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Rate the Dress: a new start in green

I’ve got a bit of a tradition on Rate the Dress of sharing a wedding dress for New Years. A dress to celebrate a big change, and a new life. That doesn’t mean it’s acres of white silk every New Years though. Women in the past got married in all sorts of fabrics, in all sorts of shades. This year’s wedding dress is an 1850s number in soft green. Let’s find out how you feel about it!

Last Week: a 1910s evening dress in dark pink-red

Most of you loved last week’s dress. You adored the sparkle and colour, and thought it was the perfect blend of ornamentation and simplicity. Others thought it might be a bit matronly. And some of you thought it was just not quite right: not well thought out and poorly balanced. But nobody hated it, so there’s something to be said for that!

The Total: 8.8 out of 10

Pretty good! And a pleasing 1.1 point up from last week, which appeals to my sense of organisation.  

This week: an wedding dress in soft green from 1850

This wedding dress is a perfect example of the transition from classic 1840s style to classic 1850s style, having many elements of both.

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979
Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

The skirt is wide enough to accomodate a large hoop, but still has a clear bell shape.

The bodice features a crisp fan-pleated front, a very popular feature in the 1840s that became less common and fashionable as the 1850s progressed.

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979
Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

The bodice features a false front closure ornamented with wrapped thread toggle buttons. Their aqua shade complements the hues in the brocaded flowers of the silk fabric.

Note the double layer of extremely fine piping finishing the waistline. Double piping edge finishes, particularly at the waist, are seen on many 1840s and 50s dresses, although this is a particularly narrow example.

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

The fabric features four different kinds of flowers, some realistic, some more fantastical. There are roses, and one that two that look like looks like a rose surrounded by small flowers. The other two are daisies or chrysanthemums (or perhaps a waterlily for one of them?).

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979
Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

The sleeves are widening into the classic pagoda shape of the 1850s. They would probably have been worn with decorative cotton engageantes underneath.

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979
Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

The cuffs have very interesting trimmings: strips of self fabric unravelled on each edge to create a soft fringe, and gathered in to create a soft ruched puff.

Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979
Wedding dress, 1850, England, silk, cotton, 145.0 cm (centre back) 51.0 cm (sleeve length) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Gift of Mrs Betty Blunden, 1979, D5-1979

What do you think?  The perfect mix of new and classic for a mid-century bride? Or does the old rhyme about ‘Married in green, ashamed to be seen’ apply?

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.

25 Comments

  1. The color, and the fabric, of this dress are beautiful. I suspect that this green would not flatter many people. A fair-skinned blonde, perhaps, or a very dark-skinned woman with the right undertone to her complexion. The aqua buttons make for a pleasing, if unexpected, contrast, and the fabric manipulation at the sleeve-ends that is used as trim is exquisite. As Leimomi hints, this dress needs accessories (engageantes, a crisp white collar) to truly shine.

    I can see the transition elements (1840s to 1850s) in this dress. What I like best about the dress is that it retains the subtlety of the 1840s despite showing elements that will increase in size and importance throughout the 1850s.

    With the right accessories it would be a perfect 10, but as it is, 8 out of 10.

  2. Mariana says

    I agree that the color would be difficult to wear, but I will give the benefit of the doubt that the fabric was chosen to complement the bride. It is a beautiful fabric handled well, and with the right accessories this would be a lovely little outfit. That said, I’m not particularly bowled over by it, so I will give it an 8.

  3. The colour of this dress is a bit muddy for my taste, and the colour of the buttons doesn’t quite work. I do love the sleeves though – that trim is wonderful. I’d give this a 6.5

  4. nofixedstars says

    i think it’s very fetching. i wonder if the fabric has faded a bit more than the buttons, perhaps?

    and i have wondered in the past about the origin of that “married in green, ashamed to be seen” saying… as green was a common enough choice for bridal gowns (and for queens of the may, long ago) before both were replaced by *ahem* virginal white, maybe the saying is suggesting that green bridal gowns were old-fashioned/out of date? or that someone marrying in a colour other than white was of suspect character by the mores of the day? or, less likely but not impossible, it was referring to an old tradition of green wedding gowns being associated with paganism and thus unseemly to christian minds? any way, to my mind, it’s silly; green is a fine colour for a wedding dress and this is a very pretty example of one, in a shade that came and went in and out of fashion over the decades.

    i can see this being a lovely dress on many kinds of women, and it would look especially nice with a delicate parure of turquoise and pearl to accent it.

    rating: 9/10

  5. I find this graceful in design lines and serenely lovely in fabric (which may have helped to calm bridal nerves). The fan-pleated front really acts to minimize the waist.

    9 of 10

  6. kathy in KY says

    I acknowledge that this bride was a LOT thinner than I am, but I have to wonder whether she was able to breathe and/or sit down wearing this!

