And Now From The House of Worth

charles-frederick-worth-english-fashion-designer-active-in-paris

The Master Himself

Today we take you across the ocean to Paris, the capital of fashion in the late 19th Century for a brief look at one (of many) creation by Frederick Charles Worth. Worth was one of the first “name” fashion designers who pioneered what ultimately was to become the Haute Couture system that ruled the fashion world for almost a century.

Along with creating his own dress designs, Worth also commissioned his own custom fabrics and in particular he patronized the French silk industry centered in Lyon1. One such creation that Worth commissioned from the firm of Morel, Poeckès & Paumlin in 1889 was the Tulipes Hollandaises (“Holland Tulips). The design was intended to push the silk weaver’s art to its limits, the design has a three-foot repeat in the pattern which made it difficult to weave.

Below are two pictures of the textile’s design:

Worth Evening Cape 1889_3 Worth Evening Cape 1889_4

The tulips are depicted in bright colors set against a black background and some commentators have characterized it as an “aggressive” design intended to make a bold statement, especially given the size of the design repeat.

As part of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the products of French industry were exhibited and naturally the textile and couture industries were part of it. The above textile was put on display and it ultimately was awarded a grand prize.

Paris_1889_plakatThe above fabric was ultimately made into an evening cape that was designed to show off the tulip design to its maximum advantage:

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_1

Front View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_2

Rear View- Evening Cape, House of Worth, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1708)

Worth_Evening Cape 1889_5

Here’s a view that’s a bit less sterile than what is normally encountered in a museum setting.

The above evening cape shows off the silk textile to its maximum advantage. Some could argue that it’s excessive and perhaps even gauche but that was the nature of Haute Couture in the late 19th Century and given the spirit of the time, anything less would have been dismissed as banal. Less was definitely not more during the Belle Epoch. 🙂

Footnotes

1. Unfortunately, the silk industry in Lyon has diminished since the late 19th Century and today, Prelle et Cie is one of the few silk weavers that remain. Prelle’s silks have been used to restore a wide variety of historic sites worldwide and they even recreated many of the silk fabrics used in 2006 film Marie Antoinette.

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