1895: The Father of Parisian “High Fashion” was an Englishman

1895: The Father of Parisian “High Fashion” was an Englishman
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 10. March 1895
  • Charles Frederick Worth is the father of Parisian “high fashion” (French: Haute Couture). Clothing designers were from that point on considered artists, rather than only craftsmen as was the case earlier. According to his nationality Worth was actually an Englishman, and allegedly didn't even speak French when he first arrived in Paris.

This day in Paris in 1895 marked the death of the famed Charles Frederick Worth, the man who can be considered the creator of French “high fashion” (French: Haute Couture).

What’s unusual is that he was an Englishman by nationality. He was born in the town of Bourne in England, some 130 km north of London. He was not of high birth, and began his career in London, working in a fabric and drapery shop.

There he attained a certain amount of experience, and moved to Paris at the age of only 20. There he managed to find work at the well-known Gagelin and Opigez drapery shop. He allegedly didn’t even speak French when he first arrived in Paris, and was actually quite poor.

While working at the mentioned drapers, Gagelin met and later married one of their models, Marie Vernet. He made a few simple dresses for his young wife.

 Charles Frederick Worth / Wikipedia Commons
Charles Frederick Worth / Wikipedia Commons

These were well-liked by the customers, who asked him to make some for them as well. In time it became an interesting job, even though Worth’s employers were originally skeptical towards that kind of work (dressmaking was not considered a very respectable occupation at that time).

Worth joined forces with a wealthy Swede and opened his own dressmaking establishment in 1858. The well-known French empress Eugénie became one of Worth’s patrons.

 

She was famous for wearing the largest crinoline in history – it allegedly had a diameter of seven meters. Some even say that Worth was the one who brought the crinoline into fashion, but the trend was actually somewhat older.

Worth’s business boomed, and he was soon followed by other dressmakers, leading to the creation of a movement known as “high fashion” (French: Haute Couture), which has in some form survived until today. Clothing designers were from that point on considered artists, rather than only craftsmen as was the case earlier.

Charles Frederick worth died aged 69, after having created dresses for many famous women, including the Austrian empress Elizabeth (“Sissi”).

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