House of Worth (French, 1858–1956)
Jean-Philippe Worth (French, 1856–1926)
Length at CB: 50 1/2 in. (128.3 cm)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William E. S. Griswold, 1941
Not on view
Jean-Philippe Worth began as an assistant to his father, Charles Frederick Worth, in 1875. Gradually he was allowed to create his own designs and when his father died in 1895, he became the lead designer for the house. He was praised for making elaborate artistic gowns with intricate trimmings on unique textiles, much like his father had before him. Although the House of Worth was still favored by royalty and celebrities through the turn of the century, their styles were no longer the forefront of French fashion after 1900. Around 1910 Jean-Philippe limited his design work to important orders and hired his nephew, Jean-Charles Worth, as the new lead designer before leaving the company entirely after World War I.
The House of Worth, alongside other couturiers of the time, would produce mourning attire upon request for its regular customers. Mourning was an important feature through the Edwardian period as it had been for the previous half century. Black mourning dress reached its peak during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of the United Kingdom in the second half of the 19th century. Queen Victoria wore mourning from the death of her husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861), until her own death. With these standards in place, it was considered a social requisite to don black from anywhere between three months to two and a half years while grieving for a loved one or monarch. The stringent social custom existed for all classes and was available at all price points. Those who could not afford the change of dress often altered and dyed their regular garments black. The amount of black to be worn was dictated by several different phases of mourning; full mourning ensembles were solid black while half mourning allowed the wearer to add a small amount of white or purple. Haute couture mourning garments, such as this one, are rare but show the importance of mourning in every echelon of society. The heavy fringe and lace appliqué create an interesting texture on the plain black bengaline, which was commonly used for mourning attire.
Artist / Maker / Culture
Object Type / Material
Date / Era