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Rate the Dress: Doucet goes for gold

Happy New Years!

To celebrate the holiday, I’ve picked a Rate the Dress suitable for wearing to a grand New Years event: a glimmering gold number by Doucet.

Last week: a ca. 1821 afternoon dress in red & green

I really wondered how last week’s zig-zagged 1820s dress would go.  The 1820s have not exactly been popular in Rate the Dress.  And that fabric was, by any stretch of the imagination, obnoxious.  (I should point out that I sometimes love obnoxious!).  The fabric definitely lost the dress some points.  But other raters felt that the obnoxious fabric somehow balanced the weird 1820s details perfectly – gaining it points.  One thing most could agree on was that the hem ruffles weren’t working.

The Total: 8.1 out of 10.

Respectable, but not fabulous.  Better than the 1910s dress of the week before.  It’s not often 1820s beats 1910s!

This week: a Doucet evening dress in glittering gold organza:

This Doucet evening dress might have been worn to a New Years eve ball.  Perhaps in 1900!  It’s just glittery and celebratory enough.

In double-keeping with the New Years/circle of time theme, this is a dress that demonstrates that there is nothing new under the fashion sun, from cold-shoulders to see-through evening gowns:

This extravagant evening or ballgown features glimmering gold organza, lavishly decorated with art nouveau inspired satin stitch and broderie anglaise style embroidery.

The gold organza forms a full, sweeping trumpet skirt, gathered in to the small waist with rows of shirring.  The small waist is emphasised by the fitted lower bodice, which is almost reminiscent of a swiss waist, or the newly fashionable S-bend corset.

Layers of delicate spotted and floral lace hang over the fitted lower bodice: hinting at the full Edwardian pigeon breast silhouette to come.  The lace is perfectly matched to the shape of the dress: indicating it was custom made for this creation.

The same lace is used to form delicate puffed sleeves, with straps on the shoulders, double puffed sleeves sitting off the shoulders, forming and a saucy ‘cold shoulder’ effect.  (so 2017!)

The dress fastens up the back with fastenings that are both hidden, and highlighted, by decorative organza bows and rosettes.  Elaborate back fastening decorations were a peculiar and distinctive feature of very late 1890s evening gowns.

Ball gown, Jacques Doucet (French, Paris 1853–1929 Paris), 1898–1902, silk, metal, linen, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3274a, b

There is something decidedly lingerie-esque about this dress.  The fitted lower bodice and cascade of lace over it are evening gown mirrors of a low-busted Edwardian S-bend corset (already in use amongst the fashion-forward in 1898) topped by a frothy chemise.  Even the effect of the sleeves falling of the shoulders references depictions of women dressing: their chemise straps and sleeves not yet secured on by tightening the beading ribbon threaded around the neckline.

The fabric and decorations also play on the theme of undergarments.  Although made of extravagant gold silk organza, the embroidery, particularly the use of broderie anglaise, heavily foreshadows the ‘lingerie gown’ fashions so typical of the 1900s and 1910s.

Typically of Doucet, the dress is composed of layers of semi-visible colours and fabrics: an eternal play of conceal and reveal.  The sheer organza and openwork embroidery allow peeks of the ivory silk under-layers.   Rows of delicate ruffles at the hem would have been exposed as the wearer moved and turned, further emphasising the idea of gown-as-petticoat.

Doucet was known for dressing actresses and the demimonde, though respectable society women also wore his art-influenced creations.  Whoever wore this, she was definitely a woman who was quite sure of herself.  She was someone who wasn’t afraid to wear a dress with more than a faint suggestion of being the most extravagant, luxuriant variation of underwear possible.

What do you think of this glimmering gold-and-lace evening gown?  Is it just saucy enough for a self-assured beauty to have a little risqué fashion fun?  Or is underwear inspired outerwear, even when done by Doucet, terribly, terribly tacky?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  Thanks in advance!)


  1. KH_Tas says

    Quick post before I forget to vote yet again;

    The skirt is beautiful, I’m not sure the upper bodice matches it. The lower bodice/Swiss waist looks like it has a face on it.

    So, 8 after all of that.

  2. I find this quite beautiful, a true work of art that could stand on its own. Whoever wears this dress could not help but be the center of attention (and in a good way).

