The House of Worth: The Birth of Haute Couture

This gloriously illustrated coffee-table book by Chantal Trubert-Tollu, Françoise Tétart-Vittu, Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg, and Fabrice Olivieri tells the story of the House of Worth in meticulous detail and illuminates an integral time in the history of fashion. Englishman Charles Frederick Worth (1825–1895) arrived in Paris in 1846; eventually, he would become a catalyst for a fashion revolution and establish the House of Worth as the groundbreaking haute-couture label.

The House of Worth: The Birth of Haute Couture (affiliate link) begins with the story of the man who started it all. As a young man, Charles Frederick Worth was fascinated by art. He spent much of his time at exhibitions and in bookstores, flipping through artists’ portfolios, refining his taste, and sharpening his instinctive aesthetic sense. Worth was employed in textile stores in England until he went to Paris to further pursue fashion.

He arrived in Paris with just £5 in his pocket. He would later tell his sons of the hardships he faced in his early days in Paris with little money or food. Worth found work at Gagelin-Opigez & Cie, a well-known Parisian fabric seller. Over time, he grew to see his work there as too restrictive. In 1858, with the help of his business partner, Otto Gustaf Bobergh (1821–1882), he started a dressmaking business. The business became wildly successful, and it evolved into the renowned House of Worth.

The House of Worth: The Birth of Haute Couture | By Chantal Trubert-Tollu, Françoise Tétart-Vittu, Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg, and Fabrice Olivieri  | New York: Thames & Hudson, 2018. Hardcover, 336 pages, $85. ISBN 978-0-500-51943-1.

From 1858 to 1954, four generations of the Worth family managed the House of Worth. The book explores the innovations in life, business, clientele, and fashion at large that Worth and his family brought to the world of couture. The first chapter introduces Charles Frederick Worth himself. The second focuses on Frederick’s sons Gaston (1853–1924) and Jean-Philippe (1856–1926), who ran the business together and led it to further success between 1895 and 1922. The next chapter outlines the reign of grandsons Jean-Charles (1881–1962) and Jacques (1882–1941) between 1922 and 1941. The fourth chapter delves into the final Worth generation to manage the business: Charles Frederick’s great-grandsons Roger (1908–1984) and Maurice (1913–1985), who were in charge from 1941 to 1954. The final chapter explores the perfume and beauty products of the House of Worth that made Worth the new name in luxury perfume.

The House of Worth: The Birth of Haute Couture (affiliate link) includes 486 illustrations, 324 of which are in color. Striking images—many shown full page—of exquisite dresses, gowns, capes, suits, and coats; period photographs; portraits; fashion publications; advertisements; and other documents, including invoices and catalog pages, bring the book to life in a way that can inspire innovation and creativity in readers of the kind that Charles Frederick Worth employed throughout his life to build his legacy—the House of Worth.

—Jenna Fear


Jenna Fear is the former editorial assistant for PieceWork, Spin Off, and Handwoven magazines.

This review originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of PieceWork. Read another review by Jenna Fear in the blog post “Mittens of Latvia.”


Never miss an issue of PieceWork!

Post a Comment