Rate the Dress: insertions, tucks & ruffles by Hallee

Doing Rate the Dress while the blog comments were down seemed pointless, and I’ve also been ridiculously busy for the last few weeks, so I’m behind on posts. But I’m back, and will try very hard not to miss another week!

My Rate the Dress choice for this week is both a direct progression from the last Rate the Dress I posted, and a photographic negative: its mirror, and complete opposite. It’s only three years later, and also a day dress, and so similar, and yet so different. How will it fare in comparison?

Last Week: an 1897 day dress in deep blue

Such interesting comments on the previous Rate the Dress (and hurrah, you can see them all now!). I particularly liked how people looked at it for what it was: a dress by an extremely competent dressmaker for an upper middle class woman: not a couture creation. Some of you felt it was a little heavy, and not everyone was on board with the rosettes (agreed), so it lost a point here and there for that.

The Total: 9.2 out of 10

An impressive result! And it gets a bonus point because my Mum loved it. It reminded her of a blue velvet dress her childhood best friend had when they were 5 or 6 that she loved and envied.

This week: a ca. 1900 afternoon dress by Hallee in lace and eu de nil

Last week’s Rate the Dress was a day dress for autumn and winter. This week’s is suitable for spring and summer. Last week’s was beautifully made, but not couture. This week’s, by Hallee, is definitely by the highest echelons of dress creators. Last week’s was in dark blues. This week’s light ecru (probably darker now than it was originally) and eu de nil.

Last week’s dress was an arrangement of solidity and smoothness, a sleek accumulation of warmth and structure: every texture giving the impression of solidity. This week’s is all about frills and tucks: all the ornamentation and fabrics working together to emphasise lightness and froth.

Dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), ca. 1900, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009.300.3098a-b
Dress, Jeanne Hallee (French, 1880—1914), ca. 1900, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2009.300.3098a-b

Look beyond the contrasts, and the dresses are incredibly similar. The same overall silhouette, the same use of strong horizontal lines and angles. As a costumer, I could start with the same base pattern for both dresses. With more tucks and ruffles, and smaller sleeves, last Rate the Dress becomes this Rate the Dress.

What do you think? How does it do on its own, and how does it do as a comparison.

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. It may not be fair, because the current colors are undoubtedly influenced by aging, but I don’t care for them – my first reaction was “seaweed washed up on the beach” with regard to the bodice ruffles.

    The application of the vertical lace bands on the skirt seems rather random, but I do like the skirt silhouette.

    7.5 of 10

  2. I like the outline, and the decoration is fine–prominent enough to be interesting, not so prominent as to be overbearing. I agree with Leimomi’s characterization of the dress as emphasizing “lightness and froth”. The current colors, unfortunately, are rather drab, and evocative of decay rather than sweetness, but it’s hard to know what they originally looked like, so I’m disinclined to mark the dress down much on color grounds.

    Re: the vertical bands on the skirt. As far as I can tell, they seem to be spaced evenly around the skirt. It’s just hard to tell because the fabric is so light some of the bands nearly disappear inside of folds.

    9 out of 10

  3. As for any comparison, I’m afraid I don’t see much grounds for comparison. The skirts have some similarity in shape, and there is some similarity in the stripes on the sleeves and necklines. Otherwise, I think the differences in fabric weight, color, and ornamentation make these two dresses more alike than different (to say nothing of the fact that today’s dress pays tribute to the pouter pigeon front, which the dark blue dress does not).

  4. Theresa says

    I love it. The discoloring is distracting but when you overlook that it’s a great dress. I love all the techniques and lace. It’s what I how I envisioned my wedding dress when I used the Folkwear Edwardian Gown pattern.


    • Heather says

      I love this! Even though the colors are have probably changed a bit since it was made, I really like the combination. The insertion lace is stunning as well. I really like the geometry of the parallel lines of insertion lace and the lace placement really succeeds for me (even as a person who isn’t a bit fan of lacy gowns).


  5. nofixedstars says

    i rather like this dress, overall. i do think the colours have gone off considerably, and in a not appealing way. usually i love eau de nil, but this does have a very yellowed cast. however, i won’t take off points for ageing issues. i’m pretty happy with the silhouette and the ornamentation—it’s i nice, light, frothy but not excessively so frock to receive informal company in, or have luncheon on the terrace. i’m only deducting a single point, simply because it’s nice but doesn’t rock my world despite the amount of work that went into all those tucks and bands of lace, and being from hallee’s august house.

    rating: 9/10

  6. Penny says

    I love how it’s both tailored & frothy at the same time. I would have loved to have seen the colors before they faded. I’m wondering if the colors we’re supposed to evoke the Nile and the desert sands? Would definitely wear a reproduction of this dress!

