Today we revisit an episode from 2014. Before Charles Worth, the idea of ready made clothes for purchase didn't really exist. Neither did the idea of a design house that showed seasonal collections. This one man's vision invented the fashion industry as we know it today.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
How are you feeling today right now? How are you feeling about the world you live in? You want to make the world better, so you know how I'm not sure I do, but you know who did Mister Rogers, I'm Carmelo Wallace, post of finding Fred, a podcast about Fred Rogers from Iheartmedia and father
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Happy Saturday, everybody today is the birthday of Charles Frederick Worth he was the founder of the house of worth
so we're going back to our twenty fourteen episode on his life and the birth of owed couture, and if you like, fashion history, just in case you have missed it. There is also a whole fashion history. By cast on our network, it is called dressed. It is
did by April Callaghan and Cassidy's Zachary, who are
historians and it is a delight so enjoy
welcome to stuff you missed in history class from Howstuffworks dot, com, hello and welcome to the park now and I'm Tracy V, Wilson
We need a lot of request to do more fashion, related tomcat vis vividly
the one they were going to talk about today said this person
set in motion, really the very concept of a design house and established many of the practices that are standard business for designers. Today I will go on a lot in the introduction. Is it all comes out in the story? Does a man who ran the Paris fashions he may in the late eighteen hundreds he really was sort of the of the Tsar Refashion Fur France at that point, he's featured Oliver printers Mord
is, in fact, Charles worse before we start. Could I just say, I'm glad you're around the field, all these requests about fashion history, because if it were me, I would be like once upon a time there was a garment and it went on people's bodies, which strikes me as Hell:
because the first time I met you you're in a costume, so in my head, you're, like a fashion not like me, but the costume things
and handle better, then, like the fashion thing,
You now to me they're all tied up together. They get onto the subject. Charles Frederick worth was born October thirteenth
team. Twenty five to William and Marianne Worth in Lincolnshire, England, the worth family
what was really well off William was one of a long line of attorneys, but things didn't quite stay so rosy early on in Charles of life. The tide of affluence really shifted. His father was an alcoholic and basically
Under the family fortune and when Charles is around eleven, he lost everything to the combination of drinking gambling and, as a consequence, both Marianne and young Charles suddenly, and have were put in the position to have to support.
family. While his mother took on cleaning jobs to make ends meet Charles, he was just twelve became a printers apprentice.
One thing didn't really suit him, though, and after a year and that trade he went to work as a bookkeeper for Swan and EDGAR, which was a textile firm in London. He lay
shifted to the silk merchant trade working for Lewis and Allenby, and he stayed with him until one thousand eight hundred and forty five, when he was twenty years old.
and the entire time that worth was working on the business side of the fabric industry in doing bookkeeping and administrative tasks.
He was taking in a lot more than the bookkeeping. He was watching dressmakers in their fashionable clients, select fabrics and choose designs, and he was learning as much as he could about textiles and the various qualities that separated luxury fabrics from more utility weaves. He went to art galleries and really vociferously studied the fashions of areas as represented through art, and he basically observed the entire world of contemporary
and that was playing out in these faccia in these textile houses- that he was working in my one thousand eight hundred and forty five- it felt like he was ready to move out of the records office and into the actual world of fashion. So he left his job at Lewis and Allenby and move to Paris his first job in
as a sales clerk at gasoline and open J was not only his first real step into the fashion world, but it also proved to be a really personal. Turning point as well, it was there at the FAO
wicked accessories shop. He would meet Marie Bernay, who sometimes model the shops. Goods
and Charles and Marie fell in love. They got married in eighteen. Fifty one
she was still modeling accessories for the luxury shop at that point, after their marriage and Charles kind of decided to put all of those years of self directed study to work, so he started to design and stitch. Gown
for her to wear while she was modeling the accessories at the highest shawls and laces that the shop provided? This got the attention of
several of guidelines, customers who would ask about Marie's, lovely garments worth all potential market and started to pitch an idea to his bosses. He would make gowns to sell
inside the accessories that the shop is already well known for in worth's plan. The shop would provide the raw material
hills and he would do all the work. Ok, so for contacts that may not there
strictly groundbreaking in the least to your listeners, but, prior to this, there was
really no such thing as walking into a store and purchasing a ready made garments. So the idea of having a address look, this dresses done. Would you like to buy it completely?
