haute cou·ture [oht koo-toor;]
1. high fashion; the most fashionable and influential dressmaking and designing.
Charles Frederick Worth, born October 13, 1826, is largely considered the father of Haute couture.
He was born in Bourne, England and in his early career worked as a clerk and draper in London before moving to Paris in 1846, aged 21.
Whilst working at Maison Gagelin he met his wife, Marie Vernet, who was working as a model.
Worth began making some dresses for his wife which proved popular amongst the other customers.
When Worth had been made up to a junior partner in the firm he tried to convince his partners to expand into dressmaking.
However, they were reluctant to do so and so in 1858 Worth partnered with Otto Bobergh, opened a dressmaking house.
Worth was a success with his patrons including the French Empress Eugénie, Catherine Walters and Cora Pearl and Pauline von Metternich.
He also dressed Sarah Bernhardt and Nellie Melba.
Worth revolutionised the business of dressmaking.
Previous practice had been for the customer to dictate the design of the dress.
Worth designed dresses to emphasis and decorate the female form and then four times a year he showed these designs at a fashion show.
The customer would pick the dress they desired which would then be made in fabrics of their choice and tailored to their figure.
Worth and Bobergh shut the fashion house during the Franco-Prussian War.
When the war was over, Bobergh decided to leave the business and the House of Worth opened in 1871.
Both of his sons, Gasto and Jean-Philippe, followed their father into his business and worked with him for many years.
The House of Worth were the first to sew House labels in to clothes.
Worth also used a system of form fitting and standardisation to produce a great number similarly looking and suitably tailored of gowns.
Worth died in March 1895 aged 69. After his death, his sons took over the business which continued to be a success.
Gaston sons, (Charle’s grandsons) Jean-Charles and Jacques, also joined the company around 1910.
They were great designers in their own rigght and the House of Worth continued to be successful and pioneering.
In 1922, Jacques introduced perfumes to accompany the clothes, including their perfume ‘Je Reviens’ (French for ‘I will return’) which remains one of the most famous French perfumes
The House of Worth finally came to an end in 1952 when Jean-Charles retired at 71 from the family business. The House of Worth was merged with Paquin in 1954, but this closed in 1956.
However, the House of Worth was responsible for revolutionising the way women brought clothes and their dresses are still considered to be some of the best examples of couture.