The Father of Haute Couture

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The Father of Haute Couture: Charles Frederick Worth
Hilary Rowe
Texas Christian Universit...
The Father of Haute Couture

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The Father of Haute Couture: Charles Frederick Worth
During the mid-1880’s the world, with...
The Father of Haute Couture

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(Coleman, 1989). It was with these other “dressmaking supplies” that Worth began to work w...
The Father of Haute Couture

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therein was its strength: it was designed to achieve its effect through masterful cutting
...
The Father of Haute Couture

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occasional suggestions to Jean-Philippe” (Coleman, 1989). Although it is said that the sec...
The Father of Haute Couture

1989).Along with these outrageous prices however, came some of the most innovative and
influe...
The Father of Haute Couture

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Figure 1.
The Father of Haute Couture

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Figure 2.
The Father of Haute Couture
References
Aspelund, Karl. (2009). Aspelund, 2009: A Hundred Years of Haute Couture by Six Des...
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Short biography of Charles Worth

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Short biography of Charles Worth

  1. 1. The Father of Haute Couture 1 The Father of Haute Couture: Charles Frederick Worth Hilary Rowe Texas Christian University 15 October 2012
  2. 2. The Father of Haute Couture 2 The Father of Haute Couture: Charles Frederick Worth During the mid-1880’s the world, with the developments of the Industrial Revolution, changed drastically in regards to manufacturing processes, and the fashion world followed suit. It was during this age of change that Charles Worth, the father of haute couture, rose to prominence. Through his close work with the Empress Eugénie of France, Worth’s designs became highly-sought after pieces and his work impacted both fashion and politics. Charles Frederick Worth was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England on October 13, 1825 (Coleman, 1989). Though he was born to a relatively stable family, Worth was sent to London in the early spring of 1838 so that he could become an apprentice at a newspaper firm. However, Worth soon left the newspaper business and is said to have gone to work for Lewis and Allenby. According to Worth’s son, Jean-Philippe, the firm was London’s most exclusive silk merchant during the era (Coleman, 1989). It was during this time that he was introduced Parisian garments, and by 1845 Worth had left London and was employed at the Parisian Maison Gagelin-Opigez et Cie as a selling clerk (Coleman, 1989). It was during his time at the Maison Gagelin that Worth met his future wife, Marie Vernet, who would prove essential in the introduction of his designs into the French court. As the system by which the Maison Gagelin created their garments and placed orders was similar to that of Lewis and Allenby, Worth was soon in charge of fabric sales (Aspelund, 2009). It was through this system, where “the clients selected their fabrics which would then be delivered to the couturier or dressmaker to be made into a style of [the] madame’s choosing,” that Worth saw the possibility of this system being beneficial in the trade of luxury goods (Apelund, 2009). Though the Maison, being one of the most diversified clothing establishments in Paris, specialized in shawls and wraps, other “objects of dress and dressmaking designs were on hand”
  3. 3. The Father of Haute Couture 3 (Coleman, 1989). It was with these other “dressmaking supplies” that Worth began to work with the clientele of the Maison. Through the efforts of both Worth and his wife, they were able to persuade his most fashionable clients to wear his designs to important social functions, therefore “attracting attention to client and designer at the same time” (Aspelund, 2009). Although Worth provided the Maison Gagelin with ample clientele, they were not accommodating to his family life, and he received little credit for his work. These factors prompted his exit from the business in 1856 (Aspelund, 2009). It was this same year that he partnered with the Swedish Otto Gustaf Bobergh and they opened their own atelier at 7 Rue de la Paix in Paris; they began trade in the autumn of 1857 (Coleman, 1989). It is believe that Bobergh provided the majority of the financial backing for the design house, while Worth provided the creativity and design expertise. One of the other major benefactors of the business was Worth’s wife, Marie. In the beginning years of their work at the Maison Gagelin, they would work as a team; she would model his creations and would advise on their fit and construction (Aspelund, 2009). It was in early 1860 that their collective results first made impact in the imperial court of France, that year Marie showed a book of 280 sketches of her husband’s creation to the Austrian Princess Metternich (Coleman, 1989). It was Metternich in turn, who introduced Worth to his most influential client, the Empress Eugénie of France. The princess settled on a simplistic daytime outfit and a tulle-draped, floral-festooned evening gown(Coleman, 1989). It was when the Princess wore the gown to the palace of Tulieres that the garment caught the Empress’ eye; “All around the twenty-four-year-old, heavily jeweled ladies with fans and bouquets would be wearing huge crinolines with trains, covered with lace, feathers, ribbons, fringes, and frills. The princess’ dress was modest, by the standards of the day, but
