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Europeana Fashion Focus: Dress by Charles Worth, ca. 1882

Dress by Charles Worth, ca. 1882, Courtesy Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin CC BY NC SA

The dress is made of blue velvet, with a delicate floral pattern in different nuances of yellow, and lined in honey-coloured satin silk. The front presents a cascade of lace ruffs, The collar and the sleeves are also finished with silk ribbons and lace. It was designed and produced by the Maison Worth in Paris, around 1882.

The dress is a quite typical example of 1880s fashion: the skirt is quite flat and narrow on the front, enriched by a luxurious lace garniture; the back is very voluminous and its construction is highly elaborate, with folds piled one upon the other to emphasise even more the shape of the silhouette.

The peculiar shape of the dress is commonly known as cul de paris (Paris Bottom), indicating the provenance of this fashion. The cul de paris was made possible by the tournure, a device that was to be worn underneath the skirt, emphasising the backside. It was very popular in the years between the 1870s and the 1880s, and its form evolved throughout the period: from a horsehair-filled cloth to a highly technological wire contraption that followed the movement of the body.

The dress was designed by Charles Frederick Worth, who is considered to be the father of Haute Couture. Born in England, he got his fame in Paris, where he established his fashion house in 1858. He contributed to the establishment of Paris as cradle and capital of couture. Amongst his clients many European royals are remembered, the most prominent being Princess Eugenie and Princess Elizabeth of Austria; he also used to dress actresses, such as Lilli Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt, both on and off the stage.

The object is part of Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Discover more on the Europeana fashion portal.

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