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Rate the Dress: black, green, pink, and brightly beaded wartime daywear

Dress, 1910-1919, silk?, wool? beads, Gift of Beryle Christesen, Goldstein Museum of Design, 1983.025.007

This week’s Rate the Dress is mid-1910s themed, to celebrate the launch of the Selina Blouse.

Last Week: an 1830s banyan and waistcoat of 1740s fabric

Apparently men need to go back to wearing beautifully fitted housecoats in lavish floral fabrics, because last week’s banyan and waistcoat were very popular.

The Total: 9.7 out of 10

In Rate the Dress that’s practically perfection!  And no surprise – fabulous fabric, fabulous fit, and so interesting.

This week: a 1910s day dress with touches of colour:

This dress is an excellent example of high-end mid-1910s day dress:

It’s got a simple, practical silhouette, enlivened by interesting details.

The black colour shows the trend towards black as a chic, practical, everyday colour which was had been championed by couturiers like Paquin since the late 19th century.

Black was practical in more than one sense in the middle of WWI.  Germany had been the world’s largest dye producer prior to WWI.  The war cut off supply lines, even to countries not involved in the war.  One of the few dyes manufactured in large supply outside of Germany was black: so black clothes were in.

This dress uses touches of unexpected colour to relieve the black: the green collar edged with hot pink embroidery, and multicolour glass beads running up the front.

The grouping of the beads, rather than running them at regular intervals down the front, is a typical feature of mid 1910s design.

The dress is full of other classic war-year design features: quirky double collars, a loose sheath silhouette that anticipates the 1920s, but is pulled in with the two side sashes, layered skirts, and beautiful finishing details.

I’ve puzzled over the entry to this dress, and think I’ve figure it out.  It fastens down the centre front under the front panel.  The panel hooks or snaps under the collar on the proper left, and is caught with a hook under the proper left waist sash bead.

What do you think?  A good balance of practical, luxurious, elegant and fun?

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.

28 Comments

  1. I appreciate the imagination that went into war time fashion. My mother used to say, “Save the wool. There may be another war.” The delicacy of the green collar seems not to balance with the black for me. Maybe too wide? The buttons, however, are the right bit of flirt, though. And the gauzy overlay skirt is quite feminine. 8/10

  2. Alissa says

    Darling! Deducting one point for the points on the collar which are a bit too “Vampirina” for my taste.
    9/10

  3. Cirina says

    And now I want one.
    The only thing that does not sit well with me are the decorative beads. They are splendid, but I would not put them on this dress. I would decorate the front panel with buttons instead, the same ones that are already used at the waist – covered with the green fabric and hot pink decoration.
    9/10

  4. Jennifer says

    10/10 This dress is perfection and still a wearable design. I love a pop of color on black….and I didn’t know about the history with the dyes in WWI. So I learned something very interesting as well!

  5. Emma says

    My first impression wasn’t good but the more I look at it the more I find to like about it.

    9/10

  6. Frances Dorrestein says

    I adore this dress. I would wear it with the greatest delight. It looks to me like wool gauze, which is a delicious fabric.
    I agree with you on entry and closure. I have a French white muslin dress of the same era that closes like that.
    For me it is 9.5.

  7. Johanna says

    I love the 1910s, it has sailed up as one of my favorite fashion time periods. As such I have to love this dress. Sure I would have preferred something more fun than black, but as noted it is a very practical dress for everyday wear. I cold definitely see myself in this. I would maybe switch the glass buttons though, they are the one element I wasn’t too thrilled about.

    9,5

  8. Kathy Hanyok says

    I think it’s charming! I like the glass beads. They add a subtle pop of Springtime,as does the embroidered collar. Always a sucker for a buttoned sash. What this needs is a wide brimmed black hat decorated with roses. Being too short, I’ll admire from afar. 9/10

  9. Susan says

    Lovely dress, appropriate and practical for wartime. Ladies did more work in that time, and I could imagine someone doing their bit in this.

    9/10

  10. Rhys says

    I’ve been wanting to make this for myself for ages, it’s one of my favorite extant garments from this period. 10/10!

  11. The back view is particularly graceful, and the unusual structure of the collar for me is elegant. The glass beads may not be as prominent in real life, and the glints of color do coordinate with the collar treatment.
    9 of 10

  12. Linda Olson says

    I love this dress for it’s practicality and subtle style. I would wear it in a minute. The button placements are creative and the pink and green trim make me happy. 10

  13. nofixedstars says

    i adore it. it’s chic and whimsical at the same time. flattering and comfortable. i can’t say how much i love those glass buttons. i would wear this in a heartbeat right now!

    rating: 10/10

  14. LindaMB says

    10/10, lovely cut & style. Practical but pleasing wit a touch of whimsy with the buttons I’d wear it today!