Liam everything was made to order at that point,
the idea of marketing a finished. Gown was frankly radical it just now.
had ever done it, and no one at that point even really thought it could be done. So this was before there was like uniformity of sizes. You couldn't work in and say, hey emphasise, eight
ten or twelve, or do you have it- was more
here. My measurements make my outfit well and there is also
Only uniformity of sizes now well, but
there's more than their use to mourn for sure than before
and private available vanity sizing. It was much more uniform, but unfortunately, this grand idea of worth's was not men.
Than those yes M by governor and opaque, but bullied by the fact that his dresses were quickly becoming the talk of fashionable circles worth eventually partnered with a swedish man. He met through his work. His name was Otto BO. Bear was, after a decade of working for the accessories shop that worth set up shop with his new
heart and a few dozen staff members. So the business do open worth and Barbara in ruler pay in the Lee eighteen fifties and the start of words
wasn't really an instant success. You movement has painted, like he so groundbreaking and peep
already or talking about him. They didn't really take off gangbusters, like they had hope he had customers, but it just was not the blockbuster that he and barbaric had envisioned. He merely was gonna have to reach out to prominent and stylish people to get to
interested in his clothes and build his reputation so nowadays, for example, asking
celebrity, who their wearing is director unread carpets. But this was another concept. That's pretty much entirely worth doing. No one really talked about designers like they would certainly share o. I have agreed dressmaker, you could use, but it wasn't lake with that level of new no cachet attached to it where they would be like. Oh, this is the one rosebud tat a little band, we'll talk about her again a little bit later, but
Just not not the thing to talk about your designer while out for a walk with Marie one evening. Charles noticed that princess Paul
the membranous of Vienna, and that was the wife of the austrian ambassador to Paris. She was traveling in her care
on her way to be presented at court. He was impressed with.
Demeanor and how she carried herself, and he thought she could be the perfect ambassador for him among the royals and the wealthy, and within a few weeks a meeting had been arranged, so he sent Marie to present the princess with a book of fashion, sketches that her husband had done, and at that meeting the princess ordered to gowns. She paid only three hundred francs for each, which was certainly not cheap, but for some one of her rank it really was not a terrible expense and she also promised to wear one of them to an upcoming ball. So she kind of was in on the plan from the beginning of Blake.
It would be great if you would wear our clothes and show them to your friends. The dress was white tool with silver threading and it was embellished with daisies than diamonds, which just sounds happy in sparkly. To me, the ball
hosted by Napoleon the third and Empress Eugenie and you Judy was a striking woman and arrived at the ball, also in white tool, and she had this garland of fresh flowers in her hair and a
average spread of diamonds everywhere else
wow by all accounts. The empress was certainly the bell of the ball at anything. You read about her and particularly about that evening. They talk about just how incredibly luminous and beautiful
She looked. Many people regarded. Her is one of those beautiful women of the day, but she did indeed notice the gown that Princess Metternich was wearing and she actually enquired about it and when the princess Mary,
in that it was made by an Englishman named worth and they discussed it briefly, the empress than requested that he come to visit her almost immediately the next day and so with bad Charles Worth's career sort of took off at a really dizzying speed. But before we get to that, John take a word from a sponsor. Yes,
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off, forget back Charles worthy really tended to back social conventions and redress
it's more casual and eclectic way, then you might expect for
a gentleman of that time- and this was true-
he went to worry to meet the empress. You would expect
and to be or anyone really informal dress on efficient such an occasion. But here
not on casual clothing, a moray. This
and we'll talk about it a little bit more later, but he really seems like he was maybe the the mould maker for the bohemian artists designer that has really followed been followed by numerous people
Since I am, I have to wonder if their aping worth whether they conscious
Your unconsciously are doing so
any time you sort of think of those people that sort of carry themselves with a little bit of pretence than pretence and their artists.
I think worth may have been the Genesis point of a lot of the stereotypes, the that we have come up with around artists. But his timing. More importantly, when he met Princess Metternich had really been impeccable because he had managed to get his
in the door with the royal class. At the same time, the Empress Eugenie, with Napoleon the thirds urging, was really looking to up her game when it came to style and fashion. She wasn't unfashionable and she had style, but she
really was intended to be a little bit more simple than than one would anticipate and what the people tended to desire in the woman who sat at the this highest position in France. So it was really in her best interests to cultivate a more stylish
image, and so while she had a natural style and she was by all accounts very elegant. She really needed someone to shape her wardrobe
worthy into one that would be worthy of her station, and that is at the point where Charles Worth entered her dressing room during that first meeting, which was held.