    10 of 10

  3. It’s beautiful. I love the 1890-1900 silhouette, before it goes fully S-bend and pigeonbreasted. I also love bling, and even lace isn’t a favorite here works really well when it blends into the rest of the fabric.

    10/10 fro me .

  4. Ohhh! 10/10 definitely
    Imagine the skill – even with machine – to do the embroidery on the metallic organza. No puckers or pulls that I can see. I love the cutwork as well.

  5. Rachel says

    Normally, I find lots of lacy layers messy and over-the-toppedly sentimental, but I just kind of love this. I have no idea whether it’s classy or tacky or how it would have been received in its era. I just enjoy looking at all the sweeping, swooping lines. The skirt probably looks amazing in motion. And I think the suggestion of lingerie keeps the dress from looking too sickly sweet.


  6. Tegan says

    That’s just gorgeous. I don’t normally like monotone but this is too perfect.


  7. Florence says

    It’s fabulous!
    The silhouette is breathtaking and I don’t find all the details too fussy.
    The embroidery at the bodice emphasizes the small waist.
    And the colour makes sure the wearer is the center of attention.


  8. The color is glorious. The shape and tailoring is exquisite; I really like the “Swiss waist” effect. I like the “cold shoulder” effect.

    But the embroidery, with its large flower motifs, and the open work leave me cold. To me, it is reminiscent of fungus or moss growing on a tree. It just doesn’t pair well, to me, with the shine of the golden silk.

    6.5 out of 10.

  9. Kate says

    I’m imagining the woman wearing this gown dancing, and oh it would have been glorious. There’s so much texture at the hem that would catch the light as she twirled!


  10. Bernice says

    This dress is lovely, but some things kind of strike me as a bit off. The rather clumsy, truncated- looking centre-back organza bow thing, and the rather too open openwork, in particular. The openwork just looks a bit off- in this Belle Epoque confection of gold and lace we suddenly have, as it has been said, something looking weirdly fungal. It’s mainly in the skirt around the hem that I think the openwork is worst, probably something to do with how on the bodice it blends in due to the white fabric behind but on the skirt you can really tell where the fabric is cut away and the contrast is too great in my opinion. The embroidery is great otherwise though.

    9/10, because, really, who can resist gold fabric.

  11. Jessica says

    The bodice is lovely, the skirt not so much- they seem like they don’t go together very well. The color is wonderful though. 8/10

  12. Heather says

    I’m in love. I can only imagine how it gleamed in the evening ballroom lighting. 10 for me, a frilly fussy frou frou festival.

  13. Pat Winship says

    I love it from the back, I love it from the side. but the trim on the front hem of the skirt looks somehow wrong. It looks fine all the way around, but it’s been hiked into a point that should look right with the “V” of the bodice, and doesn’t.

  14. Marjo Wheat says

    I think it is exquisite. It is a stunning dress. The components all weave together to make it really work and to really kick it over the top. 10/10

  15. Belinda says

    I am over the moon about this one! Absolutely exquisite, so gorgeous, she must have been incandescent wearing this. It stresses self confidence. I hope she blew their minds!
    I give it 10 out of 10

  16. Anat says

    Absolutely gorgeous. I like the color, the only shade of yellow i can tolerate( I mean , it’s gold, who doesnt like gold?) the cut is nice and the lace is beautiful.

  17. Judi says

    Exquisite! I can only imagine what it must have looked like on the night of the big ball!

  18. Tracy W. says

    10. If I could rate it higher, I would. I’m sorry I don’t have time to write a detailed post on what I like about this dress, but let’s just say it is perfection and leave it at that.

    (I personally look like pea soup in gold, but that isn’t the dresses fault! )

  19. Aja B says

    10/10 perfection!! The length and pointiness of the lower bodice is not my style, but a tiny flaw in an other flawless creation.

  20. Daniel Milford-Cottam says

    Imposing, regal, stunning. All the details could look fussy, but this is monochrome perfection. The warm, burnished golden tones allow for luxury without losing the fine filigree in flashy glitter and gaudiness. This is a truly queenly dress. Whoever wore this must have (should have) been strong, powerful and unsinkable. I think it’s amazingly beautiful.


