Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1920s voided velvet

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson, Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The last few Rate the Dresses have been quite subdued and muted in their colour scheme. That means it’s time for something bright! How about..orange? And velvet!

Last Week: an 1880s dress with embroidered cherries

I really wasn’t sure how people would feel about last week’s dress. It was so unlike most 1880s garments. Well…most of you loved it! And then some of you really, really didn’t like it, and thought it resembled a straitjacket, and looked ready to scold you. It would be the only cherry embroidered straitjacket to ever exist, that’s for sure! There was also a small group who thought it had definite possibilities, but needed accessories.

The Total: 8.5 out of 10

Just a fraction of a point up from the week before.

Can this week do better?

This week: a 1920s dress of voided velvet in vibrant orange

I felt that there was something a bit staid about last week’s dress, despite its perky pleats and cherry embroidery. This week’s dress, in contrast, is decidedly playful.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, silk velvet, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The dress is made of voided or ‘devore’ silk velvet in dark orange, with a border pattern of abstract roses and interlocking arches.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, silk velvet, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The velvet body of the dress is cut in a straight rectangle from shoulder to hip. It has long sleeves with very low, dropped armscyes, forming a ‘batwing’ effect.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, silk velvet, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The sleeves are made of a light silk chiffon in the same shade of orange as the velvet.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, silk velvet, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The same chiffon is used to form sashes which fall from a low half-belt which wraps across the back of the dress. The sashes are fastened to the belt with ornamental buckles made from an early form of plastic.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The sleeves and sashes add movement to the dress, creating shape and interest out of the otherwise straight rectangle.

Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,  Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032
Dress, 1927-1928, plastic, silk, Gift of Mrs. Herbert O. Johnson,
Goldstein Museum of Design 1981.033.032

The dress would originally have been worn with a slip underneath, likely in a matching orange, but possibly in a skin tone. At this date it’s unlikely the underdress would have been cut on the bias, so even in a skin tone it would have been as straight as the outer dress, and would not have revealed the body as the mannequin is revealed in these photos.

What do you think? How does this rank as a 20s frock?

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.

36 Comments

  1. kathy in KY says

    Oh wow — I love it!! If I had no hips and no bosom I would even wear it!! wonderful color, perfect match of simple cut and complex pattern — give it a 10

    • Completely seconded. 🙂 Except perhaps the colour would not work on me, either. But it’s definitely gorgeous on its own.
      10/10

  2. Absolutely gorgeous. The simple rectangular form really shows off the intricacy of the devoré to advantage. Love the particularly rich shade(s) of orange.
    10 for sure

  3. Kathy says

    I love it! I love orange, I love velvet and I love the era!
    If I could wear orange, and like Kathy in KY, had the figure, I’d wear this in a heartbeat.
    10

  4. PepperReed says

    Spectacular! The color, the balance of design on the velvet, and the simple cut to show off the fabric itself are all superb. I wish I could rate it higher, but for me its

    10/10

  5. The fabric is exquisite. The orange color is marvelous, the devore motifs, fun and playful. There’s a perfect balance of patterned and non-patterned areas, opaqueness and translucency.

    Yet somehow I can’t find it in myself to give this dress a 10 (and no, the plastic buckles have nothing to do with it). Maybe it’s the shapelessness of the style–common enough in the 1920s. But very few women would look their best in such a dress; one would have to be young, thin (or at least thin if not young), dark-haired and energetic.

    9 out of 10.

  6. I love it! I’m often not a fan of the straight shape of the ’20s–it reminds me oddly of the 1980s–but this is beautiful. I’m a fan of pumpkin orange, and the burnout velvet is really so pretty.
    10/10

  7. Kathy Hanyok says

    Yes,please! I love the burn-out velvet, the color, the style. I am shaped like a very well-fed munchkin but a girl can dream.10

  8. Mariana says

    I love the fabric! Catherine said it well–the motifs are fun and the fabric is well balanced between pile and ground. I expected to hate the color, as I’m usually not fond of orange, but something about it appeals to me. (On the right person, of course.) The straight shape of the 1920s is decidedly not my favorite, which certainly brings this lower in my personal opinion, but I think it’s a very fun example of the decade.
    7/10

  9. Lynne says

    Wow! What a perfect dress!

    Beautiful colour, beautiful fabric, beautiful simple style that makes the most of the fabric. And the fascinating bits of early plastic on the ‘buckles’ is so right for colour, and for weight. You can see how light they are – they haven’t pulled down at all.

    Happy sigh.

    10 out of 10

  10. The fabric is divine, so beautiful and intricate. Colour lovely, a beautiful example of the era. I most certainly could not wear it as I’m way too short and curvy (I’d look like a well fed goldfish!) but it is very pretty.
    10. Because why not.

  11. Victoria says

    Beautiful! That will look great on someone and the color is so striking. 10

  12. Clarissa Crabtree says

    Simply gorgeous and so much fun- my feet are tapping to do the Charleston! A definite 10

  13. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    The only acceptable shade of orange.

