Submitted for Your Disapproval

by Erin on June 30, 2011

From NancyKay, who forwarded this to me with the subject line "possibly the worst dress ever photographed":



The sad thing is that in 1980-whatever, I might have actually wanted to wear this, sans puffy sleeves. 


Readers: Can This Dress Be Saved? 

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Willamettestar June 30, 2011 at 5:39 am

I don’t understand. Is this some sort of weird maternity dress made to punish people for getting pregnant? I mean, maybe the neckline is flattering, but otherwise there is nothing about this dress that doesn’t say “I hate my body,” or “My burlap sack was dirty so I had to put on this old thing,” or “I lost a bet,” or “I’m trying to win a bet that you’ll still go out with me even though I showed up wearing this.”


MB@YarnUiPhoneAppv1.5 June 30, 2011 at 5:44 am

Well, yeah, sure! Start by lopping out the sleeves. What would be really cool if someone could actually find the deadstock version of this dress (shouldn’t be too hard on eBay) and then do the actual surgery, photograph it and do a little show-and-tell!


Kay Y June 30, 2011 at 5:47 am

The worst thing (maybe) is that The Room was the most exclusive department at Simpsons, now defunct, in Toronto. That dress was not only ugly, it was extremely expensive!


Valerie June 30, 2011 at 6:30 am

It looks like something Maria would have worn in The Sound of Music.


LinB June 30, 2011 at 6:45 am

Offen the sleeves. Shorten the hem. Use the sash to create a midriff somewhere, and gather the bodice and skirt onto it. Or chop it off into a full and floaty summer top or tunic. But definitely lose the sleeves.


Lydia June 30, 2011 at 6:49 am

Minus the sleeves, this doesn’t look much different than a summer day dress from the early ’20s.


PepperReed June 30, 2011 at 7:01 am

With all the yardage in those sleeve the dress itself could be called ‘The Room’! It immediately reminded me of an early 20’s dress (with some crazy Victorian sleeves!).


LydiaR June 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

It would look awesome on Henry VIII.


Nada June 30, 2011 at 7:09 am

I actually like the sleeves and the neckline. It’s the rest of the dress that makes me want to hurl.


intransigentia June 30, 2011 at 7:50 am

I think that dress would be best saved with a flamethrower.


MissRayne June 30, 2011 at 8:45 am

Reminds me of those edwardian dress illustrations where the models have teeny weeny heads compared to the dress.


MarieSews June 30, 2011 at 8:51 am

I think this falls into the “Emperor’s New Clothes” category. If it is soooo expensive then everyone will think it is brilliantly leading edge rather than just downright ugly. Without the sleeves it might have potential as a throwback to a 1920’s flapper style, maybe.


Kathy June 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

Truly amazing. I look at it now and see that there is not one feature of the dress that is even slightly complimentary to the model’s figure. Yet in the Big 80s I would have loved the puffy shoulders and the luxury of all that fabric in the middle. Even then I don’t think I could have tolerated the dropped-waist effect, since my lower torso already resembles a beanbag chair and I would not have wanted to add to it.

Can it be saved? Maybe by breaking down into parts and starting over. This much yardage could easily make two complete pieces – a sleeveless shirt dress or an A-line shift from the main section (looks like 3 – 4 yards of beautiful silk), and a skirt from the sleeves (transparent, would need a lining). Pretty!


LadyT June 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

It could be saved by being put on a child of 7 in the year 1905. Because that is exactly what it looks like.


Sneza June 30, 2011 at 9:15 am

Sleeves off, blouson removed, hem raised and a completely different fabric would do it.

Reply June 30, 2011 at 9:15 am

^That is exactly what it looks like!^

I really like the fabric in the body and the detail of the neckline. I think if the gathers around the neckline were pared down and some fullness taken out of the body, it could look pretty good. The sleeves could be removed and pared down, too. There isn’t anything wrong with it that a good 80’s exorcism wouldn’t take care of.


