Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: tennis in the twenties

Day dress, 1920-1929, silk, Gift of Karen Olson, Goldstein Museum of Design 2004.003.001

This post is late because I booked my schedule to the limit without giving myself any space for emergencies and things going wrong — which meant of course there were, and they did!  It’s also late because my browser freezes every time I visit the Centraal Museum’s website, which is rather annoying when you’re trying to Rate a Dress from that site.

Last Week:  a mid 1890s dress in red silk faille and silk velvet

Last Rate the Dress was quite theatrical…or costumey.  Perfect for a Victorian Disney villain, or a gothic horror movie, but perhaps less effective in real life.  Some of you loved the drama of it, but not everyone.

The Total: 7.5 out of 10

Even worse than the week before!

This week: a sporty 1920s day dress in spring shades

After something so heavy and plush and upholstered, I thought something light and sleek would be a nice contrast:

This 1920s ensemble is a dress in two parts, consisting of a pleated skirt with attached slip, and a long tunic-blouse with patch pocket and asymmetrical swag collar.

The dress features embroidered motifs of tennis rackets and crossed field-hockey sticks on the collar and patch pocket.  It seems unlikely the dress was actually worn for sports: the silk crepe de chine would stain with the slightest amount of perspiration.  There were silk tennis dresses in the 20s: they were just made of silk weaves more amenable to washing.

The owner must have been a sports fan though.  Perhaps it was worn by a keen player off the court or field, or a keen spectator on the sidelines?   It might even be a club insignia.

Whatever the reason for this one, we know that  embroidered motifs were a fashionable touch on 20s sportswear.

While the sporty embroidery is worked in subtle white threads, the dress is also decorated with fagotting on the collar and cuffs in bright grass green, providing a lime zing to the yellow of the dress.

There is some exquisite sewing in the dress (that fagotting!), but also a few moments of refreshingly imperfection.  Look closely and you can see wobbles in the stitching round the collar facing, and on the pocket.  Silk crepe de chine is notoriously tricky so sew, so I have full sympathy.

What do you think?  Would you feel chic swanning up to support your favourite team in this ensemble?

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. Penny says

    I love it, you can just imagine enjoying a drink at the croquet club or an afternoon garden party. I’m not a huge sports fan myself, so the insignia wouldn’t mean much to me, but I assume it meant something to the owner. 10/10

  2. Cirina says

    I…. just don’t like it. There are some interesting details, as the swag collar, the embroidery insert at the hem, the fagotting, but well, it is the flour sack 20’s, and the impracticallity of the dress does not make it better. Where would you wear it, just to watch tennis matches?


  3. Amelia says

    I’m tempted to give this dress a fairly high score. The construction is neat, the design well-balanced and pleasing, and the little touches, like the embroidery, make it unique.
    However, one would have to be a particularly avid tennis fan to get enough wear out of this dress to make the fine materials and workmanship worth it.
    Maybe make the tennis dress out of a more wearable fabric, and save the silk for a more ‘indoor activities’ type dress.

  4. It’s a lovely dress, and I like the asymmetric collar draping too! The only thing I don’t care for is the particular shade of yellow, which reminds me of lettuce going bad.

    9 out of 10.

  5. I find it subtly lovely and can almost feel the movement of the silk. I could do without the embroidered motifs. but the green faggoting is a nice touch of contrast which calls attention to the unusual collar.

    9 of 10

  6. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    You had me at the first photo of the fagoting and swagged material. I had no idea what it might be, but it was probably going to be good.

    Ideal for lunch with the ladies at the “club”, where none of you ever do more than have a drink and a nosh waiting for the golfers to finish. Very much a 1920s piece, but with some detailing I had never seen, like the draping on the collar. How does that work?


