Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Woven and Printed Patterning 1840s silk

I took a break from Rate the Dress last week to launch the Ettie Petticoat.  This week is running a little late because Delta has reached New Zealand and we’re in strict lockdown, so I’ve been focused on getting my teaching and a schedule sorted.

But, life aside, Rate the Dress is back, with a dress that has been on the RTD list for almost five years.  It was just never the right time for this 1840s dress in printed silk with supplementary warp brocading.  Now that its here what will you make of it?  Will this floral frock be a RTD success story, or a wallflower?

Last week:  a 1920s dress with pink peonies

Generally speaking you loved Molly Tondaiman’s Callot Soeurs frock, and found the history behind it really interesting.  A few of you weren’t so keen on the green colour, or the way the two greens were paired together.  There was a bit of criticism of the embroidery placement, but as AnnaKareninaHerself pointed out, it was a dress devoid of accessories: with a long necklace the blank space would be perfect and purposeful.

The Total: 8.7 out of 10

Not quite making that 9!

This week: an 1840s day dress in printed silk

This day dress, with its sloped shoulders, berthe-effect pleated front, mancheron oversleeves, pointed waist, and cartridge-pleated bell-shaped skirt, is a classic example of mid-late 1840s style

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has paired it with an equally classic 1840s bonnet:  sleek smooth brim, and ribbon embellishment around the crown.

The whole effect is sweet and modest: the shape of the bonnet mirrored in the skirt, the bodice, sleeves, and waist creating lapped layers of Gothic arches leading down the body.

The simple, archetypical shape is made interesting through trim and fabric.  The delicate silk lace framing the neckline and berthe and hemming the mancheron oversleeves is remarkably well preserved.  The entire dress is made from a striking printed silk with a vining floral pattern in purple and green with touches of red and yellow.

The silk ground the vining pattern is printed on has a woven-in warp-thread brocaded pattern of peonies, giving the dress a delicate shimmer from a distance.

What do you think?  As an example of 1840s fashion is this top of the curve?

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. Anna says

    Oooh I love it! The only thing I am not sure about is the pleated front.


  2. Elaine says

    I love the fabric and the shape of the dress. The lace is pretty, but I don’t care for it here. It looks too big and out of proportion to me. With it sticking so far out of the dress, I would prefer a lace with a little more substance. 8/10

  3. Jan Siler says

    The fabric is absolutely gorgeous! There is a lot going on, but that’s what they did back then. I think stepping out in this beauty would make any woman feel extraordinarily wonderful. 9/10

  4. I think sweet and modest is a perfect descriptor. I wish the lace was either smaller in scale, or had a finer texture. As it is, I find it a bit stiff and large. The fabric is beautiful though, and the overall shape is lovely.

  5. Byzant says

    I love the fabric , think the lace needs to be way smaller and think the whole sloping shoulders style looks like depression in a dress.


  6. Izzy says

    This dress is so sweet, there’s almost nothing I dislike about it. The floral print is perfect, not too busy and not too boring. The brocaded pattern is beautiful too. They remind me of patterns on pillows and blankets that I would stare at as a kid, and find unintended shapes or characters in.

  7. Erika says

    For me this was love at first sight. The lace is exquisite and there isn’t too much of it. The fabric is wonderful. The dress is perfectly lovely…but not too sweet. I don’t much care for the excessive shoulder slope, but that is a mere quibble. 9.5/10

  8. nofixedstars says

    i think it’s absolutely lovely. i am really warming to this period as i have learned more about it. i can picture jane eyre selecting this frock for her trousseau; it’s sweet, but not twee, ornamental and pretty but not garish or excessive. beautiful lace also, and the passementerie is so subtile that i could have missed it. altogether a well-judged dress.

    even though this is not one of my very favourite periods, i think this dress is really pretty.

    rating: 10/10

  9. I like the silhouette of the 1840s–sleek, sweet, and simple. And the print is elegant and pretty. But for some reason those qualities add up to a bland, forgettable dress. The lace, though nice, sticks out from the bodice like random threads from a torn fabric. Maybe a few strong decorative touches (thin dark purple bands at the cuffs and on the bodice?), but as it is, it’s not a 10.

    6.5 out of 10.

  10. I find the print complements the lines of the dress in a very graceful way, but I do agree with others about the mismatch of the lace.

    9 of 10

  11. Oops. I meant to say “Maybe a few strong decorative touches…would improve the look and raise its rating”. However, there are no such touches and my rating remains the same.

  12. Melissa Levy says

    I will go with 8 out of 10. The fabric and all the pleated details are really beautiful, but I am not that fond of the lace. I don’t know if it’s the shape of the lace or just lace itself, but it bothers me and I think the simple lines of the dress would work better without it.

  13. Lynne says

    The fabric is beautiful (I feel I ought to be able to identify the flower), and the whole dress is most attractive. The sloping shoulders are not my thing, but they are very nicely done here.

    The only thing that gives me pause is the use of the lace at the neckline. It looks bunchy and fluffy.

    So, 9 out of 10!

