House of Worth
The House of Worth is a French house of high fashion that specializes in haute couture, ready-to-wear clothes, and perfumes. The historic house was founded in 1858 by designer Charles Frederick Worth. It continued to operate under his descendents until 1952 but finally closed in 1956. The House of Worth brand was revived in 1999.
The Historic House of Worth
Charles Frederick Worth opened his own design house in 1858 in partnership with Otto Bobergh in Paris at 7 Rue de la Paix. He had previously worked at Swan & Edgar Ltd and Lewis & Allenby in London and at Maison Gagelin in Paris. It was at Gagelin where he first established his reputation as a dressmaker. In the 1850s his designs for Gagelin won commendations at Universal Expositions in London and Paris.
While Worth was still at Gagelin, the house had supplied the trousseau for the newly married Empress Eugénie. After opening his own house, he was introduced to the Empress and appointed court designer. Her patronage increased his reputation and business success. He also dressed leading performers of the day: Sarah Bernhardt, Lillie Langtry, Jenny Lind, and Nellie Melba. Worth also created unique special event pieces for his best clients, such as masquerade ball costumes and wedding dresses.
Worth was known for preparing several designs for each season which were then shown by live models. Clients would make their selections and have them made to their own measurements in his work rooms. His designs incorporated elegant fabrics, detailed trimming, and superb fit. Wealthy women in the 19th century had four changes of dress during the day, and many clients would purchase their entire wardrobes from Worth.
In 1871, Worth would dissolve his association with Bobergh. His design and promotional talents had made the House of Worth a highly successful international business. Upon Worth's death in 1895, sons Gaston-Lucien (1853–1924) and Jean-Philippe (1856–1926) assumed the business.
In 1924, with the House now operated by grandson Jacques Worth, the house ventured into the perfume market. The company's first fragrance, developed by perfumer Maurice Blanchet, was Dans La Nuit. Glass-maker René Lalique was commissioned to design the bottle. Les Perfumes Worth was established as a separate business and would launch over 20 fragrances between 1924 and 1947.
The house remained successful under Worth's descendants but would face increasing competition. In 1950, the House of Worth was taken over by the House of Paquin. In 1952, the Worth family influence ended with the retirement of great-grandson Jean-Charles (1881–1962). In 1956, the house shut down the couture operations.
After the closure of the Paris couture house, Les Perfumes Worth was bought by Société Maurice Blanchet. It was sold in 1992 to David Reimer and became part International Classic Brands. It was later acquired by Lenthéric in 1999 and is now part of Shaneel Enterprises Ltd.
The Revived House of Worth
In 1999, the House of Worth brand was revived by entrepreneurs Dilesh and Hitesh Mehta. The fashion and perfume intellectual property were consolidated from the original firm's various family and corporate descendants into a single corporate entity. Giovanni Bedin became its principal designer after previously working for Karl Lagerfeld and Thierry Mugler.
An attempt was made to revive the couture operation with the first new collection presented for the Spring/Summer 2010 seasons. The look updated and modernized Edwardian corsets which were elaborately decorated with lace and feathers. The voluminous crinolines of the past century were now ballerina-like skirts of tulle netting. The short (65 cm) skirts would also be featured in subsequent couture collections. The following year the house introduced its first prêt-à-porter collection, which was to be sold in the US under the label Courtworth. The renewed couture effort however was not successful and the house did not present collections after the Fall/Winter 2013 season.
The revived house continues to produce perfumes. It reissued Dans la Nuit (2000) and Je Reviens (2005) in reformulated versions. It also introduced new scents Je Reviens Couture (2004), W Superbe, Joyeause Retour, and Courtesan.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to House of Worth.|
- Online exhibition of gowns by Worth from 1860 to 1952-3 at the Museum of the City of New York.
- Worth dress, ca. 1905, in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database