Her dressing room. She ordered one evening dress from the designer and that doesn't sound like a lot, but it would work out to be the first of many. Oh yes, he ended up basically providing all of her clothes is timely
In addition to the wonderful timing, a meeting Eugenie just ass, she was plodding a wardrobe overhaul worth was also
inventing the idea of a fashion designer, at the same time, that court functions really required. Multiple wardrobe changes each day and wearing the same dress twice was something of an image suicide.
There are in fact stories of Eugenie withdrawing invitations to people after they had appeared in court and had not been stylish enough
So she then was like hey. You know how I said come back next week. I didn't mean that I'm gonna withdraw that and she's, usually quite direct and said, like you know, due to clothing that was unbecoming so basically at this
as he's getting near Eugenie, wants an overhaul and for everyone else, kind of in the higher strata of social structure.
If you wanted to hang out of french court, you really better have a closet full of incredibly sumptuous finery and once people knew that he was dressing. The embrace worth was
demand constantly morning a night. His popularity grew so quickly that the street outside of his shop was said to be constantly clogged with carriages. The shop itself was crowded
with wealthy patrons who were there to socialize and to be seen in the shop as well as to actually order gowns and for his part, worth really basque than the spotlight. He would entertain
profile customers. You know in a group. He would sit there and chat with all the Ladys and he would hear this habit that to me sounds so horrible, but I can see where it would appeal to this
eighty, he would call one or another woman like whoever he picked at any given moment in their little so
then he would critique their ensemble had the two way like what not aware that
once these media tat, I mean, I presume, if you,
going to visit him. You probably already tried to be turned out and look is as good as you possibly could. But that sounds very scary to me,
and sometimes he would be very positive and say: oh, you look beautiful. You know this is our work, but he would also critique people and tell them like your outfit is horrible and here's what needs fixing and while you might think this kind of behaviour could potentially DR customers away it did
to what he wanted to do, which is saying a great deal about his power. You know he, basically, he is with the most powerful woman in the country going no, no you're wrong. Just let me do my thing and should go ok,
and so a high end, gown from the house of worth, could run as much as ten thousand dollars. Although there were customers and clients that did not spend that much someone's been that much in a year, but some would drop that much at a pop and that's a lot when you consider MID eighteen, hundreds at also part of his sort of mystique or his cultivated personality Empress Eugenie would sometimes but heads with him about how a garment arrested gown should be executed or what clause should be used, but she basically always caved in to what he wanted to do, which is saying a great deal about his power
He basically is with the most powerful woman in the country going no no you're wrong. Just let me do my thing and should go ok. She ended up Nick naming him the tyrant of fashion by eighteen, sixty four, so five years into his creative relationship with the Empress Worth
become the official criteria of the french court and its estimated that his fashion house was producing between ten thousand and eleven thousand pieces a year in gowns and outer aware to keep the finest Ladys in France outfitted in the latest styles
so with that level of output. Obviously he was not doing all the stitching himself. He maintained the integrity of his brand, though, by just being a really conscientious manager. He held his garments to the highest quality standards. He hired only the best, seamstresses and dressmakers to execute his designs. One of this sort of signatures of his clothing was that the
Carriers of the garment garments had to be finished so well that they would rival the outside. In beauty like there was no ugly interiors. Everything was beautiful inside him out
he also used only the finest fabrics. His textile choices could really
make a year for a Wieber Leon, had
and known as the hub of really acts was exquisite silk and worth took advantage of having such incredible fabric so close by and has adopted home country. Textile mills would send worth samples and the hopes
getting a lucrative order out of it yeah. He really. You know his word was gold in terms of the textile world world like if you
endorsed a particular weaver. Whether or not he did a huge order for that year, they basically we're gonna, do great for that year and as his fame and prestige grew worth, as you may have some high from our anecdote a few moments ago about how he would critique ladys outfits in front of their peers can sometimes be a bit of a pill. His mannerisms would sometimes come off has affected. He kind of really did cultivate this personality of
being eclectic being a little bit nutty, he would often where really colorful robes and he always wore his signature, blackberry or a black skull cap and at one point here
decided. He was gonna design, his own code of arms, which he did and had it worked into the gates of his home and in some ways he became almost is famous for his ego is for his designing talent, but we know none of that ever seemed said. Distract people from thinking his wife
was amazing, and so things were going swimmingly for him and he was the darling of the french court until circumstances intervened. She'll talk about after another brief break
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So back to Charles Worth during the Franco pressure, more of eighteen, seventy, the house of worth like many high and businesses in France, closed temporarily. Charles, is greatest benefactor,
The empress Eugenie was forced into exile and the riddle. A pay home of the house of Worth actually became a hospital for injured french soldiers during the fighting, but once the conflict head and bid and dusted settled the house a worthwhile.