    I like everything about it except the neckline, which seems naked. Catherine suggested it would be worn with a white collar, which would probably help, but would that make it too informal?? I’ll give it an 8.5

  7. I like this dress a lot and I bet a specific person who has the Right coloring would look beautiful in it. The only thing that I question are the little watermelon buttons that they have. As cute as they are and I would love love love to have some of those if I was making that dress I probably would’ve chosen some other buttons to put on it. This time I’m giving it a nine out of 10.

  8. Elizabeth says

    9.5 out of 10. I like the sleeve shape, and the fan pleats are so impressive. I actually love this color green! The only criticism is of the toggle-y buttons on the front are rather distracting, and I think they would be wiggly. 🙂

  9. Lynne says

    I love it. So elegant – a fine example of the style of the period. It is simple, but with lovely detain – like the pipings, and the sleeve trim. And the buttons! Wrapped thread! Very detailed. I’m trying to think of the fruit they remind me of. What do you think, Leimomi?

    The fabric – where do we think it is made? Japan? China? I wonder if the buttons came with it? Sorry, a lot of questions here. I love the colour and the delicacy of the motifs. Green is a lot easier to wear than people think – it’s just hard to find really nice green fabric.

    A happy beginning to the year!

    10 out of 10

  10. Donna says

    Love this green – my first wedding I wore a lively silk suit in almost the same color. I’m a redhead & the color is ideal!! The tucking, ruffles, & fabric are lovely – a perfectly beautiful vintage dress!

  11. Kathy Hanyok says

    I love this dress! I always admire fine pleat work and green is my favorite color. I do agree with those who think the colors have faded, especially the flowers. A more vibrant teal(?) would have made more sense of the buttons. Possibly a lace collar to finish the neckline, with an heirloom cameo. 9.5

  12. I love the shape of the bodice and all the wee stitches are astonishing. The sleeve ruffles are weird. Perhaps of there was lace at the neck and sleeve bottoms…. I’m imagining how pretty this would look on Jessica Chastain. Question. How did the women of this era achieve the sloped shoulders? 7.5/ 10

  13. Elaine says

    I like the shape (except for those sloped shoulders, which I know were very popular for a long time). The fan pleat is impressive, especially the way the flowers appear on each pleat. I even like the sleeve finish, and normally I don’t care for the frayed look.

    I can see hints of the button color in a few of the flowers. I agree with others that maybe the fabric has faded, and the buttons originally wouldn’t have been such a jarring contrast. I don’t like that contrast now, but I can’t deduct points for what is likely due to aging.

    I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t have been a collar or some other finish to the neck when this was originally worn. Taking into account likely fading and lack of accessories, this is a very nice dress. 8/10.

  14. Jill says

    Oh dear. I don’t like this dress at all. The proportions seem off, the sloping shoulders aren’t my thing, and the color seems very washed out.
    4/10

  15. Lisa A says

    Does it seem overly long-waisted to anyone? Is that from the height of the neckline? The way it’s displayed on the mannequin? Something about the torso proportions seem unflattering, despite the exquisitely tiny waist. The trim on the sleeve ends seem unconnected in style to the precise pleats and buttons, but as someone suggested, maybe something more frothy at the neckline or wrists would tie it all together. I find the fabric and color to be elegant and ethereal. 8/10

  16. Michelle says

    I actually love this. I agree with earlier comments that the buttons down the front aren’t what I would choose but still…9.7 out of 10 in my book.

  17. Cirina says

    I like the style, fabric, extra crispy pleating and the buttons are cute.
    Only thing I don’t like is the self trim on the sleeves. After all the crispines it strikes me as messy and extra.
    8/10

  18. I love it. I love the fan pleat, and wish I could figure out how to do that. It’s so gorgeous. The green is nice and subtle, and I wonder what the person looked like wearing it.

    If it’s a false front closure, how does it close I wonder? I’d love to see a back view, or just a how to put it on video.

  19. Emma Louise says

    I love the crisp pleats and the buttons are cute. I actually really like the blue buttons/green fabric combination. But I do agree with Cirina that the trim on the sleeves doesn’t go so well with the rest of the crisp dress design. 8/10

  20. dropping stitches says

    I love it, as I love most greens. The sleeve details are beautiful and delicate. The fabric is lovely, whatever color it was originally. I do wish the bodice had a little more detail aside from the buttons, but that is a small point.

    9/10

  21. Debbie Farthing says

    What a lovely dress. I can only imagine how it must have looked before the fading – certainly more vibrant and perhaps the blues in the skirt stood out more. I love this color and the little buttons are a nice addition.
    9/10

  22. Trudi Cole says

    That is my favorite color and I love the playing of the bodice it is a beautiful dress so much nicer than boring old white I also bet she had an evening bodice to wear at night I love that dress

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