[August 26, 2016]
Charles Frederick Worth was an innovator when it came to fashion. He didn’t follow others; they followed his leadings. Not only was he a man that made his clients look beautiful in stunning garments, he made changes to the fashions that became permanent over time.
Two of his innovations involved the line of the gowns and their length. Crinolines were a type of undergarment that promoted very large skirts on the dresses as seen below. Although very beautiful gowns, they were also very awkward for the women wearing them as it made it difficult to get through narrow doors, care for their children, to move around without bumping into or breaking things and, of course, taking care of nature.
Ball gown for Empress Eugenie of France, House of Worth 1865
So, Worth—because he was also a practical man—made changes to the crinoline, taking out the fullness in the front as well as the sides and leaving the poof in the back. I imagine his clients were delighted to feel more comfortable in his gowns as they could maneuver in any situation without fear of accidents. It must have made a tremendous difference in the ballrooms also as it made for more room for the guests not just the clothing. Makes one wonder if some of the balls—where all the women were wearing mile wide gowns—became more than a little frustrating at times. The gowns were beautiful but highly impractical.
Ball gown of pale oyster satin adorned with garlands of embroidered blooms 1888
Over the next two decades, evening gowns had evolved into and remained as we see the lovely gown above: beautiful, yet practical in every way including enough fullness to allow for movement in dancing.
A second innovation, the princess line, named after Princess Alexandra, was introduced by Charles Worth in the early 1870’s. It was an extremely close fitted design showing off the shape of the body without the distortion of a crinoline or a bustle. In fact, Worth totally abandoned the crinoline when he developed the princess line dress. There is no horizontal seam at the waist or darts to this design which has been used throughout the 20th and on into the 21st century. It is still popular for wedding dresses and even day and evening dresses also.
Princess line dress 1878-1880
There was still another extreme change that Worth made to fashions of his day: he shortened the hemline.
‘Worth created a shorter hemline – a walking skirt – at the suggestion of Empress Eugénie, who enjoyed long walks but not long skirts. This was initially seen as too radical, even shocking, because it was at ankle length, but its practical benefits meant it was adopted over time.’ Wikipedia.org
Walking dress, House of Worth 1885
Innovator and arbiter of fashion, Charles Frederick Worth was definitely the king of fashion in the latter part of the 1800’s.
‘He regarded clothing as an art, and for the first time, designed clothing, not for a client’s taste, but based on his impression of what women should wear.’ Wikipedia.org
And his clients agreed with him and came from all over the world for his lovely creations. Is it any wonder that he is known as the ‘father of haute couture?’
Next time, I’m going to offer you a treat, do less ‘talking,’ and show you a lot more of the beautiful garments in Part 5 the final installment of the House of Worth Fashions.
In the meantime, have a wonderful week.
References: Wikipedia.org, Pinterest.com