The House of Worth

26 Apr

Charles Frederick Worth is one of my favorite designers.  Not only did he create the first couture house in Paris, but his designs are some of the most exquisite things I’ve ever seen.  The dresses that have survived are detailed, multi-textured pieces of perfection that their original owners must have treasured.  And thank goodness they did.

Worth was born in England, but moved to Paris in 1845 when he turned 20.  After working as a salesman with a textile company, he opened his first shop, Worth and Bobergh, in 1858.  The shop became popular almost immediately with influential women.  After closing for the Franco-Prussian War, he reopened without Bobergh in 1871 as the House of Worth.

Charles Worth was meticulous in his use of colors, textiles and trim.  He not only fashioned original ensembles for his wealthiest clients, but created fashions quarterly in his workshop that were displayed on live models.  Clients could then purchase their favorites to be fitted to their needs.  Et voila!  The creation of haute couture.

Charles Frederick Worth enjoyed a long, creative life, and when he passed away in 1895, his son Jean-Philippe Worth became lead designer.  He had a similar aesthetic to his father, and was equally praised for his use of form with detailed trimmings and unique fabrics.

The House of Worth next flourished in the 1920s under Jean-Charles Worth, nephew of Jean-Philippe.  He led the house into a new era with a new silhouette, and made the designs simpler as noble patronage began to decrease.

The House of Worth eventually closed in 1952, but it left a large legacy behind.  Not only did Charles Frederick Worth change fashion design, he changed the way people viewed clothes.  Fashion became art.

Thank you, The Costume Institute at MET, for having such a wonderful collection of Worth.

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