The last Rate the Dress choice was frothy Edwardian frills in pastel hues. This week it’s frothy mid-19th century frills in sable-on-sable. One of the most common dislikes for the Hallee dress was the colour. Perhaps you’ll like black better?
Hallee dress was quite popular, as has been the case with most Edwardian froth on Rate the Dress. Some of you weren’t entirely sold on the colours, or the vertical lines (although the photo is rather misleading – the vertical inserts are totally symmetrical, some are just hidden in the folds).
The Total: 8.5 out of 10
Not as good as the week before – as a couture piece, it wasn’t as good an example of its type as last week’s dressmaker’s creation.
This week: a ca. 1850 mourning dress.
This week’s Rate the Dress will be a little bit different. It’s a full dress, but one that is so dependent on the accompanying garments and accessories that it’s essentially un-rateable without them:
So I’m going to give you some options for styling to complete the picture.
What does this dress need?
- A petticoat, because the mousseline is so sheer.
- A guimpe or other form of chemisette to cover the deep V of the bodice.
- Engageantes to fill out the sleeves and bridge the gap between sleeve ends and wrists.
- And in most cases, a cap for indoors wear, or a bonnet for outdoors wear.
Let’s find some examples of those in fashion plates that are contemporaneous to this dress. The Amsterdam Museum dates this dress to 1850-55, but I think it’s on the earlier end of that spectrum – possibly as early as 1849, and probably not later than 53.
Clues to the dating? The deep V of the bodice with a chemisette for filling is rarely seen on dresses in fashion plates after 1851 – particularly when framed by gathered-in pleats, as seen here. Skirts with tiers of ruffles were fashionable throughout this period, but after 1853 they tend to overlap, rather than having space between them. Additionally, the skirt, while shown over a too-small hoop (note the way it droops on the sides – although there is a horizontal tear just under the front point that has been mended, lifting up the front of the skirt) isn’t quite large enough to fit over the large hoopskirts of 1854 onwards. The wider pagoda sleeves indicate a date after 1848, when the slim sleeves of the 1840s become less common.
Here examples of similar dresses in plates from 1847-1850, so you can imagine how the extant dress would have been styled.
The plaid day dress from April 1850 is very similar in shape, although with less tiers on the skirt, and a smooth, rather than pleated, bodice. Colour the bonnet and all the accessories black for deepest mourning, or leave the engageantes, chemisette and cap white for a less extreme look, and you can imagine how the dress in question might have been worn:
Here’s an indoor option for accessorising our dress, with cap instead of bonnet:
Yes, the white one is a morning dress – for wearing at home in the morning – not a mourning dress! The catalogue describes the second dress, the one similar to our Rate the Dress, as:
Walking, or home costume. The dress of French gray silk, with two deep flounces, headed by a narrow band of black velvet, and edging of the same. Plain corsage [bodice], half high, and finished with the velvet trimming, as are also the sleeves. Undersleeves, very full and gathered into a band at the wrist. Black mits of twisted silk. The cap is composed of alternate ruches of lace and ribbon, with a knot of small ribbon puffs on each side of the face. These dresses are suitable for spring or fall, for morning visits, or an evening “at home” costume. The exquisite simplicity of the first cannot but please; the other is intended for second mourning.
For another indoor example, and one from the earliest possible date for our dress, check the pinky-brown ensemble in upper left. Note how the sleeves are still quite slim, the chemisette with brooch fastening the collar. This almost certainly depicts an at-home costume, which, like the white one above, may fasten at centre front.
Here’s an example with a bonnet suitable for outdoor wear. Note the slim sleeves of both dresses, and that the teal example appears to wrap over at the front.
And finally, one example with no cap or bonnet at all. Once again it has a chemisette with a falling collar fastened with a brooch, and shows the newly-fashionable wider sleeves:
So, you have a dress, unstyled, and a multitude of options for completing its look. What would you pair it with? And how would you rate it?
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.