Jacques Doucet, Part 1


Jacques Doucet (1853 – 1929), portrait taken in 1926.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at another of Charles Frederick Worth’s contemporaries, Jacques Doucet. Born in 1853, Doucet was born to a prosperous family who ran a lingerie and linens business that had been established in 1817. In 1871 Doucet opened his first salon, specializing in women’s fashions. Doucet was also known as a patron of the arts and from 1880 to his death in 1929, he amassed large collections of manuscripts, furniture, paintings and various objects d’art. The 18th Century was especially one of his favorite periods and it influenced many of his designs.

Here is one of his earlier designs:

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Jacques Doucet, Day Dress, c. 1880; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1984.337a, b)


Rear View


Rear three-quarter profile.


Side Profile View

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With this dress, Doucet utilizes a combination of beaded trim,  lace, and embroidered fabrics to achieve an elegant  and refined design. The embroidered design on the bodice is especially striking. Below is a close-up of the design:

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The relatively unadorned skirt serves as a background/counterpoint, thus allowing the bodice and sleeves to take center focus. The trim on the skirt hem is easy to overlook but it also adds a subtle touch but you really have to look at for a bit before it makes it’s impact. Finally, there are the enameled buttons which also lend another decorative touch:

Enameled buttons run down the front of the bodice.


And of course, the label.

Looking at the train, it appears that there was a minimal bustle which was characteristic of dresses from the early 1880s. However, the train appears to almost untidy and somewhat clumsy, detracting from the overall effect of the dress. It is hard to say if the way the dress is displayed above was worn in the same manner but I would suspect not. It would appear that the dress was not properly bustled when it was set up on display but this is only our opinion.

Doucet was known for the use of various transparent materials and extensive beadwork and jeweling. Below are some examples:


Doucet, Evening Dress, c. 1898 – 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2533a, b)


Close-up of the bead and trim work.

According to the Met Website, the dress had become fragile (which explains why it’s not mounted on a mannequin). The decoration on the outside appears to be a combination of jewels, metallic bead work, gold lamé and fabric set on a base netting of sorts (it’s hard to tell from just the photo alone).

Below is another example of Doucet’s work in gold lamé:

Jacques Doucet, Ball Gown, c. 1898 – 1902; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.3274a, b)

Rear View

Side Profile

Black and white three-quarters view.

Three-Quarter View

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The ball gown is constructed from a gold lamé and trimmed in gold appliques on the skirt and bodice. The bodice combines gold lamé, appliques, and netting. The full impact of the gold lamé is not fully evident until one looks at the three three-quarter view pictures above. The gold lamé appears fairly lifeless but when it’s viewed as a three-dimensional garment, the dress seems to come alive; it can only be imagined how the dress would have looked when it was first worn.

Doucet’s use of metallic fabrics, embroidery, and trim were inspired by 18th Century design elements to create rich textures that were delicate and overwhelming at the same time. In short, it was luxury taken to its ultimate limit.

In our next installment, we’ll take a further look at Doucet so stay tuned! 🙂

To Be Continued…

8 thoughts on “Jacques Doucet, Part 1

  1. Thank you! I actually just heard of him this weekend at Costume College, in a Worth gown lecture. Glad to know more about him.

    • I’m glad you like it. I try to expose some of the lesser-known (at least today) designers. It was a lot more than just Worth and to this day, it’s the only name (besides Poiret) that people associate with Haute Couture of the period. Be on the lookout for more. 🙂

  2. Ha! I was already planning a “Worth”-style gown after seeing the same lecture as Cindy, but Doucet intrigues me too.

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