Charles Frederick worth
Charles Frederick Worth was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire in England. He was able to find work in London at several good drapery shops before relocating to Paris in 1845.
He had a hard time finding work at first but was eventually hired by Gagelin and Opigez, a prominent Parisian drapery.
Worth soon became their top salesman, selling textile goods, shawls and ready-made garments.
The shop employed several models who would demonstrate the shawls and bonnets for the customers. One of these models was Marie Vernet who Worth fell in love with and married.
Worth would make simple dresses for his wife and when when she wore them at work the customers began to want copies made.
Charles worth was now a junior partner in the firm and he tried to get his partners to get into dressmaking but they didnt want to risk their reputation.
Worth looked for an investor to help him set up on his own. He found Otto Boburgh, a wealthy Swedish man who was willing to assist financially and soon Worth opened the dressmaking establishment of Worth and Boburgh in 1858.
As Worths design skills were gaining reputation the second Empire was established in France with Napoleon III (1808-1873) as the new emperor. He implemented changes that revived the French economy and the demand for luxury goods such as fashionable dresses reached an all time high. Napoleon III married Empress Eugenie (1826-1920) and her tastes set the style of the time.
The Empress was fond of Worths work and her patronage ensured his popularity among many titled, rich and notable women.
Many of Worths customers would travel from other countries, even coming from as far away as America where his work was immensely popular among the wealthy women of New York and Boston. A large number of the original Worth dresses are today held in collections in America.
Worth re-defined the fashionable shape of the time using rich fabrics in simple fashionable shapes and removing much of the frills and ruffles which were common before. He would use luxurious materials and would show great attention to the fit. The most important clients would still have one of a kind pieces created for them but Worth also began preparing a selection of designs which would be shown on live models at shows held at the House of Worth. Four times a year he would create a new line from which the customer could choose and then have the garment made in their choice of fabrics and tailored to their figure.
Charles Worth became so popular that he actually had to turn customers away. This only served to make him more fashionable.
Many women would travel to Paris to buy an entire wardrobe of Worth and Boburgh. This would include morning, afternoon and evening dresses, also ???undress??? items like tea gowns and night gowns which would only be worn in the privacy of the home. Worth would also create gowns for special occasions such as wedding dresses and gowns for ornate masquerade balls.
Worths relentless self promotion and exceptionally high standards of production earned him the name ???Father of Haute Couture???. He revolutionised dressmaking and was considered to be the first of the Couturiers.
During the Franco-Prussian war Worth and Boburgh was closed and in 1871 Charles Worth re-opened on his own as the House of Worth. His two sons, Gaston (founder of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture) and Jean-Phillippe joined the business and helped it thrive even after Charles Worths death in 1895.
The House of Worth was finally closed in 1952 when Charles Worths Great Grandson, Jean Charles Worth (1881-1962) decided to retire.
By Klaire Ader