Charles Frederick Worth

Charles Frederick Worth was born in Lincolnshire, England. When he was eleven years old his family fell on hard times and he was apprenticed to a printer. He disliked the work and found alternative employ with a local haberdasher, selling fabrics, trimmings and a few ready-made fashion items such as shawls. Here he found his metier. In the Spring of 1838 the ambitious youth (he was just thirteen years old) moved to London, the fashion capital of England. It is variously reported that he found an apprenticeship with the elegant department store Swan & Edgar, or the luxury silk mercer, Lewis and Allenby.

During his precious leisure time, Worth explored London’s art galleries and became fascinated by historical painted portraiture. In particular, he was entranced by the sumptuous materiality and stylish – often structured and overtly feminine cut – of the dresses worn by the women depicted. He became convinced that these were far superior to prevailing trends: he retained his passion for historical fashion references throughout his career.

It was not long before Worth set his sights further afield, this time to Paris, the international capital of luxury goods. In 1845, with only minimal savings, he set sail for the city of light where he was to become the most famous fashion designer in the world.