Monday, May 11, 2009

Charles Frederick Worth

[My hands are killing me from yesterday's spin-a-thon and I got nothin'. Random topic!]

Charles Frederick Worth (usually just referred to as "Worth" because he's that fuckin' awesome) started life as a modest English dude.

Then he moved to Paris and became the world's first true fashion designer in the modern sense of the word. (Okay. There were apprenticeships in London and Paris before he hit the big time, but the raw talent is just amazing.) He opened his first atelier in Paris in 1858. This was right at the dawn of the Arts and Crafts movement, and I suspect Worth (who would have been in London at the same time as some of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement) soaked up the concept of Anything Can Be Art, because boy howdy did he apply it once he got his own bankroll.

The concept of owning clothing as a brand name, or BY someone? A little black dress by Chanel, Gucci shoes, Prada bag? That CONCEPT was almost single-handedly created by Worth. His stuff has a certain pizzaz that echoes across a century and a half, and even in archaic, Edwardian-era stuff, he can trigger the "I want to wear THAT" urge.



Or your response may be more like mine... "HOLY CRAP I WANNA KNIT SOMETHING LIKE THAT."

Worth and his atelier survived several wars, and after he passed away in 1895, House of Worth carried on, kicking fashion's ass and generally redefining the concept of what we wear.




In 1952, Worth's great-grandson retired. House of Worth merged with another fashion house, and the world was a drab, poorly dressed place once again.

So, when I start looking at design and clothing and fit and planning of garments, this stuff lurks in the back of my head. I'll never achieve this level of creativity, but I can aspire. We all need goals, right?

14 comments:

Emily said...

Oh, the stuff is beautiful. Daunting, too. (You could design that red & gold-trimmed jacket to be knitted, no?)

Regenia said...

I desperately desire the orange one! Oh the inspiration I find here!

Amy Lane said...

OMG-- the lines are crisp and lovely and innovative... VK, take a freakin' lesson!

Leonie said...

OMG those first two are utterly divine!!! I want. Oh I know I can't have but a girl needs dreams no?

TinkingBell said...

Heh - see - done it again.

My brain works like yours - interested in everything, remember everything - pity there's not a career called 'dilettante'.

These days I call myself a generalist and synthesist - I can pull disparate things together in a weird way. Its fun, but it will never bring in the big bucks. - and my security word is vamper - how appropriate to a post on Worth - especially the stuff produced by Worth in the 1920s

Roxie said...

What stories those dresses could tell! Who wore them, when, and where? What happened at those functions? Did the orange dress see more than one wearing? ("Oh, here comes Hermione in her Orange Worth again.")And the blue knee-length with tule. . . did it ever get to do the Charleston? I would LOVE to write those stories!

Donna Lee said...

I love the blue dress with the tulle. It's so graceful and lovely. If you read books about the rich of the time, young women were always going to Paris to get fitted by Worth. I was always envious.

NeedleTart said...

There's a short story somewhere (that was made into a TV movie with Angela Landsbury) about a char lady (cleaning lady) who wanted nothing so much as a worth gown. She saved and saved, even walking to work, for years and one day went to France to get her dress. Complications ensued. Even after she returned home there was no place she could wear the dress, but it stayed in her closet as a reminder of possibilities. That's what we have here, possibilities.

Barbara said...

The height of my fashion is jeans with a white tee and red high tops but--I WANT TO WEAR THAT. Worth always makes me want to put on good underwear and stocking and shimmy into his dresses. You just know women fought to wear his designs.

walterknitty said...

I forget how much fascination with all things Japan and Japanese inspired fashion, art, ceramics, etc, around the late 1800's. That black dress with the gold brocade (is it brocade) lining captures that to a "t". That man was brilliant and knew something about covering the female form in fabrics and cuts that look like they would be very stunning. Something modern fashion designers could certaintly learn from.

maaeli said...

They're just gorgeous, each in its own unique way.
I'm not sure though, whether I would like to wear a piece of art, especially if it's THAT beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, thanks for this. I'm doing a research paper on this guy, and this was a lovely breakdown.

gogm said...

The second image shows a high-crinoline era gown, maybe from 1860. The label probably read "Worth and Bobergh."

Maddy said...

i like the red and gold one and the ice coloured one with the zig zig cut