Charles Frederick Worth (13 October 1825 – 10 March 1895) was an English fashion designer who founded the House of Worth, one of the foremost fashion houses of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He is considered by many fashion historians to be the father of haute couture. Worth is also credited with revolutionising the business of fashion.
Established in Paris in 1858, his fashion salon soon attracted European royalty, and where they led monied society followed. An innovative designer, he adapted 19th-century dress to make it more suited to everyday life, with some changes said to be at the request of his most prestigious client Empress Eugénie. He was the first to use live models in order to promote his garments to clients, and to sew branded labels into his clothing; almost all clients visited his salon for a consultation and fitting – thereby turning the House of Worth into a society meeting point. By the end of his career, his fashion house employed 1,200 people and its impact on fashion taste was far-reaching. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has said that his "aggressive self-promotion" earned him the title of the first couturier. Certainly, by the 1870s, his name was not just known in court circles, but appeared in women's magazines that were read by wide society.
Worth raised the status of dressmaking so that the designer-maker also became arbiter of what women should be wearing. Writing on the history of fashion and, in particular, dandyism, in 2002, George Walden said: "Charles Frederick Worth dictated fashion in France a century and a half before Galliano".
Charles Frederick Worth
|Born||13 October 1825|
Bourne, Lincolnshire, England
|Died||10 March 1895 (aged 69)|
|Known for||Creating haute couture|
|House of Worth|
|Spouse(s)||Marie Augustine Vernet (1825 – 1898)|
|Children||Gaston Lucien, Jean Philippe|
|Parent(s)||William Worth and Ann Worth, née Quincey|
Charles Frederick Worth was born on 13 October 1825 in the Lincolnshire market town of Bourne to William and Ann Worth. Some sources say he was their fifth and final child, and the only child other than his brother, William Worth III, to survive to maturity. Others say he was the family's third child. Charles’ father was a solicitor – described as "dissolute" – and left his family in 1836 after ruining its finances, leaving his mother impoverished and without access to financial support.
At the age of 11, Charles was sent to work in a printer's shop. After a year, he moved to London to become an apprentice at the department store of Swan & Edgar in Piccadilly. Seven years later, Lewis & Allenby, another leading British textiles store, employed Worth.
In 1846, Charles Frederick Worth moved to Paris. He arrived there speaking no French and with £5 in his pocket. By the time his mother Ann Worth died in Highgate, London, in 1852, Worth was a sales assistant at Gagelin-Opigez & Cie, a prestigious Parisian firm that sold silk fabrics to the court dressmakers, also supplying cashmere shawls (then a ubiquitous accessory) and ready-made mantles. It was here that he met Marie Vernet, who became his wife in 1851.
Worth began sewing dresses to complement the shawls at Gagelin. Initially, these were simple designs, but his expert tailoring caught the eye of the store's clients. Eventually, Gagelin granted Worth permission to open a dress department, his first official entrance into the dressmaking world. A 1958 article in The Times published shortly before a centenary exhibition in London to mark the opening of his Paris fashion house noted that the ambitious Englishman's ideas were almost too much for his employers: "The young Worth, full of ideas, was having such a success at Gagelin's that it was felt necessary to restrain his rashness". His obituary, written by a Paris correspondent for The Times explained this comment in somewhat more detail, saying that he was refused a share in the Gagelin business, even though he had extended its activities into making up, rather than just selling, garments. He had also helped build the company's international reputation by exhibiting prize-winning designs to both The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and the Exposition Universelle in Paris four years later. At the Paris exposition he had displayed a white silk court train embroidered in gold.
With a wife and two sons, Gaston Lucien (1853) and Jean Philippe (1856), Worth was eager to establish himself. By this stage, he was a known name. He acquired a young Swedish business partner, Otto Gustaf Bobergh, and in 1858 the duo set up in business at 7 rue de la Paix, naming the establishment Worth and Bobergh. Marie Vernet Worth played a key role from the start, both in the selling of the clothes and in introducing many new customers.
Success came fast from this point on; in 1860 a ball dress Worth designed for Princess de Metternich was admired by Empress Eugénie, who asked for the dressmaker's name and demanded to see him the next day. In her memoirs, de Metternich commented: "And so...Worth was made and I was lost, for from that moment there were no more dresses at 300 francs each".
