Charles Frederick Worth Aurora Johnson
History Charles Frederick Worth was born in Lincolnshire, England on October 13th 1825 and died March 10th 1895. Today we know him as the father of Couture. He was the first fashion designer who created dresses and sold them as a pre-constructed garment. He worked with luxurious materials that created simple yet elegant designs. He understood the female from and crated flattering lines, removing unnecessary ruffles and frills, he began to liberate the female body. He was credited for his millenary pushing the bonnet further back on the head and reshaping the crinoline skirts and the invention of the bustle. He worked to redefine the female form. He was the first designer who placed a signed label in his pieces. He produced small couture collections, making connections with old styles while maintaining modernity. His father abandoned the family after having some financial difficulties and sever alcoholism when Worth was young. The family lost everything, his mother was forced to clean houses to provide for her family. Worth was also forced to work and at age 13 he spent some time working with a textile merchant. In 1838 he moved to London where he was an apprentice as a book keeper for the fabric yard Swan and Edgar. This is where he really began to develop his love for fabrics. At first he was not able to handle any of the cloth in the store but as he developed relationships with the shop owners they began to give him more responsibility (Font). He had worked at the fabric shop Swan and Edgar for 7 years before he transferred to another shop, Lewis and Allenby. This is where he gained his in depth knowledge of and experience with fabrics. He
fell in love with fabrics and fashion, he admired ladies dress and french press on fashion. He wanted to fully immerse himself into his craft and spent his spare time studying the clothing of past eras by visiting art galleries. These artists were the root of his inspiration(Font). In 1845 when he was twenty years old, he left London, got on a boat and moved to Paris, the fashion capitol. He initially got a job at a dry goods store where he worked in sales and learned the french language before he got a job at Masion Gagelin, where he worked for 11 years. He worked as a shop assistant selling and expanding his knowledge of fabrics. He also studied book keeping and became proficient in the art of selling products. He was promoted for doing well, he was able to talk the customers into buying more than they expected. He was now helping to create gowns and accessories for the shop (Font). This is also where he met his wife Marie, who was also employed there as one of the storeâ€™s models. They married in 1851 and together they would two sons. Worth wanted to make sure that his wife always looked her best. He took matters into his own hands by designing many gowns that were both elegant and simple. These dresses were not
under the Gagelin label. These designs were catching
of other women, soon customers were asking for Worth
to also design gowns for them. Worth approached Gagelin asking if he could create dresses with the shops goods and sell them alongside his products. Gagelin was unsure that these ready to wear dresses would sell because nothing like this had been done so far. His talent as a designer became popular around Paris, the high class women began to become infatuated with his work creating himself a respectful name. (Font) He was known for his work that was shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, he had won a prize for the best gown. The design that he showed was a court
train that was connected at the shoulder. After being denied a partnership by Gagelin he left to start his own women's dress shop. He found a financial banker, Bobergh, who helped him open a studio on Rue de la Paix where he designed, created, and sold his dresses. The shop was known as Worth & Bobergh (Wilson). The beginning was difficult; he had a staff of 20 seamstresses and the assistance of his wife.
He was the
first man milliner, reshaping the looks and methods. They also produced modern and industrial lines of dresses that reflected the needs of society. (Font) During this time, ladyâ€™s clothes were made by dressmakers who followed their clients specifications rather than creating and designing a dress before showing it. We see that styles were just copied and there wasn't an influx of new trends, it was up to the client to dress elegantly. He was known for the creating the walking skirt and the tunic. Worth opened his own dress shop in Paris, during this time Napoleon III was crowned emperor, and married the fashionable Eugenie. The revitalization of France was initiated by the emperor and the whole city began to change(Wilson). The trendsetting qualities that his wife possessed led to a necessity for high fashion that mirrored the need for luxury goods which included beautiful textiles and fashionable dress that the Second Empire brought. Empress EugĂŠnie became a customer of Worth after. he created a dress for Princess Pauline de Metternich, the wife of the Prussian ambassador to the French court. She wore one of his designs to the royal ball in the Tuileries. Worth was introduced to the Empress Eugenie, by the Princess (Font). in 1859 he became appointed as the official court dressmaker, specializing in
evening gowns and ball gowns in damasked tulle and lace. These women were known to changed their clothes 4-5 times a day. Neither of these women were incredibly beautiful but had excellent taste. The empress is credited for setting the stage for his enormous success and jumpstarting his career by bringing him publicity. Many other royal women began to wear his dresses such
the Queens of Sweden and Norway. Worthâ€™s designs became a status symbol. In 1870 Worth closed his shop for a year, opening it as a hospital during the FrancoPrussian war and the fall of the Second Empire. When he reopened he changed the title to only Worth (Wilson). there was less demand for fancy court dresses with elaborate crinolines yet he remained the top couturier with much success. He still dressed many royal and began dresses actresses as well (Font). Another product that he produced was a fragrance. The company's first luxury fragrance, Dans La Nuit, was launched in 1924. The fragrance came in a bottle that was designed by the world-famous glass-maker Rene Lalique. Jacques Worth, Charles Frederick Worth's grandson, maintained the high standards that have been set and he hired the perfumer Maurice Blanchet to create four more perfumes. Worth had two sons, Gaston and Jean-Philippe, both joined the families business. JeanPhilippe worked with his father creatively and Gaston helped with the administrative work. Worth died in Paris in 1895 leaving his business to his sons. After initial success without their father the sons were able to keep the image that he had built alive, Jean-Philippe's designs in particular follow his father's aesthetic, with his use of dramatic
fabrics and lavish trimmings (Font). They were known for the invention of the â€œsheathâ€? dress. The house remained open and was passed down through the family until 1952 when Worths great-grandson retired from the business. Worth was the first designer who used live models, designed seasonal collections, and created exclusive designs for his clients. He employed other designers that have impacted the industry as well such as Paul Poiret and the Callot sisters. (Wilson)
Current Relevance I found an article that talked about the inspiration Christian Dior gained from Charles Worths designs. The crinolines that Dior created were revolutionized by the bustles and the draping Worth created during the Second Empire in 1860. Dior felt a strong connection between him and strong women so Worths connections with various royals were inspiration for his designs and lifestyle. I think that this article is relevant because not many people know who Charles Worth is and Christian Dior is a household name, even though not everyone will research into Dior to learn about how Worth inspired him I feel that by being tied to Dior he has a greater chance of being noticed. Worth was truly the first established fashion designer and couturier.