  14. I really like this! The one thing that prevents it being a perfect 10 in my eyes is the way the shaping of the bodice – particularly on the shoulders – chops up the relatively large vining pattern. And if the smaller pieces of the bodice and sleeves were made of a plain/er fabric – it would allow the lace to shine more.

  15. JessieRoo says

    I love how light and airy this dress looks despite the rigid bodice shape, exaggerated shoulder slope, and brocaded fabric. The silhouette is graceful- the skirt doesn’t jut out awkwardly at the waist and it’s just full enough; the fabric is dreamy, with the light, pretty print snd the subtle but recognizable brocade pattern; all the details are neatly sewn and it’s clear that the maker took a lot of care in making it- the print is nicrly balanced across the bodice without being perfectly symetrical; and then it’s all topped off with that lace that is both frothy and graphic at once! It is sweet and modest, but not boring because of all the subtle and well chosen details.

  16. What a lovely sweet confection of a dress! I looked at it and looked at it, trying to find something I would fault, but pretty much failed; I’m not a fan of the exaggerated slope of the shoulder, but that was The Thing in that era and this dress nails it. The lace makes me think of wispy feathers in a rather whimsical way and I actually like it. It would be truly fetching on a fresh faced young lady. 10/10.

  17. I Love it, actually I’m working on a 1840s dress and love the pleated front and now I’m convinced to do the longer and tucked mancheron sleeves.


  18. Penny says

    I love it. I love the pleating details, the curved arches. And that printed silk fabric is charming. I wonder if the lace trim is perhaps a little over-large and fussy for such an otherwise delicate looking dress. I think I’d have preferred a slightly narrower lace or something on a smaller scale, so removing one point for that. 9/10

  19. Lylassandra says

    I was going to scroll right past this as too uninspiring to rate, until I saw the close up of the print. I love it! The colors and style of the flowers are charming. The design of the dress itself is pretty standard. I like the large lace fine, though the collar is a bit stuffy to me. The print really is the stand out here. 8/10

  20. Cirina says

    It’s perfectly sweet and perfectly modest and perfectly 1840’s… and a bit bland.

  21. Kathy Hanyok (Katydidit) says

    I thought this gown was just OK until I saw the close up of the print. It seems to have an almost 1950s vibe to me and I find that interesting. Again, with more colorful trims and accessories it might be stunning. Like others have said, the froth of lace at the neck is too frothy and just not right, somehow. 6.5 of 10

  22. I love it, it’s beautiful! I almost never rate the dress because I feel shy – everyone knows more than I do from a technical perspective, I just know what I like. I am going to say 10/10 because it’s so lovely.

  23. Anne M says

    The individual pieces of this dress are very nice, but don’t work together as well as they might. In particular, the formalized peonies woven into the fabric and the much more naturalistic print seem at odds with each other. The pleats do not show off the print well, since they break it up, but the long lines of the skirt do. The lace is a bit fussy, especially with the print. I like the touch of the “ladder trim” (not sure what it’s called) between the upper bodice and the diagonal pleats.

  24. It’s adorable! I really like the colours of the print, and all the delightful little dots. I’m not generally a fan of fabrics with both printed and woven designs, but don’t mind it so much here because they’re in separate stripes and not on top of each other.
    I quite like the pleating and the silhouette (though I don’t understand how real human shoulders ever fit into that bodice). The lace is perhaps a bit big and frothy, but it works.


  25. Elizabeth says

    The fabric and the skirt are divine! The proportions of the bodice bother me, but I’m not sure if that’s just because of the sloped-shoulder style of the time or if it’s something specific about this dress. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

  26. Emma Louise says

    I really like this one. I love the fabric design, the combination of the white weave and the purple/green flower print is really nice. To me the lace has a leafy botantical feel to it that goes with the print on the fabric. It is maybe a bit eccentric but I like that, I think it stops the dress from being too sweet and clean. I’m not usually a fan of sloping shoulders, thugh I do think that the berthe makes it look a bit more appealing.

  27. Emma says

    I really like the fabric and I think it’s used beautifully in the skirt but I don’t like the bodice at all. The pleating, lace and fabric together seems too much embellishment and I really dislike the sloping shoulders.


  28. Stephanie says

    I have a problem with 1840s dresses; I just can’t imagine how I could ever wear them with my broad shoulders. That said, I really like this dress and I love its separate elements. The fabric is gorgeous, and even though the patterns in the painted flowers and the brocade ones are so different, they don’t clash for me because I can’t focus on both at the same time. I love the pleats in the bodice and sleeves, and I LOVE the lace. I really like the shape of the skirt too. But, I look at the shoulders and I feel pain as I try to imagine smushing myself into the dress. I guess that it is a dress that I would just have to admire on someone else. 7.5/10

  29. I love this decade. The silhouette is gorgeous and I’m a sucker for a berthe. It would be a 10 for me if the placement of the print wasn’t quite so random on the c/f of the bodice. 9.5/10

  30. Katie says

    Not my favourite period but definitely a dress at the peak of this style. And that fabric is stunning 10/10

  31. Noele says

    Not a fan of the sloped shoulder look. Otherwise, the construction is lovely and I adore the print. 7.7

Comments are closed.