Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Draped for Dinner in 1895

Changeable silk dinner gown, c. 1895, Brick red to olive green silk faille gown with gigot sleeves, sold by Augusta Auctions November 13th, 2019, NYC New York City

This week’s rate the dress is fall themed, for all you Northern Hemisphere costumers getting excited about Autumn.  Perhaps next week I’ll post a spring-y pastel confection for us Antipodeans.

Last week:  a braid trimmed 1870s sports dress

Last week’s sports frock started out strong, and mostly got every ball through the hoop with minimal swings and maximum points – but a few of you weren’t quite so impressed.

In some ways the poor dress couldn’t win.  It lost points from some commentators for not being interesting enough, and from others for being too fancy!

The Total: 9.1 out of 10

Not so unbeatable that it completely dominates in its field, but still likely to win most tournaments.

This week: a ca. 1895 dinner dress in shot silk

This week’s ca. 1895 dinner dress is covered from chin to toe, but I’d venture to say there’s still something rather sexy about the dress, despite all the fabric.

The extremely fitted bodice is quite body-conscious, emphasising every curve.

The pleated draping and lines of velvet trim imply wrapping – and thus unwrapping.  I’m fairly certain that this dress opens in the front, under the pleating.  There’s always something a little more sensual about a garment you can get into and out of on your own.

The double-puff sleeves are an interesting variant on the fashionable gigot sleeve of the mid-1890s.  Together with the front fastening and muted colour scheme, they give this dress a slightly Aesthetic aesthetic.  It’s just a little more artistic, and a little less mainstream.

I do love that Augusta Auctions included close-up photos, so we can see the ribbed texture of the silk faille.

What do you think?  Does this dinner dress tempt your sartorial tastebuds?

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. Nanny Norfolk says

    What a wonderful colour and as you say the dress is such a sexy shape. Just think the sleeves are over the top, but that was the fashion then. But it’s still lovely.
    9 / 10

  2. nofixedstars says

    1890s can be very hit-or-miss for me. but this…i like. it’s an interesting colour, has a restrained overall design and i love the curving lines of velvet trim on the front—it’s almost hinting at an art nouveau feel, and the colour scheme would be at home there too. and anything in that direction has my heart, typically.

    the sleeves are 1890s; they are big, and have that puffball at the top, narrowing towards the wrist a la gigot, but this is not the most extreme exemplar of it. and i like the extra puff above the wrist—it leans toward the aesthetic, as you observed. in fact, with a slight upper sleeve deflation, i’d wear this in a heartbeat.


  3. Beth in Charlottesville says

    My first response was, “WHOA! That’s amazing.”

    After I read other comments, I looked at the sleeves again. Yes, the top puff could be a tad smaller.

    I still rate it a 10.

  4. Lisa says

    Wow! I agree that it is sexy. I love how the pleating sort of plays peek-a-boo, appearing at the neckline and bodice, disappearing at the waist and reappearing in the skirt V. It definitely gives the sense that the dress could be opened or unwrapped. I think the velvet is also very sensuous against the silk faille. Everything seems proportioned and well-considered. Even the over-the-top sleeves seem harmonious in the way their folds echo or mirror the curving lines of the bodice. 9.5

  5. For me it looks more like a piece of sculpture than a garment, and that makes it seem uncomfortable to wear to my mind (although I do love the colorway and the lines of the trim)

    8.5 of 10

  6. Well, now, that’s a lot of look. Talk about a power shoulder! Definitely the dress one wears to a winter dinner party attended by the woman one suspects of being the prospective mistress of one’s double-standarded Victorian husband.
    I love the draping! The only quibble I have is the fur trimming – the colour doesn’t seem to sit quite right with the red of the silk. Maybe a darker brown fur would have harmonized better?

      • Whoops! My oversight.
        I’m guessing it was chosen to go with the olive green “change” of the fabric, which isn’t so noticeable in the photographs. Red seems more in tune with the overall feel of the dress, but I suppose a changeable fabric would pack more punch in terms of a status fabric than plain red?

  7. Eilene chipman says

    Love it .a 10 Definitely emphasizes the female form. Classy and elegant

  8. What a great dress to wear for this time of year! That color is so rich! I love it’s simple elegance, and the very tasteful embellishments. I love everything about this dress. If I had it I would wear it! 10 out of 10. One of my favorite rate the dress candidates.

  9. Tracy Ragland says

    The dress is glorious! I’m almost too speechless to comment in detail…but not quite. I love the velvet bands and front pleating. I’m taking off a bit because the sleeves are too fussy and don’t compliment the elegance of the rest.

  10. Now THAT’S power dressing! LOL I would love to know what the agenda was of the lady who wore it. Whatever it was, that dress had to play a part. 10/10 for the perfect ‘I’m really the one in charge here’ dress.

  11. Kathy Hanyok says

    I love everything about this gown with the exception of the velvet. The color is just not right. But maybe it’s faded over the years. The sinuous line of pleasing down the front is so sexy and the poppy color is one of my favorites. 9.5/10

  12. Helene Illervik says

    I love this dress. I think it’s gloriously gorgeous.
    I love how the velvet trim goes diagonally across the bodice to meet up with the opposite side velvet trim, making it look like a forerunner to the “slit up to here” dresses that been seen on red carpets nowadays.
    It looks like you could just unhook one hook at the waist and the dress would open.
    Sexy, absolutely
    A dress for Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, and though I’m absolutely not Scarlet I’d wear this dress, loving every moment.

