Textiles are a major element in any fashion style and a good designer will always seek to utilize the right fabric so that a specific style looks its best. For Charles Worth, fabrics played a major role in the design process to the point where he would commission textile manufacturers to create textiles for his exclusive use. Drawing on his background as a draper, Worth created relationships with a number of textile manufacturers, most notably the silk weavers of Lyon, France.
Worth’s opinion of the role of textiles was neatly summarized in an interview quoted in the March 24, 1896 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
When a manufacturer invents any special fabric or design, he sends me a pattern asking if I can use it. The fabric may require a severe style of dress, or if light and soft it is adapted for draperies and puffings. If the material pleases me, I order a large quantity to be mades specially for me, and design my dresses accordingly. A purchase by a large firm of a great quantity of material influences other firms, and that material, with the style it is suited to, becomes the fashion. All my models are first made in black and white muslin, then copied in the material and coloring which I select.
Worth notes that with enough yardage and the right design, one can create a popular fashion. In the above quote, Worth notes that the textile manufacturer would come to him in the hopes of an order. However, knowing Worth’s tendency to commission custom fabrics, it was a two-way process in that Worth’s designs often drove textile development. In future posts we’ll be covering this in more detail but it’s interesting to hear from one of the leading designers of the day.