House of WORTH

House of WORTH (1)

Charles Frederick Worth 1825 - 1895, Coronation Gown of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Painting of Empress Elisabeth in Gown, Ball Gown for Empress Elisabeth (Sissi), the WORTH label

Charles Frederick Worth wasn't the first celebrated high fashion designer. That honor belongs to Minister of Fashion to Marie Antoinette, Rose Bertin. However, unlike his predecessors, he was the first couturier whose career lasted longer than the current government and was international. 

Worth was an Englishman in Paris when fashionably dressed women were fascinated with the well tailored dress and when the dressmakers were willing to indulge their customers in their whims. The very word couturier had to be invented for him, as there were no men in the profession at the time. It was a world of women until then.

At thirteen, Charles was apprenticed to Swan & Edgar's, a London mercer's establishment handling ladies dress fabrics. At the end of his seven year apprenticeship, he then went to Lewis & Allenby, the most fashionable fabric business in town at the time. At twenty, Worth set out for Paris, keeping himself to menial jobs until he learned the language. After a year, working at Gagelin's emporium, promoted to the position of salesman, he met Marie Vernet. Marie was employed as a model of cloaks and was possessed of great charm. They fell in love and were married. Marie inspired Worth's creativity and soon he was designing dresses for her to wear under the cloaks at the shop. They were simple and elegant and soon caught the attention of the clientele. Worth was asked for orders. He suggested opening a small department in the shop, which Gagelin's was a first hesitant to do, but then allowed in 1850. Eventually, with success, several of Worth's dresses were included in their display in the Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace in 1851. 

With Marie as his muse, he gained confidence. His assurance carried him forward to try new styles and to assure his clients his vision was the right one. In time, when Marie walked out in a new design, its success was assured.

Charles Frederick Worth was the couturier to royalty of Europe and to the financial royalty of America. He dressed Princess de Metternich, the wife of the Austrian ambassador to France. He also dressed the Empress Eugenie, Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, Margaret, Queen of Italy and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. He also dressed the famous actress, Lily Langtry, mistress to King Edward VII. The American women of the Golden Age made the long trip to Paris for fittings, as well. 

The WORTH label was the first of its kind. Until Charles Frederick Worth started signing his work, no one else had done such a thing.