Haute couture, French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking", originally referred to the work produced in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century by Englishman Charles Frederick Worth. Credited as being the first designer to have his label sewn into garments that he created, articles of clothing from before the 19th century are studied as costume design; only garments created after 1858 can be considered as fashion design.
Born in Lincolnshire, England, Worth worked at several notable London drapery shops before moving to Paris in 1846. While working at Gagelin and Opigez, well-known Parisian drapers, he married one of the firm's models. Worth made dresses for his wife and customers started to ask for copies of the dresses as well.
Worth urged his partners to expand into dressmaking, but they hesitated to risk their reputation in a business as low-class as dressmaking. Worth found a wealthy Swede, Otto Bobergh, who was willing to bankroll the venture and opened the dressmaking establishment of Worth and Bobergh in 1858. Worth was soon patronized by the French Empress Eugénie, and thereafter by many titled, rich, and otherwise notable women including Cora Pearl, Pauline von Metternich and Sarah Bernhardt.
Much of Worth’s work is associated with the movement to redefine the female fashionable shape, using rich fabrics in simple but flattering outlines. Rather than let the customer dictate the design, as had previously been dressmaking practice, four times a year he displayed model dresses at fashion shows. His patronesses would pick a model, which would then be sewn in fabrics of their choice and tailored to their figure.
Worth completely revolutionized the business of dressmaking to become the first of the couturiers, dressmakers considered artists rather than mere artisans. Michael Page Retail’s D&P team certainly regards the professionals they recruit as artists, one reason why we’re trusted by some of the big names in the fashion industry, including Nike, Burberry, FCUK and Calvin Klein, to find them the talent they need. Our recent placements include multiple Design and Production roles at Sainsbury’s Tu clothing, a Production Assistant at Toast and a Garment Technologist at Peacocks.
If you’re a D&P professional looking to follow in Charles Worth’s footsteps, contact the team now.