  15. Elaine says

    I love this. It is elegant, sophisticated and practical. My next dress is going to more or less a reproduction of this. I already have suitable fabric for the dress; just need to get the green for the collar and appropriate notions. Thanks for the tips on how to leave an opening to get into this dress! 9.5/10

  16. Elizabeth G Tongue says

    I love the style, but not the green color of the collar. Navy, light blue, purple, or red, anything but green. The buttons, beads, and other ornamentations are lovely. I like the tabs that nip the waist too. 9.5/10

  17. I like this too – great lines! – and unlike some other commenters, I don’t object to the green collar. Where I draw the line is the hot pink embroidery. It doesn’t seem to have the same quality of finish as the rest of the garment, and being hot pink unfortunately really draws attention to it.

    The other thing that seems a little odd to my eyes is the way the green and pink are not repeated anywhere else in the outfit – there’s just one splodge of colour and that’s it, no picking it up with a little facing or embroidery at the cuffs or harmonizing sparkly buttons or anything like that.
    6/10

    • Erika Otter says

      I agree. Just one more touch of green or pink somewhere, that hat with roses would do it. But, such an elegant skirt, and I love the buttons. 7/10

  18. Lisa A says

    Flattering shape, beautiful construction, and flirty bits of color. The only thing I’m not fond of is the double-layer skirt with such a large expanse of the sheer bottom panel shown–it seems a bit too waft-y compared to the relatively precise lines of the bodice. 8.5

  19. Nellie says

    Elegant, but fun and wearable too. Would wear this in the present day, honestly.

    9/10, losing the one point because the underskirt doesn’t quite fit the rest of the dress.

  20. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    I really like the way they belted the top into a sleek tunic, and it has such a crisp career woman feel to it. My grandmothers (either of them) would have loved wearing this.

    BUT:
    1- the gauzy underskirt is too gauzy for the rest of the dress.
    2 – the green collar appears to be an afterthought.

    9.0

  21. AnnaKarenina says

    I don’t really find any „flaws“ with this one, but I‘m not loving it either. I find the styles of this time period generally quite hybrid. For example, the bodice looks like a mix between the leftovers of a ca 1910 „pigeon breast“ and a ca 1920 „flat front“. That’s tricky because a classic 1920s dress tends to look better on slender, flat chested women and the pigeon dress silhouette works on curvier women with small waists. So how about this dress? Who looks good in it? I see a very young, slim woman in it. But she could get away with pretty much anything anyways. All the details are very nice and I appreciate the level of focus and quality that went into to production of the dress. I‘m just not loving the general effect, because of it‘s „Puritan“ character. It looks like a „church dress“ to me. I think, if it was white linen instead of black, it would say „summer dress“. As a breezy, white summer dress I‘d give it 1 point more. However, as it is: 7/10

  22. I love it! I want it! (But seriously, I would absolutely make this if there was a pattern available). With a couple changes (mostly a shorter underskirt) I would wear it for regular, everyday apparel.

    I agree with some of the other comments regarding the underskirt. It appears just slightly too long or too short for the rest of the dress. I wonder if it would “fit” better visually if there was a petticoat underneath to give it a tad more volume (I can’t remember if this would be historically accurate or not).

    I also could do without the hot pink embroidery, but that’s mostly a personal preference. The green collar is visually appealing; I probably would have selected a shade of blue to coordinate with the buttons, but perhaps an appropriate shade of blue fabric wasn’t available.

    10/10

  23. Amelia Harris says

    8.5, I must deduct for the beads, which I just do not like on this dress.

  24. It’s not a “wow” of a dress, but I rather like it; practical and dignified. I like the green collar, but I rather wish the enlivening touches were bolder and more prominent.

    7.5 out of 10

  25. Penny says

    This honestly looks like something I would be happy to wear to work today. I love almost everything about it, the silhouette, the length, the layers, the fabric, the cute glass buttons, the colour. But I really don’t like that green collar. Not that I object to a splash of colour, it just seems the wrong sort of green and sets my teeth on edge. It reminds me of Christmas trim, but not in a good way. 8/10

  26. Emma Louise says

    I really like it, it’s smart and practical. I like the pop of green, and I like that the coloured beads and the buttons on the tabs are different but still go together. But I do agree that the skirt isn’t quite perfect, too gauzy? or the underskirt too long?
    9/10

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