Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: an early 19th century embroidered morning dress

Morning dress, ca. 1806, American, cotton, wool, Gift of George V. Masselos, in memory of Grace Ziebarth, 1976, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.142.2

After a smashingly successful evening event (and you definitely thought last week’s evening dress was a smashing success), a well dressed lady wants something simple but elegant to slip in to for a relaxed morning.  So this week we’re going back in time a century with a simple morning dress with wrapped bodice.  It’s a very different garment than last week’s dress.  Will you like it as much?

Last Week:  a 1910s evening dress in copper and bronze

If there was one downside to last week’s Rate the Dress it was that it was tricky to keep track of all the 10/10 ratings!  You looooooooved the dress.  The worst rating it got was a single, lonely 8.

The Total: 9.9 out of 10

A Rate the Dress milestone!  Once, in the first year of Rate the Dress, there was a 10/10 rating.  Since then the highest rating ever achieved was 9.7.

This week: An early 19th century embroidered morning dress

This week’s morning dress carries on last week’s copper and rust colour scheme, only worked in wool embroidery on cotton, rather than in silk and metal on silk georgette.

This style of dress would have been worn by a wealthy woman in the morning, before getting dressed in more elaborate clothes for afternoon and evening events, or as a simple at-home frock if she wasn’t planning to go out or to host a formal event.

The simple wrap construction of the bodice would have made the dress easy to put on, and the restrained colour scheme is in keeping with the overall air of informality.    The details of the dress, from the scalloped hem, to the pointed collar, the intentionally over-long sleeves, and caught-up over-sleeves, suggest a wearer with an interest in fashion, a desire to stay a la mode, and the money to do so.

What do you think?  The perfect relaxed frock for the day after being belle of the ball?

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. The first impression for me is “how cozy! – the ideal garment in which to curl up on a settee and sip chocolate.”

    The hemline embroidery is lovely, but I could wish that the trim on the bodice were a bit more emphatic in scale.

    9 of 10

  2. I ADORE this! It’s so pretty and restful. I only wish that the hemline embroidery was larger, or if it was echoed a bit more up top. It looks a bit unbalanced to me, as it is. The embroidery is lovely, though.

  3. Buttercup says

    A bit too plain and simple for my tastes. I’d like to see more of the embroidery on the bodice or sleeves just to jazz it up a bit. If you’ve had a big night it would be a comfortable dress to wear if you were nursing a hangover the next day

  4. Kathy Hanyok says

    Yes, please! This is actually the first I want to ,and think I
    can, replicate. It is cozy, but elegant. Now to find a fine cotton lawn. 10/10

  5. Debbie says

    I love it’s simplicity. The embroidery along the bottom is beautiful, nice way to have tea in the morning. 9 out of 10

  6. Anna says

    I would love to own and wear this. It looks so comfortable, but is also effortlessly stylish. 9/10

  7. AnnaKareninaHerself says

    I like the of ease of Empire fashions and that attitude of „sprezzatura“, that is nowadays falsely used to sell products with an „ Italian style“. However, if you go back the origins of the word, it fits the styles of the era well.
    In this particular case: i think, the cut is fine and the wrap construction quite clever. I like the embroidery at the hem. Actually I find it somehow charming, that it looks a little „rough“ because I can somehow imagine, it was done by the wearer or someone she knows. That’s probably not true, but it‘s a nice little narrative. I‘ve never done any needlework, but I image it almost having the effect of meditation, if it’s done with focus. I agree, that the trim at the collar isn‘t really as nice; it’s not bad or „wrong“, but I personally don’t need it to be there. It seems at first, like the dress might be to plain without the trim at the collar, but in fact it would give the wearer more options; because that must have been a well known „problem“ at the time anyways, with all those very simple, white dresses: being „too basic“. But they used accessories according to the weather conditions, temperatures, occasions and personal mood. You can always fancy this up with one of those beautiful, long cashmere shawls. In the „Gallery of fashions“ it looks like they had many options: like adding as sash under the bust, or winter accessories like a big muff, or a piece of jewelry, maybe just a simple bracelet. And in Vigee Lebrun paintings there is a lot of wrapping around with silks und musselin fabrics, very likely only for the paintings, but in keeping with the general spirit of effortless chic. So to sum it up: I like it but I could do without the trim at the collar: 8.5/10

  8. Izzy says

    I really like this dress, even though I don’t usually like this time period as much. I love the idea of informal dress to wear around the house that still looks elegant. The only thing is the sleeves; I’m not sure what’s going on at the top, but it’s not my favorite.

  9. Elizabeth says

    I love the collar point detail, but it bothers me that the embroidery is limited to the collar and hem. I feel like the dress needs a little more embroidery – maybe on the cuffs? – to bring it all together. I’m having a hard time visualizing the sleeve caps in motion and I’m concerned that they could restrict arm movement. Fine but not thrilling.

  10. I love the colour scheme of the embroidery- I only wish there was more of it on the bodice or cuffs!

  11. Emma says

    I don’t understand what’s going on with the sleeves which look kind of bunchy and uncomfortable but aside from that I rather like it. The embroidery’s nice and I like the simplicity of the look.


  12. Love it, cotton with wool embroidery is delish. I love the rather OTT sleeves too. But I too am team “wanting the embroidery at the hem to be bigger.” I’d scale it up 100%. I love the pattern, I just think it needs more geography.
    I love the shawl collar with the peak at the back, and I love the scalloped hem and boice trim echoing it. So, given I only have one but:

  13. Penny says

    I love this. My first thought is that it’s maybe a tad plain. But for a cosy morning at home dress it’s practical with a few cute details. The embroidered hem is darling and I love the sleeve details. I also really like the collar, which seems unusual for this period, but would keep the wearer’s chest warm on a cool morning without needing to add a fichu or chemisette. Very practical. I think I’d like to make a replica of this dress for myself. 9/10

  14. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Lovely to stroll into the breakfast room in, or for ordering the cook and housekeeper around before nuncheon.

    But – the embroidery is a bit coarse and unbalanced. It looks like she ambitiously finished the hem and said, “That’s good enough for now” and never got back to the bodice.


  15. Stephanie says

    I really like this dress, but I like the details better than the whole. I love the little bit of embroidery up the front closure that continues to edge the collar. I love the embroidery around the scalloped hem. I love the shape of the dress and the construction details. It looks comfortable, but put together and sophisticated. I would happily wear this dress for a day at home. I just am not as fond of all the plain cotton between the details and decoration. Maybe if it wasn’t ecru? 8/10

  16. Emma Louise says

    It’s cute and practical (as long as you’re a rich lady who doesn’t actually have to do any proper work!) I’m never too sure about the extra long sleeves of the period. But I do like the embroidery, both the style & placement. Yes it’s plain & simple, but I don’t think it needs to be anything more than that. Though having said that it would look nice with one of those cosy big red shawls I’ve seen in fashion plates of the period

  17. nofixedstars says

    i think this is pretty darn charming. another commenter mentioned a shawl, which resonated because my immediate reaction to seeing this gown was to picture it with a big paisley shawl in similar colours to the embroidery worn over it. period-correct, and a perfect match in both attitude and visual appeal. i see someone wearing this on an autumn morning with a bit of a chill, sitting near a fire with the tea tray at hand, a glorious paisley shawl cosily draped around her shoulders, perhaps a good book and a purring cat. i would wear this myself of a morning.

    rating: 9/10

  18. Comfortable, elegant. What embroidery there is, is nice. But there’s so little embroidery on the dress that it’s a bit…boring.

    7 out of 10.

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