Open, surprisingly, to even greater success.
though auto bear was no longer part of the business he had been
uneasy about setting the shop up again after their first at their first venture, was so abruptly cut short due to the political climate so worth brought bought out his share of the empire, for why
point five million francs
and while most of those french clients were gone, he still had plenty of wealthy France fans from the United States in Europe who were happy to order gowns so business
really booming, even though the climate with so much different so much so that the tiny shop that started with just fifty employees wound up swelling to a staff of more than a third,
and you are he. Every week we ve heard it so many times before when we ve talked about design houses or Pino people that make their living in a sort of extravagant arenas that something will happen like a war and they never quite recover, but in fact, he's sort of the exception that proves the rule he didn't great after the war. However, as his career stretched into the eighteen eighties, his cachet started
when the ground breaking down maker died in eighteen. Eighty five, he had really already been eclipsed by the next generation of designers, including package, and to say, of course, there would
and no next generation of designers if worth had not paved the way when Charles Worth
I'd his sons, gas doll and John Felipe inherited the family business and now worked out really well for a lotta years. Gasped I handled the business side of things while, shamefully that all the designing
through the years other family members also worked. The fashion house that was started by Charles Worth, however,
Eventually, there was the anti corset movement and a trend towards simpler lines and those were led by previous podcast. Subject: pulp worry, as that also called the house of work
found its business slowly dwindling year by year, and it finally closed up shop for the last time in nineteen fifty sex, but I think to really understand the importance of Charles worth Stature and fashion history.
Have to look at some other, genuinely revolutionary ideas that he introduced and will start with. One that did not stir
around, but it completely defined victorian fashion for a lot of people, and that is the bustle. So
over time. He evolved the crinoline, so the the wide bottomed dresses into a partial crinoline.
Stuck out behind the lady. So it gave her kind of a large rump shape and projected beyond that, while the front of her silhouette remained Nero for the most part and when people today think of Ec Torreon Fashion, it is usually the bustle that springs to mind in the silhouette like they'll go course it and then bustle is usually second and that's all because of worth, and just for the record. I love
Four gallons, I love love, love bustle gowns. I have several. You know what that, at the top of the episode where I was like it's a garment and it goes on your body. I also loved bustles, and part of that is because of a costume class that I took. That was all about draping, bustles and different shapes that you could get with different buckle drapes.
I love it. I know to the modern I and the people that are not in a historical fashion. They look ridiculous. I just love that silhouette. I can't even describe why it looks beautiful. It's superfund aware, well,
three fair. There were people who thought it was ridiculous enough at the time. I remember editorial cartoons that were like a lady with a snail attached, the back of her body, so other dressmakers were often do bees.
of new technology, but worth really embraced the sewing machine as a way to expedite production without sacrificing quality
and he also used manufactured trims on his garments before people widely accepted that either yeah. He was just ahead of his time, men all in his visions for fashion and in another, completely new approach to fashion remit.