  7. Elaine says

    This is not doing it for me. There are some nice touches, but it doesn’t come together into a unified whole. I especially dislike the color and the typical shapeless sack look of this era. What little shape there is is for the dress, not the body underneath it. It seems it would be very easy for the dress to wear the woman rather than the other way around. 5/10

  8. kathy in KY says

    I want to like this dress more than I do. Pluses: slinky silk, pretty draping, green stitching detail. Minuses: too much happening too close together — pocket (apparently) right up under the belt, collar swag overlapping the belt. And yuk for that tennis motif. The 1920s version of designer names blazoned all over your clothing and bag. If you want to embroider something on a collar I vote for flowers or geometrics. And I still wonder what women with breasts and hips wore in that decade — surely not this number! 8.0

  9. nofixedstars says

    not my favourite look from the 1920s, but then most of my favourites from that period are evening wear pieces. i really don’t enjoy sport—neither playing nor watching it—and tennis is especially dull to me, although there are far worse things in the sporty realm. still, in its day, this would be a fetching enough smart-casual day frock to wear to a match. i can see a tennis lover wearing it, perhaps to Wimbledon or one of the run-up tournaments, and looking unpretentiously pretty against a green garden background at the cocktails area. yes, she’s got a gin and tonic or a gimlet in one hand, her gloves are off and casually held in the other so everyone can see she isn’t wearing a wedding band, and flirting ever-so-delicately with pretty much everybody. i don’t love the dress so much on its own merits, perhaps, but i’ve quite talked myself around to its lifestyle…

    rating: 7/10

  10. Despite the lovely if impractical fabric and the unusual drape of the front, this dress seems oddly like something that would slide into the background (maybe not these days).
    I’d like to give it a higher score – for the work(wo)manship if nothing else – but the combination of the one-sided swag and the dropped tie-waist leaves the outfit feeling unfocussed and choppy to me.

  11. Lisa A says

    I’m picturing how fresh, cool, and youthful this would look outside in natural daylight and warm weather, worn to sporting event or clubs of some kind. The little side slit and the surprising fullness of the skirt would be enticing in a breeze. The softness of the drapes also modifies some of the boxy silhouette of the period, I think. True, the embroidered motifs wouldn’t be appropriate everywhere, but clearly the owner could splurge on something with particular outings in mind. Love the detailed fabrication, as well. 9/10

  12. Emma Louise says

    I find that I like the idea of this dress more than the dress its self.

  13. What a wonderful dress. The 1920s is one of my favourite fashion eras. And this outfit epitomises the post World War One freedom that women gained in that decade. The war had already seriously challenged the design of women’s clothing, as women were thrust into roles hitherto unimagined. This dress, to me, reflects that freedom, along with the frivolity of the decade as people sought to erase the horrors of the Great War.


  14. Judy says

    I like it. It epitomizes that ridiculous interwar period where ladies of a certain means were still changing multiple times a day with an outfit for every occasion. It is fresh and pretty and quite impractical for doing anything but sipping a cocktail court side.


  15. Kathy Hanyok says

    I do like the top third of this outfit. The drape is dramatic with the contrast favoring but I would forgo the clumsy embroidery. (My satin stitch by hand is equally sloppy.) The teeny tiny pin tucks on the back below the collar band made me sigh with delight. But from the bust down it is so blah. I’m sure it’s because my body is not built for the Twenties. And she needs a hat, a
    large swooping brim that covers one eye and echoes the drape. 7/10

  16. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    I think it’s sweet and really quite charming. I’m just kind of mildly charmed more than anything else, no real strong feelings. Cute. 8 out of 10.

  17. Brenna says

    I was so sure that everyone would hate the asymmetical collar as much as I do!

    Apart from that, it’s beautiful and I love it. Also, I think the tennis racquet trim works better for helping museum-goers understand the dress in the present than it would have helped to beautify the dress as worn outside in the 1920s!


  18. Mariana says

    There’s not much I like about this dress, or most 20s dresses, but the lime green fagotting and swoopy asymmetrical collar are lighting up part of my heart. Dress 4/10, collar 9/10.
    Averages out to 6.5/10

  19. Ally says

    I love the colours, and the fagotting on the collar, which draws attention to the asymmetrical draping that helps to balance out the overall simplicity of the dress. The small embroidered tennis/club designs are a nice touch as well. I don’t find the shape very flattering, but despite that it manages to be quite elegant. However, I can’t imagine anyone actually playing tennis in this.

  20. I like it! I think it looks lightweight and comfortable. The dress as it is styled on this particular mannequin appears slightly top-heavy to me; the asymmetrical collar appears slightly out of balance with the narrowness of the tunic and skirt over the hips and legs. I suspect this would be alleviated when the dress was worn by a human rather than styled on a mannequin.


Comments are closed.