Worth offered a new approach to the creation of couture dresses, offering a plethora of fabrics (some from his former employer Gagelin) and expertise in tailoring. Within a decade, his designs were recognized internationally and in high demand. By the 1870s, they were appearing in fashion magazines read by wider society. Indeed, the influence of his designs may have spread even earlier via the fashion columns following Empress Eugénie's fashion choices in influential titles such as US magazine Godey's Lady's Book.
Worth also changed the dynamic of the relationship between client and clothes maker. Where previously the dressmaker (invariably female) would visit the client's home for a one-to-one consultation, with the exception of Empress Eugénie clients generally attended Worth's salon in rue de la Paix for a consultation and it also became a social meeting point for society figures. His approach to marketing was also innovative – he was the first to use live mannequins in order to promote his gowns to clients. His wife was his early model in the 1850s, leading Lucy Bannerman to describe Vernet as the world's first professional model.
The fashion house had begun with 50 staff, but swelled over time to over 1,200 staff. This was work that required painstaking attention to detail, finesse and craftsmanship – a Worth bodice might have up to 17 pieces of material to ensure the perfect fit to its wearer. Seamstresses would be assigned to different workshops where they specialized in, for instance, making sleeves, stitching hems or skirt making. Most of the sewing of Worth garments was by hand, although the advent of the early sewing machine meant some main seams could be stitched by mechanical means.
Worth became Empress Eugénie's official dressmaker and ensured the majority of her orders for extravagant evening wear, court dresses, and masquerade costumes. She had him on call constantly to create dresses for events she attended. As an example of the scale of Worth's business with the Empress, for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, she had decided she needed 250 Worth dresses. Apart from Empress Eugénie, he had numerous other royal clients, including Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Wealthy and socially ambitious women were drawn to Worth's showpiece creations. Over time this included American clients; Worth loved working with them because his French language skills never reached fluency and, as he put it, American women: "have faith, figures, and francs – faith to believe in me, figures that I can put into shape, francs to pay my bills". Wealthy Americans travelled to Paris to have their entire wardrobe made by Worth – and that meant morning, afternoon and evening dresses as well as what were termed 'undress' items such as nightgowns and tea gowns. He would also design special occasion garments, such as wedding dresses. Alongside high society, the House of Worth also produced garments for popular stars such as Sarah Bernhardt, Lillie Langtry and Jenny Lind – who shopped there for both performance and private wear. Prices at Worth were dizzying for the time; the last bill it issued to Princess de Metternich – who had commented on the end of the 300 franc dress once Worth acquired royal patronage – was for the sum of 2,247 francs. Her purchase had been one lilac velvet dress.
The most famous surviving portrait of Charles Frederick Worth shows him wearing a hat, fur-trimmed cape and cravat. It appears that he had adopted this distinctive dress from the 1870s. A contemporaneous account from a visitor to the home of "the Napoleon of costumiers" in 1874 described Worth's entrance to meet his party in: "a flowing grey robe that fell to his heels, lined with pale yellow, with a deep vest to match, and numerous other overlapping appliances that modified and gave elegance to a costume as unique as it was comfortable". The visitor, who described Worth as "not a bit 'Frenchy'", also noted that he was of medium height, strongly but not stoutly built with a dark moustache and had the appearance of a man who lived temperately.
While the 1874 correspondent described Worth as "not a man to be afraid of if one has a liberal exchequer", it was implied that the couturier was not afraid to dictate to clients what they should wear: "Yet Mr Worth declares he has any amount of trouble with women – that they want to wear colours that don't become them and a superabundance of trimming that is far from good taste". It appears Worth had the charm or gravitas to overcome his clients' requests for the wrong colour or trimming. His son Jean Philippe later recalled: "His practised eye discerned the color and style of robe that would most completely enhance a woman's charm, and with complete serenity she might leave the matter to him and give her mind to the contemplation of home affairs, her children and philanthropies".
Charles Frederick Worth’s dresses were known for their lavish fabrics and trimmings and for incorporating elements from period dress. He created unique pieces for his most important clients, but also prepared a variety of designs, showcased by live models, that could then be tailored to the client's requirements in his workshop. Among his key innovations in women's fashion were to the line of garments and their length.