Prior to this time, all pretty much all garments were made to order specifically for the wearer, but worth would often cell
but it was enough to stay lifted off the ground while still offering kind of a head to toe appearance and not just in case. We were not entirely clear. Those words like the day gowns for an evening where it still was full length, but
Design licensing was born with him and on a related business model he would actually make ready to wear gowns to sell to department stores. House of department stores were completely new concept. So you know the idea that he was like I'll get in on this and willing to take this risk and sell to them
a huge. So, despite being the designer of really lavish gowns for the elite, Ladys of France, Charles Worth, was also the first
minor. To really turn a practical I to the length of ladys gowns during this time, the him,
victorian gowns words is notorious for dragging on the ground and getting completely filthy. Any time there was dampness are mud and worth thought. This was really a pity
so he shorten the hymns of day gowns to create what came to be known as the walking skirt, and these carts really weren't all that short. But it was enough to stay lifted off the ground while still offering kind of a head to toe appearance, and not just in case we were not
entirely clear those words like the day gowns for an evening where it still was full length, but forgetting about town and running your errands and going calling you could. Actually you know strolled about without getting too mucky
and the house of Worth and both were, is widely considered to bend the first true fashion house and at sea
the line between being open to the public and also being very exclusive. So upon entry, customers were greeted by gentleman and find a tire. The shop was decorated, really sumptuously and beautifully, and then these customers would be brought to one of the shop salons to see either a presentation of available gowns. They could also go to a different salon, w fabric samples and design sketches, or they could go in this room to try
outfits that had the specialty lighting designed for it. It was slightly doomed and it was meant to mimic the lighting that they would most commonly fine
at, like a ball or in other formal events before
worth. No one had ever thought to create a whole series of garments too then present together the fashion share, so the concept of a collection was another one of
Innovations now, there's this whole industry and culture around seasonal, showing
different designers and that really started with Charles Worth yeah when new. If anybody watches project runway and they all talk about going to fashion weaken like fashion, we would not have existed in the form it was today. Had Charles worth not been like yours, I'm gonna. Do I'm gonna put together a bunch of beautiful outfits when it put on a little show, and then people can order them, that's how it still works today and it's all because he did
so because he was the first designer to offer a collection and market ready to wear gowns and produce a large volume of garments each ear. It's also probably no surprise that he is the one that came up with the idea of standardized patterns and the still holds today to some degree worth in his dressmakers in drapers developed a series of pattern sleeper so to oversimplify what a slippery is. It's like a basic block pattern that can then be modified, and these pattern pieces would work interchangeably with one another, so any sleeve or collar, and the collection could be used on any bodice and the collection and it really just street
why the whole process of manufacturing these garments, but still maintaining a really high level of quality. So that idea of adding a signature to a garment. The way a painter would find a piece of art was really unheard of until Charles Worth you started doing
exactly that with labels and prior
Have the idea of telling someone who you were wearing would have been really I'd, but events would have liked.
Like someone, the name of your maid if they said that your home look very nice but
the label became sort of a status symbol, and some of this, of course, is also tied to industrialization, so as to make a comparison to our Marie Antoinette episode and Ruse Burton
Ladys in Marie Antoinette, Sarah would never have said. Oh I'm wearing rose Burton in quite the same way that
no one would say. Oh I'm wearing a worse, but part of that was due to the fact that you know. If rosemary,
M made or embellished address or someone, everyone already knew its. She was sort of so able to be really choosy in her clients.
Either. She really only serviced people of the french court worth certainly service. The french court, but he also, like we said, was open to the public, so
and he was also working in a time when the garment industry was diversifying the there were more choices for consumers. Industrialization was allowing a lot more garment houses to open up the were necessarily design houses because produced clothing, and also because he licence things. There were also copycats that were not licence that were starting to crop up so wearing an original worth did indeed have clout in eighteen. Sixty eight Charles Worth established the official classification of owed couture and to be able to claim status as an ode. Could your house
a designer had to be recognised as such by a division of the French Ministry of Industry, known as the shambles send a cow. The latitude couture worth established, both the Schomburgh
and their requirements, but a design house had to meet in order to earn this honour so to qualify
A designer of hand. Finnish custom made clothing had to employ at least twenty
dozens and a laboratory environment
and show a minimum number of new designs every year. Additionally, there were strands in technical and creative standards and the list of designers allowed to use. This label still exists.
Its reviewed every year, when usually there only about a dozen houses that are analysed at any given time. It's a phrase, that's kind
lost a lot of its meaning in the modern vernacular, but it really represents the absolute highest level of excellence from both a disease.
Fine and an execution standpoint or garments yeah, it's one of those things. You see, people talking about couture in mentioning owed couture its
But it's really much more specific than I think people realize, because again, like you can't say, most designers are oak. Tour like you jump Gautier is an officially recognised, o couture designer, but
Most designers are now again. This is a very short lists and it really does represent an extremely high standard. There was a video and I'll try to find it, so we can put it in the show notes
That is not particularly stork, but it is a video of sort of what goes on
to a modern, ok to her gown, and you see all of the hours of painstaking labour that really really technically skilled stickers and artisans go through to apply embellishment and make sure every seem is perfect in every seem again. The inside is just as beautiful as the outside, so it really is quite a high honor and quite a level of excellence, that's associated with that term, whereas you will hear it mentioned on television and film on the time, and it's not really exactly the correct usage
of it I mean I use the sloppy usage is well I'm not judging anybody, but just for clarity, the soup without detour. Thank you so much for joining us. Where this Saturday classic Synthesis,
are the archived if you heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now. So here is our current contact information. We are at history, podcast at house
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