Signature Elements Worth is credited not only for his dress designs but also his work as a milliner, He reinvented the bonnet removing straps and caged mesh. He introduced a train that connected at the shoulders rather than at the waist. He was the inventor of the bustle, the walking skirt and the tunic. He used expensive and luxurious fabrics especially crinoline which became widely popular. He utilized techniques similar to modern day smocking called gauging. This technique produced a firm, non-elastic fabric which was used to avoided placing a dart in a delicate material. He was also
the first designer to use aniline dyes in 1870s which allowed for rich bold colors. He also was responsible for using women to show his seasonal collection, the debut of models and fashion shows.
Demographic In his day he was appointed as a royal dressmaker. He only designed for women of status because they were able to afford his prices. The target customer is someone who needs a lavish dress or gown for an occasion of the nature that the dress would be appropriate for. If Worth was still designing today I believe that he would be doing the same kind of designing. I think that women such as Queen Elizabeth would be his client today. I am unsure if he would design for red carpet events because of the commercial value that it would bring his brand but since he did like society women I think there is a possibility that he would.
Product Price Range In the day that he was selling his dresses cost a lot of money due to the luxurious fabrics that he used and the labor that he put into the construction. His dresses were known to start at a base price of 2500.00-3000 francs, the price went up due to embellishments and other add ons. I am unsure of how that would translate price wise today due to currency conversion and price inflation today. My guess is that they would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
During the Victorian Era women were much smaller and thinner than they are today. They grew up having their bodies molded by corsets so their waists were very small. Since he created custom dresses he was able to create for a variety of sizes
Fabrics Used He used the most luxurious fabrics that he could find. During the Second Empire there was an influx of textiles. He used the finest silks, these silks were spun into brocades, velvet, lace, and even cottons! For embellishments he used beads, rhinestones, and silk ribbon. He was also known to use bird feathers.
Products On The Current Market The House of Worth was reopened in 1999 by fashion Martin McCarthy and his business partner Dilesh Mehta. Both fashion and perfume companies were consolidated from the previous owners into one corporate company. Giovanni Bedin was brought on as the principal designer after he had worked with Karl Lagerfeld and Thierry Mugler. They debuted their first official couture collection Spring/Summer 2010. They were modernized victorian pieces that reflected Worths original designs. In 2011 the house introduced its first ready to wear line. that is sold in the US under the label Courtworth. A perfume was launched in 2006, it was a modern reissue of the original scent of Dans la Nuit. These products are not in any stores and the online site is not up and running. You could find similar products in a high end department store or a specialty boutique.
Designer Presentation I was intrigued how he invented fashion shows and thought of the idea to show his clothes on live models. He treated many of his shows like a ball, he liked to make sure that his designs were seen in a setting that they would be worn in. I think that this is a great example of how fashion
shows have evolved today. I also found it interesting how he used his wife as his first official model, she was how his dresses were seen and admired.
Influences In my opinion Worth has influenced all modern designers. He started many aspects of the industry that are used today such as fashion shows, labels in his garments, created custom and ready to wear pieces and jumpstarted the industry. Many designers pull inspiration from his early designs and his use of the “S curve”. Even if the aesthetic of the clothes are not similar to the ones that he designed during his time designers still pull inspiration from the legacy that he created and the industry expansion that he built.
Historical Importance He revolutionized the way that women dressed. In his early career he was known for the use of crinoline and creating the “S curve” with the bustle that he created. This helped to form women's bodies in a way that was seen as beautiful. Once he realized that crinoline was a horrible material to work with and wear he stopped using it, despite its popularity. His clothes became less constrictive and allowed women to move. He also revolutionized the bonnet, he took away the chin strap, set it farther back on the head, and took off the cage mesh.
Works Cited Font, Lourdes. Worth, Charles Frederick (1825 - 1895), Dress Designer. n.p.: Oxford University Press, 1996. Grove Art Online. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. "Charles Frederick Worth." (2005): Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 1 Dec. 2012. "Worth, Charles Frederick." (2009): Credo Reference Collections. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.
"Worth, Charles Frederick1825-95, Designer." (2007): Credo Reference Collections. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. â€œTen Years That Shook The Fashion Worldâ€? (2007) WWD Web. December 1. http://www.wwd.com.emils.lib.colum.edu/beauty-industry-news/financial/ten-years-that-shook-theworld-505202?full=true