Charles Frederick Worth (French (born England), Bourne 1825–1895 Paris)
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
This is a prime example of the bustle skirt, which came back in the 1880s largely due to Worth's influence in fashion and his desire to stimulate the silk manufacturing industry in France. This dress is an example of the Worth design aesthetic of using celestial motifs. The selvedge edges were exposed and used as a decorative device, a practice that continued through the 1910s, which was a way of utilizing the full width of these expensive textiles. The fact that the selvedge is woven of the same quality of silk and color emphasizes the refinement of these custom luxury fabrics.
The bustle silhouette, although primarily associated with the second half of the 19th century, originated in earlier fashions as a simple bump at the back of the dress, such as with late 17th-early 18th century mantuas and late 18th- early 19th century Empire dresses. The full-blown bustle silhouette had its first Victorian appearance in the late 1860s, which started as fullness in skirts moving to the back of the dress. This fullness was drawn up in ties for walking that created a fashionable puff. This trendsetting puff expanded and was then built up with supports from a variety of different things such as horsehair, metal hoops and down. Styles of this period were often taken from historical inspiration and covered in various types of trim and lace. Accessories were petite and allowed for the focus on the large elaborate gowns. Around 1874, the style altered and the skirts began to hug the thighs in the front while the bustle at the back was reduced to a natural flow from the waist to the train. This period was marked by darker colors, asymmetrical drapery, oversize accessories and elongated forms created by full-length coats. Near the beginning of the 1880s the trends altered once again to include the bustle, this time it would reach its maximum potential with some skirts having the appearance of a full shelf at the back. The dense textiles preferred were covered in trimming, beadwork, puffs and bows to visually elevate them further. The feminine silhouette continued like this through 1889 before the skirts began to reduce and make way for the S-curve silhouette.
Charles Frederick Worth was born in England and spent his young adulthood working for textile merchants in London while researching art history at museums. In 1845 he moved to Paris and worked as a salesman and a dressmaker before partnering with Otto Bobergh to open the dressmaking shop, Worth and Bobergh, in 1858. They were soon recognized by royalty and major success followed. In 1870 Worth became the sole proprietor of the business. At his shop, Worth fashioned completed creations which he then showed to clients on live models. Clients could then order their favorites according to their own specifications. This method is the origin of haute couture. Worth designed gowns which were works of art that implemented a perfect play of colors and textures created by meticulously chosen textiles and trims. The sheer volume of the textiles he employed on each dress is testimony to his respect and support of the textile industry. Worth's creative output maintained its standard and popularity throughout his life. The business continued under the direction of his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons through the first half of the twentieth century.
Marking: Signature label woven into petersham: "Worth/Paris"
Brooklyn Museum. "The Opulent Era: Fashions of Worth, Doucet & Pingat," December 1, 1989–February 26, 1990.
Brooklyn Museum. "The House of Worth," May 8, 1962–June 24, 1962.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity IMPRESSIONISM,FASHION,ANDMODERNI," February 19, 2013–May 27, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity," February 26–May 7, 2013.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity," June 26–September 29, 2013.