  21. Madeleine says

    Swoon! This is one of my favorites! It’s about 17 yrs past my absolute preferred time period, but it is so stunning that I barely notice. First, it’s Doucet, so there’s virtually no chance I’m not going to love it. Also, I am a complete sucker for metallic fabrics as TRIM, and here we have the entire dress made of it. Glorious! The decorated back fastenings are a really lovely touch. The heavily embroidered skirt is delicious! And I definitely see this skirt bouncing and frothing at the wearer’s feet while in motion – ahhh! The only fault I can find is really just personal preference – I would have preferred a plainer gold netting at the bust/sleeves rather than the dotted lace. This is a truly gorgeous creation.

    A solid 9.5!

    P.S. I loved last week’s zig zag fabric! I’ve just been too busy for several weeks to “Rate the Dress”.

  22. Pat Leroy says

    9,5 ! J’adore !
    La couleur est un peu too much mais les broderies, la forme et les coutures sont délicates.

  23. Deanna says

    Whoa! It’s beautiful and over-the-top, and I like it a lot, even while feeling slightly stunned. 🙂 And I’m not even a gold person. Custom-made lace is really something, I’d love to see that in person.

  24. Maire Smith says

    10/10. It’s just slightly weird (see above: fungus; face), which just makes it even better. So beautiful. So consistent in itself.

  25. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! I don’t adore the fine dotted lace as it seems a bit too fragile compared tot he more robust organza, but in the full length shot it works perfectly well. It is like a costume version of an exquisitr gold Art Nouveau vase.

  26. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Wow … King Midas touched the underwear drawer.

    Doucet’s ability to balance his piles of froth and foam always amazes me. As worn, at an intimate candlelight dinner or a brightly lit ballroom, that would have glowed. Those dots on the lace would have been like a cloud of glittering motes around her shoulders. And the larger embroidery motifs at the hem also glittering but larger, as if she were kicking up gold flakes with her feet.

    And the lingerie look is sending a message”: either “I’m rich and playing at being naughty” or “I’m definitely naughty and it paid off”


  27. april pressley says

    10. If it was permitted, I’d give it 11. Beautiful, in fabric and layered form..

  28. Elina G says

    Not my favourite era, but this is just stunning. Especially the silhouette and the choice of the shade of the gold colour. The colour scheme is really balanced and keeps the decorations interesting without being too loud. The embroidery in the bodice front looks better from the side than front where I find it looking too arrowlike. There are a few details that don’t make me happy, eg find the bodice front slightly too pointed and the top layer of the skirt could cover the frills at the hem, but I’d wear it though I’m neither unsinkable nor naughty.

  29. Lalaith says

    The skirt is lovely but something about the sleeves puts me off. I’m not that fond of the ‘cold-shoulder’ look, and the bodice and skirt don’t quite look like they match. Still pretty, but I can’t give it a ten.


  30. Mmm, I love it! It certainly would require confidence and also, I think, that haughty look so particular to late 1890s women in portraits. I would absolutely wear this dress, any time of year! 10/10!


  31. Adriana says

    Now I know what to make out of the rest of my gold lamé fabric! I actually like the mossy, fungal look, as I think it is very Art Noveau. It must have given some depth to the dress in evening light. The bows on the back are strange, though, and interrupt the lines of the bodice embroidery.

  32. Elaine says

    I love everything about this, especially the embroidery on the skirt. 10/10.

  33. Johanne says

    The wearer would seem to be walking or dancing through a garden. Exquisite.


  34. Angelle says

    I find this gown to be stunning. The over-the-top flounces, bows, embroidery, and ruffles are perfect for the bel epoque. The single color both highlights and moderates frou frou detailing. I think gold strikes the right note for this confection. I’m sure it glowed and sparkled in the light of the ballroom.

    10 of 10

  35. I could imagine to walzt in this dress. It’s so beautifull. The amazing skirt and the moderate S-curve. Perfect. I see a lady with dark brown hair wearing it and a bunch of Gentlemen around her to catch the next dance.
    10 of 10

  36. Nynke says

    absolutely breathtaking. Whoever wore this really must have been sure she wore the dress, instead of the dress wearing her. I could not do it, but would love to have seen it in real life at the time.

    however, I don’t like off-the-shoulder in 2017 and I don’t like it in 1900, so no perfect ten.


  37. It apparently left me uninspired to rate it.
    I think it might be awesomer in person when one properly sees the fabric. But like this, I agree with those who don’t like the combination of materials and techniques. I forgot all about it, so: to me, uninspiring.

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