Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: 1780s formalwear and fascinating embroidery

Inspired by all the 1780s sewing and research I did for the Scroop Angelica gown, this week’s Rate the Dress pick is a 1780s dress that showcases the inventiveness and playfulness of 1780s fashion, even within the framework of a very formal dress.

Last weeks (ish) rating: an 1860s formal afternoon dress

The scores for last week’s dress were very consistent: 9/9 for almost half the ratings, with a sprinklings of 7, 8s and 10s just to keep it interesting.

The Total: 8.9 out of 10

Just missing that tiny bit to make it 9!

This week: an 1780s formal gown in embroidered silk

I guess I’m in a very formal mood, because last week’s dress and this week’s dress are both quite formal, and have a certain stiff elegance to them.

Gown “robe parée”, 1780-85, France, silk with applique, embroidery and gauze flounces, Musée des Tissus de Lyon

Gown “robe parée”, 1780-85, France, silk with applique, embroidery and gauze flounces, Musée des Tissus de Lyon

Look closely though, and this dress isn’t as stiff as it seems.  The masterful embroidery on the bodice is asymmetrical, providing visual interest and movement, and leading the eye up to the face.  The trims and and skirt embroidery also evoke texture and movement in a way that is quite distinct from the frothy flirtatiousness of earlier rococo trim: more whimsical and quirky, less sweet and fluttery.

What do you think?  Could you imagine it being worn to court and making a favourable impression?

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. It’s beautiful. The pleated trim (very characteristic of the late 18th century I know), which is the sort of thing I normally like, seems just a bit excessive, detracts just a bit much from the wonderful floral embroidery on all of that creamy silk. Otherwise, it’s perfect.

    9.5 out of 10.

  2. Absolutely beautiful embroidery! I would definitely go back in time to wear this dress.

  3. It appears that in addition to the floral motif in the embroidery, there is a gauze-and-some-other-trim floral motif atop the pleated trim. Each motif appears to be a flower with a dark center. How unusual…I usually expect that sort of thing in court dress, although have seen flowers in 1780s fashion plates, if am not imagining it.

    This dress is so well designed and made, and so all-around successful that it needs a 10!
    Very best,

  4. nofixedstars says

    i think it is stunning. the best of its time period, just incredibly well-judged amount and kind of ornamentations, charming colours. can’t imagine it being improved in any way.

    rating: 10/10

  5. Lynne says

    Nothing but admiration for this lovely thing. Yes, a bit OTT, but in a stunning way.

    10 out of 10.

  6. Kathy Hanyok says

    It is truly lovely. The only thing that betrays her age is the faded colors of the embroidery. I do wish we had a back view. I also wonder if it is mounted right. The skirts seem too narrow for the time. But I would love to find it laid out in my dressing room! 10

  7. Glenda Jackson says

    Oh I love this dress! J can see it as a Court dress. I’m rating it a 10!

  8. Emma Louise says

    I LOVE this, I especially love the asymmetrical embroidery
    I want to wear it

  9. Julie says

    GORGEOUS Dress. I’d give it a 10 out of 10!

  10. Anne M says

    Various parts of this dress are lovely, but overall, it didn’t work as well as it could have. In particular, the desire to have the embroidery on the bodice coordinate with that on the skirt meant that there is a large flower centered on the abdomen. Re-arranging to have the flower by the bustline or eliminated altogether would have been nice. In addition, there are several types of trim, which seems a bit much. The pleats on the cuffs are especially well done. However, the sort of “tacked on” flowers on the front hemline seem a bit overdone. The lace on the neckline is very lovely, but I’m not sure it fits with the rest of the dress.

  11. Katie says

    Honestly I’m not normally a fan of trim, too fussy for me. However it’s all so beautifully well balanced that I adore this and would wear it in a heartbeat 10/10

  12. Penny says

    I love everything about it. It is breathtaking. 10/10

  13. Jessie says

    That embroidery!!!

    It’s very impressive and also beautiful.


  14. Michelle M Fletcher says

    I was defining born in the wrong century.
    A dress with as much painstakingly beautiful embroidery as this dress has, would be a privilege to wear.
    I hands down give it a 10/10.

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