The author has graciously shared with readers of the Victorian Web this passage from the second edition of her Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000 (2000), published by A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd., which retains copyright. Readers wishing to obtain of the complete book can e-mail the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org .
n the 1860s Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman, became chief dressmaker to the Empress Eugénie
and was responsible for raising the status of the dressmaker or dress designer, opening the way for the eventual development of Parisian Haute Couture. Worth survived the Seige of Paris in 1871, the Commune, civil war, and the establishment of the new Republic, and the name Worth became synonymous with Paris fashion. Wealthy American ladies from Boston, according to Edith Wharton in Age of Innocence, bought their clothes from Worth but, being of a prudish nature, laid them down like port to mellow, waiting two years before wearing them in public. Although Worth had previously dismissed English women as parsimonious, Lily Langtry bought seventeen trunks full of new dresses from him in 1881.
Wealthy and fashionable ladies deemed it necessary to have a different outfit for mornings at home, visiting, taking tea, dinner or garden parties, the opera or balls -- not to mention special gowns for weddings, presentation at court, and sporting costumes. The amount of time spent in changing their clothes during weekend parties at grand country houses must have been prodigious.
Two representations by George du Maurier of life at a grand country house: (left) Breakfast at Bonnebouche Hall; (right) Precedence at Bonnebouche Hall during the Holidays. [Click on images for larger plates and additional information.]
Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000. 2nd edition. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd; Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000.
Last modified 11 June 2001