A true couturier creates an entire piece by hand — no machines. It’s hard to find true couture today but back in the 1800s, it was a lot more common. However, fashion designers were not labeling their creations and therefore, a lot of victorian era clothing has no labels. The first known couturier and the first in our Vintage Influencer series is Charles Frederick Worth. A man many do not know by name but are speechless when they see his designs.
As a teenager, Worth, an Englishman, moved to Paris with his mother and started working in a fabric shop. It was here he found his passion and gained his motivation to become a household name. He convinced the owner of the fabric shop to open a dress department for Worth to start designing in. The owner agreed and Worth’s reputation took off. Worth’s rise to fame came at a time where France’s demand for luxury goods, including textiles and fashion was very high.
Worth’s designs are most known for his eye for details, lush fabrics and elaborate beadwork. He also paid very close attention to fit, working one-on-one with the women he dressed and reportedly putting as much as 17 pieces of fabric into a bodice to get the right fit.
Charles branched off and created House of Worth where he redesigned how women shopped for their clothing. Usually a seamstress would go to the house and fit the woman. With Worth’s demand so high, women came to his studio and were fitted and shown many options for their designs. He revolutionized customer service as we know it today.
While looking at the following pictures, keep in mind, everything was handmade from the seams to the embellishments. The craftsmanship is unreal.
The House of Worth strived long after Charles death in 1895 but unfortunately came to an end in 1952 when his great grandson retired from the family business. Worth left a legacy and his reputation as the first couturier is still living strong.
See more at The Met.