Law-maker of European Fashion. Works of Charles
Worth and His Fashion House in the Hermitage Collection
May 18, 2000 - October, 2000
For the first time on display are all the works of Charles Frederic Worth
(1825-1895) that are presently kept in the funds of the State Hermitage.
Charles Worh was born in England in a small town in Lincolnshire. When
he was 20 years old he left for Paris where he started to work in the
shop "La Ville de Paris". Later he changed for another firm - one of the
most respected at that time fashion houses of Paris - the firm of Gagelene.
Worth did not study art in a college. But he was fond of paintings of
the old masters which greatly influenced him when he became a designer
of costume of the Historicism style. Both in London and Paris he spent
much time in the National Gallery and in Louvre where he made sketches
of the patterns of fabrics, embroidery and details of costumes from the
canvases of the great artists. Worth's talent was officially recognized
when he was awarded with a first class medal at the international exhibition
in Paris in 1855 for the design of the new type of train falling not from
the waist, as before, but from the shoulders, and thus constructed a new
silhouette of the full dresses.
In 1857 Charles Worth together with Otto Gustav Boberg (1821-1881) founded
a firm in Paris and two years later got the title "Furnisher of the Court
" Representatives of almost all royal families of Europe commissioned
dresses in the fashion house of Worth. The first ladies of high society
and of demi-monde were the clients of Charles Worth. In the most successful
years his firm was commissioned more than 5 thousand dresses. Worth was
one of the first to start demonstrating his costumes on models, to publish
them in fashion magazines,"Harper Bazar" in the first place, with the
name of the firm.
Charles Worth got commission from the Russian court. The morganatic wife
of Alexander II Princess Yurievskaya, Princess Paley, Duchess Baryatinskaya
and her daughters were his clients. The wife of Alexander III Maria Feodorovna
commissioned her dresses in the fashion house of Worth for more than 30
years. She placed so much confidence in Charles Worth that sent orders
for dresses by telegram, the fabrics and the style to be decided by the
master. On display are 18 costumes made by Charles Worth in the late 19th
century. Most of the dresses belonged to Maria Feodorovna and before 1917
were kept in the Anichkov Palace in Saint Petersburg. The right to be
admitted one of the best works of Worth belongs to the dress of pale-yellow
satin with velvet printed pattern made in 1880-s.
An interesting detail in a fashionable female attire of the late 19th
century was a dress with one skirt and two bodices. This dress could be
worn in different situations for visits, as an evening attire or a dress
for official ceremonies. An example of this type of universal outfit is
an elegant costume of black satin.
The exhibition also features a number of works tailored after the death
of Charles Worth in the firm inherited by his sons Jean Philippe and Gaston.
An imposing evening dress in the Art Nouveau style (1898-1900) of satin
with velvet pattern is one of these works that demonstrates the best traditions
of this fashion house. The silhouette of this dress is determined by the
corset of special design that added an S-shape to the figure. Before 1917
this elegant ball dress was kept in the palace of the Yusupovs in Saint
Petersburg and quite probably belonged to one of the most charming beauties
of that time Zinaida Yusupova.
The fashion house of Charles Worth existed till 1945 when his name was
sold to England. In France his name now is preserved in one of the producers
A Dress for Visits of the Empress Maria Feodorovna
A Dress for Visits 1880-s