At the height of his success, Worth reformed the highly popular trend, the crinoline. It had grown increasingly large in size, making it difficult for women to manage even the most basic activities, such as walking through doors, sitting, caring for their children, or holding hands. Worth wanted to design a more practical silhouette for women, so he made the crinoline more narrow and gravitated the largest part to the back, freeing up a woman’s front and sides. Worth’s new crinoline was a major success. Eventually, Worth abandoned the crinoline altogether, creating a straight gown shape without a defined waist that became known as the princess line.
Worth created a shorter hemline – a walking skirt – at the suggestion of Empress Eugénie, who enjoyed long walks but not long skirts. This was initially seen as too radical, even shocking, because it was at ankle length, but its practical benefits meant it was adopted over time. An 1885 example of the Worth 'walking dress' is held at the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Second Empire boomed, alongside Worth’s brand, until 1870, when the Prussians invaded France. Worth closed his business for a year; he was able to reopen a year later, but wartime meant he had difficulty finding clientele, staying in business with lines of new maternity, mourning, and sportswear. During the siege of Paris, he turned his salon into a military hospital. At this stage, the partnership with Bobergh was dissolved – with the Swede returning to his home country. In common with other fashion designers, the House of Worth was affected by the financial downturn of the 1880s. Charles Frederick Worth found alternative sources of revenue in British and American customers and also turned his attention to encouraging the struggling French silk industry.
By the late 1880s, Worth had established characteristics of a modern couture house – twice annual seasonal collections and brand extensions through the franchising of patterns and fashion plates. One of his biographers notes that he had also successfully fostered the myth of the "male 'style dicator'".
Worth’s sons Gaston and Jean, who had joined the business in 1874 to help with management, finance, and design, became increasingly active, leaving Worth free to take more time off in his later years; by this stage he had a variety of health problems, including migraines. On 10 March 1895, Charles Frederick Worth died of pneumonia at the age of 69. He was celebrated enough to receive a variety of obituary notices. The notice in The Times said: "It is not a little singular that Worth...should take the lead in what is supposed to be a peculiarly French art". Le Temps, meanwhile, suggested that Worth was of so artistic a temperament that he found England unsuited to his temperament and taste, and so gravitated to Paris, the city of light and beauty, to make his name. This was a claim refuted in British society magazine Queen, which put his rise to prosperity down to perseverance, intelligence and industry; this article was later reprinted in the San Francisco Call.
Although he was not in day-to-day control of House of Worth, he remained an active presence; his obituary in The Times noted that he had turned over the business some years earlier but: "he was to the last a constant frequenter of the establishment". At the time of his death, he had both a house in the Champs-Élysées and a villa in Suresnes near the Bois de Boulogne. He was described as a "liberal contributor" to French charities and a keen collector of "artistic treasures and curiosities". There seems little doubt that Worth had amassed a fortune; an 1874 visitor to this villa (who called it a château) described an abundance of faience china; a conservatory full of exotic plants; a winter garden and stables full of immaculately turned out horses. The gardens contained statuary and stones retrieved from Tuileries Palace (former home of his foremost patron Empress Eugénie) that were about to be incorporated into a new hothouse.
Charles Frederick Worth's funeral was held at the Protestant Church in the Avenue de la Grande Armée. He was buried in the grounds of his villa at Suresnes, according to the rites of the Church of England. Marie Vernet Worth died three years later.
Although its founder was gone, the House of Worth was now an established entity; its most successful years were those flanking 1900. During this span of time, women were ordering 20–30 gowns at a time. By 1897, clients could order a garment by phone, by mail, or by visiting one of Worth's branch stores in London, Cannes, or Biarritz. Worth displayed garments at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, as it had at earlier great exhibitions. The company's annual turnover was placed at around five million francs at the turn of the century.