  4. 4. The Father of Haute Couture 4 therein was its strength: it was designed to achieve its effect through masterful cutting and the relatively simple elegance of its composition” (Aspelund, 2009). Eugénie sought after the designer for Metternich’s gown, and soon her partnership with Worth began. Through anointing Worth as her major designer, Eugénie “established a system that was much more powerful than Marie Antoinette’s or Louis XIV’s. It was arguably the most successful endeavor of her reign” (Aspelund, 2009). It was this association with the Empress that Worth soon became a “minister for imperial fashion” (Aspelund, 2009,). As Eugénie wore his designs to various social outings, the ladies of fashionable society were soon flocking to his workshop. It was through this continual stream of high-fashion clients that Worth soon adopted and became notorious for a haughty and elitist style toward his clientele (Aspelund, 2009). It was during his long reign as one of the major designers for the industrialized world, combined with his sense of opulence and grandeur that Worth created a workshop that grew to be such a “popular and fashionable spot that the staircase leading to the salons was likened to Jacob’s Ladder, with an angel on every step” (Coleman, 1989). Though the design house had extensive success, it was not invulnerable to the political events of the era. For example, for a brief period of time during the Siege of Paris the house was closed and the workrooms were used as extensions for the field hospitals (Coleman, 1989). Though both Worth and his silent partner, Bobergh, survived the war the partnership was dissolved in 1871 (Coleman, 1989). From then on the design house was officially titled the House of Worth, and became a family business. Nellie Melba, one of the most famous operatic singers of the age, remarked that by the early 1890’s the eldest Worth had “more or less retired and was only to be seen wandering about the great salons, wearing a black skullcap and making
  5. 5. The Father of Haute Couture 5 occasional suggestions to Jean-Philippe” (Coleman, 1989). Although it is said that the second generation of Worth’s had begun to take over the major aspects of the business by the 1870’s, it was not until 1875 that Charles officially hired his son, the talented Jean-Philippe (Coleman, 1989). It was after his work designing thirty costumes for the tragedienne Genevieve Ward, that Jean-Philippe said he was applauded by his harshest master, “I had fashioned entirely according to my own ideas. I showed them to my father and had the satisfaction of having him declare them perfect- and my father was not given to flattery. Quite the contrary" (Coleman, 1989). Not only was Jean-Philippe hired to the House of Worth, but his brother Gaston was taken on as business manager for the firm a year earlier (Coleman, 1989). Gaston remained in his position as manager and chief cashier until the firm was reorganized in 1885, after Charles’ sudden death, and he assumed additional responsibilities (Coleman, 1989). Eventually, after Gaston’s retirement, Jean-Philippe passed the family business onto his nephew, Jean-Charles, who bequeathed the House of Worth to his nephew Roger who gave it to the last Worth, his brother, Maurice (Coleman, 1989). It was under Maurice that the House of Worth was eventually sold to the design house Paquin as they attempted to reestablish themselves in the fashion scene; however, the doors to the vulnerable House of Worth closed in 1956 ( Coleman, 1989). Though the House began its first decline as it fell during the financial woes of 1886, in 1853, during their opulent phase, the garments of Monsieur Worth that were present at an imperial fancy-dress party held in the Blue Salon were estimated to be worth $200,000 (Coleman, 1989). It was also during this phase that in 1868, the simplest Worth dress thought to have been created was estimated to have cost about 1,600 Francs or $64.00 (Coleman,
  6. 6. The Father of Haute Couture 1989).Along with these outrageous prices however, came some of the most innovative and influential garments of the era. It was in consultation with Princess Metternich that Worth conspired to get rid of the crinoline (Aspelund, 2009). Through this desire Worth created one of his most influential designs, the princess-cut dress (Coleman, 1989). In this design Worth abolished the waistline seam that had been present in all one-piece ladies garments up to this point. It was this cut that became a sort of trademark of the tea gown, a piece that paved the way for the rethinking of women’s fashion (Coleman, 1989). Worth also created another influential design of the era with his Olga gown, “a gown fitting the figure to perfection, closely molding all its outlines, with folded draping across the front that terminate[d] at the back as a scarf extend[ed] over a long, ample train” (Coleman, 1989). Although Charles Frederick Worth has been gone since March of 1895, his legacy lives on today. As the main designer for one of the most influential women of his age, Worth became a force in the political realm, and his influence lives on in haute couture today. Word Count (excluding image descriptions) –1,529 6
  7. 7. The Father of Haute Couture 7 Figure 1.
  8. 8. The Father of Haute Couture 8 Figure 2.
  9. 9. The Father of Haute Couture References Aspelund, Karl. (2009). Aspelund, 2009: A Hundred Years of Haute Couture by Six Designers. New York: Fairchild Books. Coleman, Elizabeth Ann. (1989). Coleman, 1989: Fashions of Worth, Doucet and Pingat. New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc. Figure 1. [Paris, France Pale pink and cream satin, machine-made lace, c. 1880] [Photograph]. (2010). Retrieved fromhttp://adore-vintage.blogspot.com/2010/02/whos-who-in-fashioncharles-frederick.html Figure 2. Et Paul, Mimi. (2011). Charles Frederick Worth – Dress (Tea Gown) – 1880 [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.mimietpaul.com/?attachment_id=213 9

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