  13. Cirina says

    I have weaknes for a shot silk and this gown is gorgeous.

  14. Alissa says

    Very Bram Stoker’s Dracula…in a good way!

    I would just change the sleeves so the puff ended right below the elbow.


  15. Elaine says

    I like the shape and the pleating a lot. I’m not a fan of the mid-1890’s huge sleeves, but the double-puff makes this much more interesting to my eyes. I’m going to assume that the velvet color mismatch is due to fading of the velvet, the dress fabric, or some of both. Or maybe it is a factor of the lighting – you can see the bottom front velvet looks like a different color on the left side and the right side. That couldn’t have been the case when the dress was new. 9/10.

  16. Penny says

    I’m surprised to be describing anything with olive green as sexy, but it is. It reminds me of Jessica Chastain’s costumes in Crimson Peak. 9/10

  17. Lucy says

    Beautiful fabric, beautiful shape, I really can’t approve of that era’s sleeves.

  18. AnnaKareninaHerself says

    It’s a gorgeous dress and the only problem I have with it is, that I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It’s unique, yet rather on the simple side for the Belle-Epoque. I don’t know the exact term for this type of silk. But I love how that green shimmer on the basically red silk matches subtly with the green velvet trimming. Also the percentage of red versus the percentage of green is beautiful. I also love that they chose to cut a dress with such a voluptuous, dramatic, even bustled silhouette with princess line seams. So there isn‘t one seam to much. I also found it amusing that Leimomi used the expression „sexy“ in the description. Because yes, if sexy equaled revealing as many explicit body parts as possible, it wouldn’t necessarily be a „good“ thing. But sexy should be a good thing. So generally speaking „sexy“ is about „confidence“ and „ vitality“. And these are qualities that this dress has. So I agree it’s sexy. I have to give this a 9. The last dresses were all so beautiful, I can hardly rate them lower than an 8. I wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to say: Ok kids, enough is enough. I’m not having it! This one is a 2 if I ever saw one! Anyways this one: 9

  19. Dropping stitches says

    The high sleeves and that diagonal velvet… there’s something militaristic about this gown. It’s gorgeous and dramatic. I can see the Game of Thrones costumers snapping it up for Cersei or Daenerys. The rich color is beautiful. Overall, it gives off anger. Was this a revenge dress?


  20. Michelle P says

    I love everything about this other than the collar…would love to see, perhaps a short stand up ruff or…not sure what, exactly…but otherwise it’s perfection in my book.


  21. Deborah Thomas-Wilton says

    10/10. I want this dress and I do this era , but that would be a lot of draping and sewing. Color, the drape and trim is perfect.

  22. Anne M says

    The lines of this dress are very nice. I’m not fond of the extremely tight fit though. Combined with the “open me” closing , it gives a bit of “demimonde” feel to the dress. The sleeves are a bit full, but the lower poofs, the velvet bands, and the deep cuffs serve to ground them. The pleats are an interesting touch. I especially like the tiny ones near the top of the front opening. Using silk twill, rather than satin, gives a more stately look. I’m not sure if it’s wear, or a trick of photography, but the green of the shot silk seems rather prominent in the back.

  23. Grant Philpott says

    I love everything about the dress. The sleeves give it power. And yet fine details like under the collar at the front give it delicacy. It would be interesting to see the colour under period correct lighting.

  24. It’s a very respectable effort that doesn’t quite excite me but does excite me enough to maybe want to figure out the construction, so I think that’s an 8 from me.

  25. Emma Louise says

    A dress that is both sexy and warm! Definitely a 10/10

  26. Dsharp says

    I want to see the HAT that was paired with this piece! Pretty fall color and love the diagonal decorative pleats in the front. 9/10 because it feels a little ostentatious without enough detail to back up it’s loudness. Very cool find-thanks for sharing!

  27. JessieRoo says

    I know I am late to the dress rating party, but I just have to butt in an say what I have to say, which is that the sleeves are hideous. I tolerate, and sometimes even like, the big, round puffs at the tops of mid-1890’s fashion, but the more tubular ones from the early years of that decade just look awkward to me. There are other things about this dress that I do like. Normally, I find the tiny waist and abruptly out-jutting hips of the first few years of the 1890’s as awkward as the sleeves, but this dress manages a smoother transition between the two while retaining the basic silhouette. The fabric is gorgeous, of course. And the pleating, velvet trim, and apparent ease of dressing all nice features. I’m not sure I’d call it sexy, even without the terrible sleeves, but it has a certain buttoned-up charm. It makes me think the original owner was either extremely modest, yet trying her best to be fashionable or very confident that her face and personality were quite enough on there own, without her needing to reveal more.

  28. Katie says

    I just want to put this on and sweep into a room as the incredibly witty and sexy independent hostess and sweep the room off their feet 11/10 would wear tomorrow to a normal modern day event with no feeling of awkwardness

  29. Mme. Homebody says

    This dress is incredible. Agree with the power statement. This would definitely be my “storm warning” dress. Nobody’s going to scorn a woman wearing this if they know what’s good for them.

    The bodice curve, the understated but perfect pleats at the bottom, the velvet cuffs… And it’s made to move with the wearer, no stumbling over one’s hem as one makes a tasteful but tempetous entrance to the drawing room where the other ladies have just begun gossiping about one, only to be soundly trounced by the entrance of The Dress and the undefeated woman wearing it.

    Not for my body type, but I’d definitely be friends with the woman wearing it!

    Yes, a 10/10.

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