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Haute Couture

French fashion can’t have anything to do with the resolutely unfashionable Brits can it? Well yes in fact it can. The term, which is protected by law in France, is attributed to Lincolnshire-born fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth.

Having worked at several prosperous London drapery shops Worth moved to Paris in 1846 where 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. It was her job to 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.

His employers refused to move into the lowly world of dressmaking, so Worth set up with a wealthy Swede, Otto Bobergh, and opened Worth and Bobergh in 1858. Success came rapidly.

Rather than let the customer dictate the design, as had previously been dressmaking practice, four times a year Worth 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 completely revolutionized the business of dressmaking. He was the first of the couturiers, dressmakers considered artists rather than mere artisans.

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08 Jan 2011
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