    I’m not inspired by it though, it’s a lovely dress but I find it pretty typical in every way. Nothing I’ve not seen before, nothing to go “oooooh that’s exciting” over, just a really nice classic 20s silhouette done well in a nice fabric. It’s unexceptionable.

    7.5 out of 10.

    • What about the lighter orange of that Doucet cape from the Met? The one with the meander border in darker orange satin, and a lilac bow?

      • Daniel Milford-Cottam says

        I had to go look that one up. I’d actually never seen it. That’s an okay shade too.

        Orange has to be like really, really good, rich, intense marmalade. Otherwise it’s just awful. I really find sherbert orange/peach/Bridesmaid Apricot one of the absolute vilest colours in existence, and neon is just intolerable.

        • I do recall you have given some peach dresses rather poor ratings over the years. I myself am partial to persimmon and paprika – but every once in a while I think peach gets it right!

  14. nofixedstars says

    the 20s are not my favourite fashion era, perhaps, though i make exception for the evening gowns and the glorious cocoon coats… this dress is a perfect example of its day, and i like it. i especially like the pattern on the devore velvet. the colour i could take or leave; it would look wretched on me, and i think it would appear best on anyone at night events, by the kindlier subdued light of candles, gaslight, and/or older electrics, perhaps. i like the belt, with its little ‘plastique’ details. a straight-lined peach or candle-glow colour under-dress would be ideal with it, to give it the proper body and show off the velvet patterning. and carnelian jewellery would finish it off a treat. i would ADORE this so much if it were the same fabric and colour but made in an edwardian silhouette…

    in a 20s style, i rate it 8/10.

  15. Really, I am in love with this dress, it is absolutely gorgeous!
    The combination of fabrics, the silhouette as well as the pattern and colour are amazing. The only thing I personally do not like that much is the belt, i.e. the belt itself is wonderful and does complement the dress, but the belt buckle and decoration do not appeal to me.
    Therefore, as a 20s dress I’d give it 9.5/10.

    Oh, and in case I would be rail-thin and not an hourglass I’d be so totally wearing this dress to any festive occasion…

  16. Nothing about this dress would work for *me*, but what a beautiful, rich yet simple garment. The balance of the straight lines and the draped embellishment is just perfect. I’d love to see this on a living breathing person and in action on a dance floor.
    10

  17. Melissa says

    I love love love this dress. I love the colour, I love the fabrics and I love the pattern of the velvet. I would wear that now. 10

  18. I think we have a hard time imagining how ground-breaking women’s clothes in the 1920s were. To completely eschew all structure of the previous centuries, and to replace them with these astonishingly simple (from a structural point of view) garments was such a radical change.

    This dress is such a perfect exemplar of 20s styling, right down to the way that the roses are depicted.

    I love the color. I love the textiles. I love the shape.

    A unconditional 10.

  19. Johanna says

    Not a fan at all, neither of the colour or the cut. This very straight 1920’s fashion is one of my absolutely least eras of fashion. Still for what it is it’s well done, the fabric is interesting and it also has a bit of timelessness to it. When I first saw the image I was surprised that you had put a 1960s dress up, but then I realised that it was a 1920s item instead.

    6 out of 10 from me.

  20. Oh no, a combination of orange, shapeless waist and batwing sleeves! It wouldn’t even be fair for me to give it a rating because those a three of my least favourite things /ever/.

  21. Nanny Norfolk says

    I love Devore and the pattern is lovely. The colour is rather too bright for me, but all in all I think it’s a great dress. The only thing I don’t like is the model, it’s head seems too big for the body and so detracts from the dress rather, still we’re not judging the manikin so
    10

  22. Lisa A says

    The devore velvet keeps the orange color from looking flat and pumpkin-y; the amount of velvet visible helps the tone range from an almost golden-orange to an almost ruby-orange, at least on my computer screen. I think the pattern placement on the velvet is perfect, and I bet the sashes look lovely in motion. The only negative for me is the batwings; I don’t think they are necessary. Though now that I write this, I can see how a more tunic-like sleeve, with its fluttery motion at the wrists, might have taken the focus away from the sashes and lower skirt. Could I wear this style? Not with my figure. But it’s a gorgeous execution. 10

  23. chantae m lucero says

    Oh my goodness, 10/10! The detailing on the velvet is perfect. I love that the batwing sleeve perfectly showcases the silk chiffon in a way that isn’t just pretty fluttery silk chiffon. Between the sheen of the velvet and the transparency of the chiffon, the whole dress looks like it would be beautiful in movement. Also, this shade of orange is just happy to me.

  24. Sheila Codd says

    I think the dress is wonderful but is there a hole in sleeve or is a trick of the light. Would rate as 10.

  25. ElOmbu says

    I don’t wear orange, but I don’t mind the color of this one–I just love it. And even if it is a perfectly typical 20s dress, I think it’s the platonic ideal of that dress, and I adore the devore pattern. A rare score from me:
    10

  26. Lovely dress. Haven’t the brain power to do a proper rating at the moment, but…

    9

    P.S. Auto-correct has gotten to “armscyes” in your post.

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