour combination. I’m not sure what it is, but these are two perfectly lovely shades that come together to create something that isn’t quite as pleasing. Maybe it is the proportions of the green panels to the pink. I feel like the petticoat pattern fights with the embroidery too, it’s two different patterns that don’t really create the right kind of frisson to make the ensemble work.

    I love polonaises and retroussee drapery, but I don’t think I love this outfit. The white embroidery gets lost on the green so it’s not easy to appreciate unless you’re right up against the dress. The more I look at it, the more I want to like it, but the less I actually do like it. I think I’m going to go with 6/10

  22. Sophie Dawson says

    I know the comment is late but I’m back in the land of the living after 3 weeks sick with Covid.
    This isn’t my favorite era of dress. I absolutely love the back. Shades of what would come in the 1870’s, my favorite era. I would make it an overskirt rather than a “bustle polonaise.” The simple sleeve with the lace up the seam of the under sleeve appeals to me. I dislike the front immensely. Hate the neckline. Don’t like the wavy closure down the front. It’s not coherent with the rest of the green trim. I think the panels would look better with a gentler slope from the waist to the hem, but that’s a modern eye looking at it. The green panels as they are fit the era of the gown. The photo of the back is a pink I like. The green doesn’t appeal to me but have difficulty figuring out what color to put with the pink. My 9 year old granddaughter would say purple.

    I know my score isn’t calculated in, but I give it 6/10.

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