While Worth's obituary in The Times described him as a "dressmaker", he developed a framework for making and marketing clothes that would shape the haute couture industry that followed. As a biography for Museum of the City of New York notes: "Before Worth, the idea of a dress being recognizably the work of its creator didn't exist". He regarded clothing as an art, and for the first time, designed clothing, not for a client's taste, but based on his impression of what women should wear. He presented finished model designs to clients and dress buyers in similar fashion to the modern-day haute couture designer, also using live models. Worth was also the first designer to label his clothing, sewing his name into each garment he produced. This made him the first person to develop a distinct brand logo on clothing.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has an archive of Charles Worth designs, including both sketches and garments. In 1956, the House of Worth (by then amalgamated with the fashion house of Paquin) donated 23,000 drawings of dresses to the museum. Two years later, the V&A held a major retrospective to mark the centenary of the foundation of Charles Frederick Worth's business.
A Charles Worth Gallery opened in his home town at Bourne, Lincolnshire, in April 2006, containing a display of documents, photographs and artefacts relating to his life and times including copies of several of his dresses meticulously re-created by a team of local seamstresses. The gallery can be found at the Heritage Centre run by the Bourne Civic Society in South Street and is open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2 a.m. until 4 p.m. or privately by appointment.
Events from the year 1825 in the United Kingdom.1895 in the United Kingdom
Events from the year 1895 in the United Kingdom.Dressmaker
A dressmaker is a person who makes custom clothing for women, such as dresses, blouses, and evening gowns. A dressmaker is also called a mantua-maker (historically) or a modiste.Electric Light dress
The Electric Light dress was a masquerade gown made of gold and silver thread designed by Charles Frederick Worth for Alice Vanderbilt for the 1883 masquerade ball thrown by her sister-in-law on the occasion of her housewarming for the new William K. Vanderbilt House on Fifth Avenue, NY. It was yellow satin decorated with glass pearls and beads in a lightning-bolt pattern. A built-in battery lit a light bulb she carried that she could raise over her head like the Statue of Liberty.
This dress was only one of several spectacular gowns that served to make the event the official start of Alva Vanderbilt's role as a leading socialite of New York.
The dress is preserved at Museum of the City of New York.Fashion capital
A fashion capital is a city which has a major influence on international fashion trends and in which the design, production and retailing of fashion products – plus events such as fashion weeks, awards and trade fairs – generate significant economic output.
The cities considered the global "Big Four" fashion capitals of the 21st century are Milan, London, New York and Paris.Hamish Bowles
Hamish Bowles (born 23 July 1963) is an English fashion journalist and editor. Since 1995 he has been the European editor-at-large for the American edition of Vogue.Haute couture
Haute couture (; French pronunciation: [ot kutyʁ]; French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" or "high fashion") is the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers - often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Couture translates literally from French as "dressmaking" but may also refer to fashion, sewing, or needlework and is also used as a common abbreviation of haute couture and refers to the same thing in spirit. Haute translates literally to "high". A haute couture garment is always made for an individual client, tailored specifically for the wearer's measurements and body stance. Considering the amount of time, money, and skill allotted to each completed piece, haute couture garments are also described as having no price tag: budget is not relevant.
The term originally referred to Englishman Charles Frederick Worth's work, produced in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. The Dapifer notes that Worth would allow his clients to select colors, fabrics and other details before ever beginning his design process which was unheard of at the time. In modern France, haute couture is a protected name that may not be used except by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals such as London, Milan, New York City or Tokyo. In either case, the term can refer to the fashion houses or fashion designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions or to the fashions created.History of fashion design
The history of fashion design refers to the development of the fashion industry which designs clothing and accessories. The modern industry, based around firms or fashion houses run by individual designers, started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth who from 1858 was the first designer to have his label sewn into the garments that he created.
Before the mid-19th century the division between haute couture and ready-to-wear did not really exist. All but the most basic major pieces of female clothing was made-to-measure by dressmakers and seamstresses dealing directly with the client, and fitting to her shape. Hats, gloves and similar accessories were mostly made ready to wear and sold in shops as now. Tailors worked with men in the same way.
