Jacques Doucet: The Collector in the Collections
Nora Ellen Carleson, Summer 2018 Fashion Archives Intern
The Fashion Archives at the Maryland Historical Society boasts an outstanding collection of French haute couture worn by Marylanders. Among these beautiful, historical garments is an evening gown from the French haute couture house Doucet from around 1905.
Evening Dress (Front), Jacques Doucet, France, ca.1900, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. William S. Hills, 1974.62.9a-b.
This evening gown is a work of art. The two piece ensemble is comprised of a large-scale black silk net overlay adorned with small gold metal sequins at every cross on top of a champagne silk satin lining. Both the bodice and skirt feature large floral motifs made of silver and gold metallic threads with metallic sequins at the center. The bodice is further adorned with lace on the sleeves and around the collar with golden glass bugle beads and additional sequins. All of this embellishment makes the gown sparkle with the every movement.
Evening Dress (Train detail), Jacques Doucet, France, ca.1900, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. William S. Hills, 1974.62.9a-b.
The artistry of the gown speaks to the height of lavish yet traditional designs the fashion house began producing upon Jacques Doucet’s (1853-1929) entrance into the firm in 1874. Originally a fashion house specializing in high end lingerie, with the entrance of Jacques into the family business, the house soon became known for their exquisite fashions that were direct competitors with Worth, Pingat, and Madame Vignon.
Evening Dress (Petersham), Jacques Doucet, France, ca.1900, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. William S. Hills, 1974.62.9a-b.
To create his spectacular ensembles like the evening gown in the Maryland Historical Society’s collection, Doucet took inspiration from his renowned collection of 18th century fine and decorative arts. A lover of all art forms, Doucet lived surrounded by art and the changes in his personal taste were reflected in his designs. In the 1920’s, Doucet sold his prized collection of 18th century art and began collecting the avant-garde modern styles including works by Picasso, Miro, Georges Braque, Eileen Gray, Pierre Legrain, and many others. Upon this change, Doucet created clothing with Art Deco style lines that echoed his new collections.
Evening Dress (Back), Jacques Doucet, France, ca.1900, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. William S. Hills, 1974.62.9a-b.
Jacques Doucet is known today as a collector as much as a couturier. The artwork he carefully selected to hang in his home and inspire him now resides in museums and private collections around the world. It is fitting that gowns such at the one in the Maryland Historical Society collection, motivated by his passion for art and his own collection have been preserved to inspire future artists, scholars, and collectors.
“A Look at Fashion Designer Jacques Doucet’s Private Collection.” Architectural Digest. Accessed July 30, 2018. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/jacques-doucet-furniture-art-collection-article.
“History of Jacques Doucet.” History of Fashion (blog), September 8, 2011. http://www.fashionintime.org/history-jacques-doucet/.
“Jacques Doucet | Ball Gown | French | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. Accessed July 30, 2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/158193.
“Jacques Doucet at VMFA,” August 26, 2014. https://www.vmfa.museum/connect/jacques-doucet-vmfa/.