Next to Charles Worth, Jacques Doucet was one of the most prolific designers and his influence was felt far and wide in the fashion world. Bolstered by a legion of wealthy clients both in Europe and America, Doucet set the standard for luxury, using the finest materials and craftsmanship in the construction of his designs. Doucet’s clients valued his designs for their dignity and luxury rather than novelty.
Viewing himself as more of an artist rather than a clothing designer, Doucet incorporated his artistic sensibilities into many of his designs, drawing on his extensive art collection and this was especially evident in the use of 18th Century style elements. Doucet often used flimsy translucent fabrics in his designs combined with pastel colors and trims to create looks that were ethereal and delicate. Also, throughout his designs, one can see his extensive use of gold and silver lamé and metallic trim. Finally, there is also no doubt that Doucet was influenced by the fact that he was born into a family operated a concern selling lingerie and linens.
Although Doucet tended to favor gold tones in many of his designs, he also worked in other colors as this example from 1911 demonstrates:
Unfortunately, there is not a lot out there in regard to the provenance of this dress. The basic style of the dress is empire, a style characteristic of the teens. The S-bend corset with its characteristic mono-breast had been left behind in favor of the smooth upright lines of the empire style; fashion had finally come full circle. The red and silver grey colors combined together stand in contrast with each other yet they do harmonize, helped along by the red trim and jeweling. The only part that seems somewhat discordant is the use of gold- it seems that Doucet just could not stay away from using this color. Finally, the use of the translucent sheer fabric over a base of silver grey silk creates gives the dress depth.
Below is another example from 1910 that illustrates Doucet’s design principles but at the same adds something different- fur:
Once again we see the empire line and from casual observation, it appears to be far less structured and more simple than Doucet’s previous designs from the early 1900s. The basic fabric is a white/silver silk satin covered in heavily embroidered lace and with the cuffs trimmed in fur; this look definitely makes this a winter dress., Towards the bottom, the embroidered lace gives way to a lighter lace netting that falls away from the front of the dress. Also, while the layers of embroidered lace and netting are a major feature of the dress, the underlying fabric is also given prominence in the front and back. It is clear that the era of the lingerie dress had passed.
Doucet was one of the most influential of the designers that worked out of Paris during the Fin-de-Siecle and while his name is less known than Worth, it could be argued that he was as equally influential, if not more. Later designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet got their start working for Doucet and while his designs became dated after the First World War, they are still used for inspiration by modern designers.
In the past installments I have attempted to show a range of Doucet’s work from the 1880s through the Teens and while the silhouettes and basic designs evolved with the times, the use of layered sheer materials, metallic trims, and pastel colors are a constant. However, there were exceptions and it is evident that Doucet was capable of designing in a wide range of fabrics and styles to include tailored coat and skirt sets and outerwear. This survey is by no means an exhaustive one but it should hopefully serve as a starting point for further study.