NancyKay Shapiro June 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

It does indeed most resemble an Edwardian shirtwaist-type child’s garment.

This photo did remind me, also, that in the 80s my pals and I REALLY DID wear white tights all the damn time. What were we thinking?????


the doodler June 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

I like the neckline, and the fullness of the skirt. Ditch the sleeves, shorten the skirt by a couple inches, take in the bodice (AAGH the bodice!) and you’ve got a reasonable dress, if the fabric isn’t awful when you actually handle it.


Evalyn June 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

Take away the hip-sash and call it what it is: a mumu. In close-up, the fabric looks yummy, silk and organza. I could make a couple outfits out of all that yardage.


Louise June 30, 2011 at 11:39 am

This dress is really bad- makes the model’s body look huge (which I doubt very much it was) and her head tiny.
Also, those white tights should be illegal for anyone who is not a nurse.


Stephani June 30, 2011 at 11:52 am

Ahhh ’80s Victorian revival! This is so much like the styles little Victorian/Edwardian era girls wore. That pouter-pigeon breast and dropped waist! The enormous sleeves! Ann of Green Gables would be in heaven!
But why oh why would a grown woman wear anything like this? Blech.


YYZ June 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

Oh, gawd– I think I probably wanted to wear it, too…. With those flats. Given that I am 5’3″ and sorta square, the horror of imagining what that would have looked like is nearly overwhelming.

I LOVE that it is from “The Room” at Simpson’s– my grandmother STILL considers that (now defunct) shop to be the very last word in style and class. Oh, the irony.


Anelie June 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

LOL! The neckline is lovely, but it sure is downhill from there. Given the sash is tied around her hips, the poor model must be so slim under all that fabric. Concur with all who suggest shortening the hem, raising the waistline (is there a seam hiding under that sash, or is it just pulling the whole muumuu together? ;-)), and removing the sleeves.

PS Make sure you enlarge the picture to read the blurb – this dress exemplifies the designer’s “enchanting wit and vitality”, you know! X-D


erica June 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I’m wondering if it is maternity. maybe because I’m in maternity right now myself, but she looks a little baby belly above the sash. The sleeves need to be removed. The sash is pretty horrible. In today’s fashion it might be improved just by moving the sash to under the bust. But some shape needs to be given to the bust.


SabineC June 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Me thinks the only way to save this dress is to grow a head, two hands and calves + feet twice the size. I mean: everything that sticks out from the dress just seems too small for its size!


Violet June 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm



Mimi June 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I agree, without the sleeves, it’s very kicky. Even with, I’d have probably coveted in the 80s. Eeep.


Miss Kitty June 30, 2011 at 6:36 pm


It’s as if the costumes from Henry V and Flowers in the Attic got together and made evil little costumes. [shaking off weird chills & goosebumps]

By the way, Erin: It was great to see your sewing moment on p. 52 of the latest Threads magazine. Thanks for sharing with us!


tottergirl June 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Of course it can be saved. With a lit match!!!


Maureen June 30, 2011 at 7:10 pm

No, it cannot be saved, so dont even go there! Did you mean circa 1880???????


Leslie Pearman June 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Donate it to some poor jumper who needs a new chute…. Or make 4 items out of it. One sleeve could make a skirt for a child. Either way it deserves a better life.

Reply July 1, 2011 at 5:29 am

It would be lovely if worn by a 7′ tall three year old…


Robin A July 1, 2011 at 9:08 am

The 80’s really were a lost decade. That’s the kind of dress my Auntie Mimi would buy and remake into several other garments.


Jen July 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

I’m actually speechless.


Pffft July 1, 2011 at 10:11 am

Definitely pregnancy, with slightly modified sleeves, so they don’t detract from the smashing frontal piece.


Packrat July 1, 2011 at 11:25 am

How about just take it apart and use the fabric from the body of the dress to make something else?


Miss Kitty July 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

I want to know where the heck NancyKay found this atrocious [ahem] “garment.” And whether the poor model who had to wear it is still in therapy.

