Charles Frederick Worth (October 13, 1826 - March 10, 1895), widely considered the Father of Haute Couture, was an English-born fashion designer of the 19th century.
Born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, Worth made his mark in the French fashion industry. He worked at several prosperous London drapery shops before moving to Paris in 1846. He was hired by Gagelin and Opigez, well-known Parisian drapers. While working in their shop, he married one of the firm's models, Marie Vernet. Marie would model shawls and bonnets for prospective customers. Worth made a few simple dresses for his wife and customers started to ask for copies of the dresses as well.
Worth, by now a junior partner in the firm, urged his partners to expand into dressmaking, but they hesitated to risk their reputation in a business as low-class as dressmaking. Worth found a wealthy Swede, Otto Bobergh , who was willing to bankroll the venture and opened the dressmaking establishment of Worth and Bobergh in 1858. Worth was soon patronized by the French Empress Eugénie, and after that by many titled, rich, and otherwise notable women. Cora Pearl , the famous demi-mondaine , was a Worth devotee. Many of his customers travelled a long way to Paris from other countries, even as far as New York and Boston across the Atlantic Ocean.
Worth gave his customers luxurious materials and meticulous fit. Rather than let the customer dictate the design – as had previously been dressmaking practice – four times a year he displayed model dresses at fashion shows. His patronesses would pick a model, which would then be sewn in fabrics of their choice and tailored to their figure. Worth was sufficiently fashionable that he had to turn away customers. This only added to his éclat. He completely revolutionized the business of dressmaking. He was the first of the couturiers, dressmakers considered artists rather than mere artisans.
Worth and Bobergh shut down during the Franco-Prussian War and re-opened in 1871, without Bobergh, as the House of Worth. Worth took his sons, Gaston (founder of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture ) and Jean-Philippe , into his business and the couture house continued to flourish after his death in 1895.