Evening dress (skirt and bodice)
Charles Frederick Worth (1826-95)
Silk satin, trimmed with pearl embroidery and machine-made lace, lined with white silk, the bodice supported with whalebone struts, machine and hand sewn
Given by Mrs G.T. Morton
Museum no. T.63&A-1976
This silk satin evening dress, designed by Charles Frederick Worth, represents the height of couture fashion in the early 1880s. It was worn by Mrs Granville Alexander, a daughter of the U.S. sewing machine pioneer, Isaac Singer. The donor was her great-niece.
The bodice is seamed and gored for a moulded fit. It extends into drapes at the hips and merges with the train, which falls in inverted pleats from the seams of the bodice. The inside of the skirt is hooped at the back, with tapes for adjustment, to create the bustle effect. The elegant cut, combined with the rich materials and embroidery, makes for a flattering silhouette.
Worth was a celebrated Parisian couture dressmaker. He was born in 1825 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, and started working at the age of 12 in a draper's shop in London. Eight years later he moved to Paris, where he opened his own premises in 1858. He was soon patronised by the Empress Eugenie and her influence was instrumental to his success. Made-to-measure clothes from Worth, as from the other great Parisian fashion houses, were an important symbol of social and financial advancement.