The father of haute couture, Charles Worth, was born on October 13, 1826 in England. He moved to Paris in 1846 after having been hired by a fabric shop. He married one of the models who worked there and began to create designs for her. When customers saw them, they placed their own orders with Worth. He tried to get the firm to expand into dresses, but they were reluctant to take the risk.
Instead, Worth found a wealthy partner who was willing to bankroll him, and they opened “Worth and Bobergh” in 1858. When the Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoléon III) put her seal of approval on his shop, those in her circle soon followed, and then came actresses, like Sarah
Bernhardt, and then expensive kept women. Soon, customers began to travel from major American cities just to shop chez Worth. He actually had to turn customers away, which only brought him more business.
He transformed women’s clothes by stripping away the excess frills and furbelows and focusing on great fabric and an impeccable fit. Frankly, they still look rather fussy to a modern eye, since many of the existing Worth gowns were for such formal occasions as balls or being presented to royalty. The formal gowns aren’t particularly representative of his regular day dresses. Apparently, he was also the first designer to realize the power of a brand by sewing in labels to mark designs as his.
His other innovation was the fashion show. Prior to Worth, women had told dressmakers what they wanted. Now, he showed them options four times a year; women would customize the design by choosing their preferred fabric, and then Worth would tailor the design to their measurements, and voila, haute couture was born! After the Franco-Prussian War, Worth re-opened without his partner, simply as “The House of Worth.” He died in Paris on March 10, 1895, still at the head of a flourishing fashion house.
Today’s expression, de toutes ses forces (duh toot say forss), means “for all one is worth.” Charles Worth didn’t just revolutionize an industry, he created it by working de toutes ses forces and daring to do what others wouldn’t risk.
- Charles Frederick Worth – The Father of Haute Couture Fashion (rubylane.com)
- Clair de lune (onequalitythefinest.com)