Born in 1826, Charles Frederick Worth is known as the “Father of Haute Couture.” As the founder of the couture house that became the world’s longest-running fashion house, Worth began his career in fashion at the age of eleven when he worked for a range of London drapers. Worth left England for Paris in 1845, where he took a job in a shop selling fabrics, shawls, and mantles. Worth persuaded the shop to open a department of made-up dress models, which he designed.
In 1858, Worth opened his own couture house on the Rue de la Paix. Due to the Franco-Prussian war (1870), Worth closed his shop, which was eventually reopened in 1874. With his store reopened, Worth became the court dressmaker to Empress Eugénie of France and Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Aside from Empress Eugénie and her court, Worth required his customers to come to him instead of visiting them in their homes, as had been custom. As an excellent businessman, Worth was the first couturier to sell models to be copied in England and America.
Dresses designed by Worth are known for their opulence, lavish use of fabrics, and elaborate ornamentation of frills, ribbons, lace, braid and tassels. Worth is credited with inventing the collapsible steel frame for crinolines and later abolishing crinolines in 1867. He promoted the use of French-made textiles and is said to have invented the princess-style dress. His designs were influenced by the paintings of Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Velasquez.
For further reading: “Who’s Who in Fashion” by Anne Stegemeyer and “A Century of Fashion” by Jean Philippe Worth