  7. Gillian Stapleton says

    The detail on this is astounding. I always find myself looking at a garment this complex and boggling at the time it would take to make an accurate recreation – and bowing to the skill of the original makers. Just beautiful, and when it was new and crisp, it would have turned heads as it swept by on the street.


  8. JessieRoo says

    I really like the orderly, graphic quality of the trim and tucks. It keeps the whole thing from being too light, frothy, and busy. The silhouette is nice too: not too soft, not too severe! Overall, it looks like a very wearable dress. If the colors evoke decay rather sweetness, I like it all the more for that. It’s like a soft, sad moth puttering through it’s final days at the end of summer, but in dress form.

  9. I think it looks sort of unhappily like a broken seashell washed up on the beach. All those tucks! Not really my thing, but I can acknowledge that it must have looked better when new. And hey, I like the beach!

  10. Kathy Hanyok says

    I have great respect for the work of the makers, especially the little apprentice seamstresses tasked with all those tucks. But I do not admire this dress. The colors look very rusty on my screen. But it does have lace and that’s always a plus.It’s probably my lack of imagination; I can’t see past the lackluster presentation. 8/10

  11. Christina Kinsey says

    I think ageing has affected the colours, it could have looked beautiful when new. Even so, the contrast of the dark ecru lace with the pale green of the dress still, has charm . I admire the work in it, the lace and the general line of the dress, just not sure about the puffy front.
    All in all its a 9

  12. Emma Louise says

    I really liked last weeks dress and I really like this one too, even though they have really different feel to them . The colours are a little aged and sad but I can imagine how it looked when it was new and fresh. I really like the overall shape and the placement of the stripes, I agree with a previous commentator who said that they have a graphic look to them that stops the dress from looking too frothy.

    • Emma Louise says

      The more I look at the stripes on the skirt the more it is reminding me of something, but I’m not exactly sure what… A crinoline, maybe?

  13. Mariana says

    I quite like this dress. The only thing I don’t like is the vertical trim, which to me kind of breaks up rather than accentuates the lines. (I also dislike the color, but I believe I would have liked it very much when new, and therefore I will not subtract points for that.) I absolutely adore the tucks and the lace-banded ruffles, as both give me a feeling of life and movement about the dress even standing still. I wish I could see it actually swishing about!
    I could have taken plainer sleeves. I don’t mind them terribly, but it does seem a little much for that smaller surface area. Unfortunately, now that I’ve noticed the collar, it really doesn’t speak to me. I think this dress loses its point primarily for that collar and the way it just doesn’t quite go, but it keeps the rest because I’m imagining it new and lovely.
    Overall, 9/10

  14. This dress is so dainty. It makes me think of fine porcelain teacups, tissue paper, and sea shells – all in a good way. I can’t help but remove a point for the color, but otherwise it’s close to confection perfection. 9/10.

  15. Sophie Dawson says

    The dress is lovely. I’m sure the original colors were more pleasing. Not fond of all the tucks, but that’s because my girls don’t need accentuated. They do demonstrate the pigeon breast bodices and shirt waists of the time. I like the hem ruffle. I think they add so much to a floor length skirt. I don’t think the construction is the best. The sleeve seam on the right (left arm), the lace doesn’t match. I would have unstitched the seam and adjusted the lace so the ends matched. A little shoddy for couture and the price it would have commanded.

    8 of 10

  16. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    facebook.comI’m trying to imagine this in the original colors. If you lighten the ecru and darken the rest to what was perhaps the original … I could like it.

    It’s a great combination of frou-frou and military precision. In navy blue and white it would be a seaside nautical dress. But it’s rather aesthetic instead.

  17. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    facebook.comI’m trying to imagine this in the original colors. If you lighten the ecru and darken the rest to what was perhaps the original … I could like it.

    It’s a great combination of frou-frou and military precision. In navy blue and white it would be a seaside nautical dress. But it’s rather aesthetic instead.

    I have no idea what happened to my post … but the dress is a wonderful example


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