Thursday, November 20, 2014

One Shot- Jacques Doucet Evening Dress

    Where the couture house of Worth was known for dramatic effects and strong textiles, and Pingat's focus was on structurally unusual outerwear, Jacques Doucet's establishment was about unabashed femininity and loads of surface details.
    This evening dress, which to my mind should be more appropriately classed as a dinner dress, is from Maison Doucet in 1902.  It could not be more emblematic of the house from which it came. 
    Beginning with the skirt, the under layer is of silk organza, and is ended at the hem with a broad densely pleated ruffle of silk organza that is itself ended at the hem with a pair of short self ruffles. Over this, the surface skirt is of alternating panels of gold silk velvet, and single layers of chiffon that have been embroidered with a flower and vine motif that twines around the lower half of the skirt in a seemingly random way.  Then the upper half of the chiffon panels are scattered with sequins.

    Had enough yet?
    Okay, lets move on then.
    The bodice continues the panel idea, though the chiffon sections are much narrower.  The appearance is almost like a vest, with a shell pink laterally pleated cummerbund under the velvet.  Under one of the velvet sections on the left side is a huge double frill of the pink satin, like a big bow, that is further decorated in the centerpoint with beadwork.  The entire shoulder section, and the collar, are made of heavy guipure lace that drapes over the shoulders, and down the back like a capelet.  And finally, the sleeves, mostly of pleated chiffon, end with deep gathered cuffs of chiffon, edged with more lace.
    I'm exhausted.
    A dress like this one would have been worn to formal dinners in one's home, but this would not have been appropriate for theater.  It also seems to be a dress designed with an older woman in mind. The high collar was not usually in use for evening, regardless of the situation, so this was a woman who was either modest about exposure in general, or was conscious of concealing any less than perfect flesh from view.
    As an example of the level of dressmaking skills available through couture workrooms, this is a strong one.  There are so many techniques in play here its dizzying.  And its all brought off to perfection from a technical standpoint.  Sewing two textiles of such completely different characteristics together is high level stuff.  Chiffon wants to move all over the place with the slightest breath, and the pile of velvet makes whatever fabric is being attached to it want to skew off true, because the pile flattens under pressure, causing the other fabric to shift.  Add to that embroidering over both of these testy, unforgiving fabrics with multiple types of decoration, rolled hemming, lace insertion, edge finishing lace by hand, and the sheer number of pieces involved in the design. There are 30 pieces in the overskirt alone.  The total number of garment pieces must be over 60.  When you consider that a typical contemporary evening dress would have at most about 10-15 pieces, this is staggering.

So, have a good long look at this, shake you head if you must.  regardless of how you might feel about the style this is craft of the highest order.

Bravo, Doucet.

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