Tuesday, November 4, 2014

One Shot - Cloth of Gold

    This insanely lavish evening dress is perhaps the ultimate expression of the ball gown as it was imagined in 1900.  The dress was designed by couturier Jacques Doucet in 1902 and resides in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, though it is not on display, probably due to the fragility of its material.  Why is this fabric fragile?  Its heavy, really, really, heavy.

    What is this amazing thing made of?  Its cloth of gold, children, the real deal, straight up. Yup, silk threads are wound with incredibly fine gold wire to create the finish thread which is then woven as normal.  Only the amazing malleability of gold makes this possible.  Other metals wound about a thread core would break quickly, or be far too stiff to work as a woven textile.
    As if that weren't enough, the material is heavily embroidered over its surface, also in gold, and the hem has been embellished with cutwork.  And as if that wasn't enough to satisfy the need for luxe, there's the yards of hand made blonde lace covering the sleeves and corsage.  The lace alone would've required the diligent labor of a couple of lace makers for the better part of a year.
    So, all in all, this is the nee plus ultra of dressing to impress.  It simply doesn't get any more outrageously pushy.  If it were possible to recreate this garment today its cost would be in millions of dollars, that's if you could find the people to do the work of making the thread and weaving the cloth.
And it also stands tall as a magnificent example of the beauty we can create, when we are of a mind to.


  1. Was it made for an American client, or English, or French? Yet another reason to refer to the Edwardian era as The Gilded Age.

    1. Sadly, the Met has no additional information to give beyond the house it was made in between 1898 and 1902.