The design of these clothes became increasing based on printed designs, especially from Paris, which were circulated around Europe, and eagerly anticipated in the provinces. Seamstresses would then interpret these patterns as best they could. The origin of the designs was the clothes devised by the most fashionable figures, normally those at court, in the capital, together with their seamstresses and tailors. Though there had been distribution of dressed dolls from France since the 16th century and Abraham Bosse had produced engravings of fashion in the 1620s, the pace of change picked up in the 1780s with increased publication of French engravings illustrating the latest Paris styles. By 1800, all Western Europeans were dressing alike (or thought they were); local variation became first a sign of provincial culture and later a badge of the conservative peasant.Around the start of the 20th century fashion magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential. Throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste. Talented illustrators - among them Paul Iribe, Georges Lepape, Erté, and George Barbier - drew attractive fashion plates for these publications, which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette du Bon Ton which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925.House of Worth
The House of Worth is a French house of high fashion that specializes in haute couture, ready-to-wear clothes, and perfumes. The historic house was founded in 1858 by designer Charles Frederick Worth. It continued to operate under his descendants until 1952 and closed in 1956. The House of Worth brand was revived in 1999.List of British French
This is a list of famous French people of British descent.
Andrew Michael Ramsay
Charles Waddington (philosopher)
William Henry Waddington
Kenneth White (poet)
Charles Frederick WorthList of museums in Lincolnshire
This list of museums in Lincolnshire, England contains museums which are defined for this context as institutions (including nonprofit organizations, government entities, and private businesses) that collect and care for objects of cultural, artistic, scientific, or historical interest and make their collections or related exhibits available for public viewing. Also included are non-profit art galleries and university art galleries. Museums that exist only in cyberspace (i.e., virtual museums) are not included.
To use the sortable table, click on the icons at the top of each column to sort that column in alphabetical order; click again for reverse alphabetical order.March 10
March 10 is the 69th day of the year (70th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 296 days remaining until the end of the year.Neckline
The neckline is the top edge of a garment that surrounds the neck, especially from the front view. Neckline also refers to the overall line between all the layers of clothing and the neck and shoulders of a person, ignoring the unseen undergarments.For each garment worn above the waist, the neckline is primarily a style line and may be a boundary for further shaping of the upper edge of a garment with, for example, a collar, cowl, darts, or pleats. In that respect it is similar to the waistline and hemline.October 13
October 13 is the 286th day of the year (287th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 79 days remaining until the end of the year.Paris Fashion Week
Paris Fashion Week (French: Semaine de la mode de Paris) is a series of designer presentations held semiannually in Paris, France with spring/summer and autumn/winter events held each year. Dates are determined by the French Fashion Federation. Paris Fashion Week is held at venues throughout the city. It is widely considered the most prestigious of the Big Four Fashion Weeks.
In addition to ready-to-wear shows, there are men's and haute couture shows, which are held semiannually for the spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons. Also, every year, famous brands like Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and Céline host their shows in historical places such as the Carrousel du Louvre and the Grand Palais.Princess line
"Princess line" or "princess dress" describes a woman's fitted dress or other garment cut in long panels without a horizontal join or separation at the waist. Instead of relying on darts to shape the garment, the fit is achieved with long seams and shaped pattern pieces. A rarely used alternative name for the Princess line was French-dart-line dress.Rue de la Paix, Paris
The rue de la Paix (French pronunciation: [ʁy də la pɛ]) is a fashionable shopping street in the center of Paris. Located in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, running north from Place Vendôme and ending at the Opéra Garnier, it is best known for its jewellers, such as the shop opened by Cartier in 1898. Charles Frederick Worth was the first to open a couture house in the rue de la Paix. Many buildings on the street are inspired in design by the hôtels particuliers of Place Vendôme.Victorian fashion
Victorian fashion comprises the various fashions and trends in British culture that emerged and developed in the United Kingdom and the British Empire throughout the Victorian era, roughly from the 1830s through the first decade of the 1900s. The period saw many changes in fashion, including changes in styles, fashion technology and the methods of distribution. Various movement in architecture, literature, and the decorative and visual arts as well as a changing perception of the traditional gender roles also influenced fashion.
Under Queen Victoria's rule, England enjoyed a period of economic growth along with technological advancement. Mass production of sewing machines in the 1850s as well as the advent of synthetic dyes introduced major changes in fashion. Clothing could be made quicker and more cheaply. Advancement in printing and proliferation of fashion magazines allowed the masses to participate in the evolving trends of high fashion, opening the market of mass consumption and advertising. By 1905, clothing was increasingly factory made and often sold in large, fixed-price department stores, spurring a new age of consumerism with the rising middle class who benefited from the industrial revolution.