[August 18, 2016]
In 1858, Charles Frederick Worth and a young man from Sweden, Otto Gustaf Bobergh, set up in business at 7 rue de la Paix, naming the establishment Worth and Bobergh. It was only a short time until Worth’s reputation was made.
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.” Wikipedia.org
Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, and Empress Eugénie of France were just some of his royal clients. With royalty desiring Worth’s gowns, his reputation grew and there were more and more demands for his designs by the peerage and those of great wealth from other countries who would travel to France to buy their entire wardrobe from him.
1865 Pink Tulle ball gown created for royal client Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Empress Elisabeth of Austria painted in a gown designed by Charles Frederick Worth
for her coronation as Queen of Hungary in 1867
Worth became the official dressmaker for Empress Eugénie supplying her with most of the court dresses, ball gowns, and other extravagant evening wear she desired. For the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, she ordered 250 of Worth’s dresses.
Empress Eugénie wearing a Charles Worth gown
Ball gown for Empress Eugénie of France, House of Worth 1865
Charles Worth’s beautiful creations attracted many other women even from America. Those with wealth and social aspirations were particularly enamored with his beautiful garments. Once he acquired royal patronage, his clothing became more popular and much more expensive. Where an item was once 300 francs, it now became 2200 or more. Yet, he had no lack of customers.
1903 Court Gown worn by Lady Mary Curzon and designed by
Baroness Curzon wearing the “Peacock Dress” created for her in 1903
by the House of Worth (designed by Charles Frederick’s son, Jean-Philippe Worth).
The above is the House of Worth Peacock dress made for Lady Mary Curzon, Vicereine of India. “The peacock dress was commissioned for the Delhi Durbar in 1903, a celebration honoring the coronation of Edward VII. The dress is made of cloth of gold, worked by craftsmen in India, and has a pattern of overlapping peacock feathers. The eye of each feather is not an emerald, as many guests believed, but an iridescent green wing from the scarab beetle (cetonia cyrata).”
Charles Frederick Worth designed some of the most beautiful gowns of any century. Made with care of the finest materials and with great detail, few couturiers can match the gorgeous garments that came from the House of Worth.
Next time, in Part 4 of House of Worth Fashion, I’ll look further at some of the innovations that Charles Worth introduced to haute couture. This look will also include more of the magnificent evening wear that he designed. And I imagine that women were even willing to fight for those beautiful dresses as well.
Until then, have a wonderful week.