I can’t totally hate on it, though…the Miss Kitty of 1986 might have liked this dress. :-(


Miss Amanda Jones July 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm

No way.


Patricia Clements July 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

No, the dress cannot be saved, but the fabric can be.


Helen July 2, 2011 at 1:16 am

I vote for completely different fabric. Floaty organza or georgette with a silk body. Lose the sash or turn it empire waist with it. Or use it as a stole?

I think with floaty fabrics it would hang completely differently.

If it IS maternity I’d play with it a little more. Outer shell in a gorgeous silk, and split just above the bump. Co-ordinating fabric underneath that would then go over the bump, something with a bit of stretch in it, so that it grew with her.

It could always be made with a selection of dresses to go under the silk topper, so that the mum-to-be could ring the changes with different colours or patterns when she felt like it.


valerie July 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

The proportions are wrong and the fabric too stiff, but there’s a tunic in there trying to get out ..


JenL July 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

It must be maternity for women carrying quadruplets: one in each arm and twins in the belly. Nevermind that preqnancies aren’t carried in the arms, designers don’t concern themselves with wearability much.


Theresa July 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

There is a lot of fabric there. I would take it apart and make a completely new, Secretary Wiggle Dress.


Suzanne July 3, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Its strange big-ness makes it like the women’s version of David Byrne’s big suit.


Sara July 4, 2011 at 4:38 am

I think you would reverse Scarlet’s big dramatic move in Gone With the Wind — this dress so desperately really wants to be a window treatment. So I’d hack it apart and hang it as curtains. The sleeves look like they might make decent sheers.


Jamie July 4, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Chop it!
Chop it short and wear it with thigh high boots with heels.
Chop sleeves two thirds of way up arm and tie the black sash in hair or around neck with tails hanging down back.
Chop neckline way down and wear black cami underneath (let’s be modest!).
Complete with messenger bag of any desired color.
That’d be fun!


Ginger July 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

Can it be saved? Nope! :)


Lisa July 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I remember The Room at Simpsons. I also remember atrocities such as this one. I worry that I’ve started wearing ones that are similar again complete with puff sleeves due to the throw-backs to the 80s. I must be careful. As we always say fashion IS danger.


rosie July 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Wow. So Victorian Flapper. Throw a hood on it and you’ve got the cloistered monk thing going too. I like the mosquito netting sleeves. Very practical.


Valerie Ramos July 8, 2011 at 10:29 am



Amber July 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

It would make a great shrunken Alice in Wonderland costume.


wundermary July 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

I just noticed that the sleeves are sheer. I wouldn’t have said that it could get worse. But, it just did.


Mimi July 16, 2011 at 5:02 am

First instinct… We have a commercial here in New York… “I pick things up and I put them down…” for Planet Fitness. A big-body builder type with an Austrian accent mindlessly chants this phrase as he gets a tour of the gym.


burgandy July 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm

well, I can’t find anything good outta this dress at all,,,,its screaming out,,,I hate my body in more ways than one!!!!! I honestly don’t know if anything could save this poooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrr dress?


Catherine July 28, 2011 at 6:00 am

This dress can only be saved by burning. Quick! Find the Ronsonol!!


Lassie July 31, 2011 at 8:51 am

That dress looks like a 6 year old had a (rather unlikely) dress for a bigger doll but decided to put it on her Barbie doll. Barbie is getting lost in it, the dress is wearing her!


Gal Friday July 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm

@ Steffani RE: “Ahhh ’80s Victorian revival! This is so much like the styles little Victorian/Edwardian era girls wore…Ann of Green Gables would be in heaven! But why oh why would a grown woman wear anything like this? Blech.”

At least one other grown woman did:


Sara November 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm

This is horrific, but it wouldn’t be difficult to make it lovely, really. Take off the sleeves, the horribly placed sash and about a foot of the length and you’d have a lovely trapeze dress.


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