Worth attracted an illustrious international clientele, drawn from the royal and imperial households of France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Japan and Russia. By the 1860s a dress by Worth evidenced a woman’s discerning taste, her social status and wealth. It was a sartorial language that was understood worldwide.
Often, numerous orders were placed with identical deadlines from clients attending the same ball. The Grand Duchess Marie (1853-1920) sister of Tsar Alexander ll, regularly visited Worth with six of her ladies-in-waiting and in just one hour would place an order for one hundred dresses for herself and her attendants. After specifying their choice of colour, Worth decided upon the cut and the design. By developing a system of interchangeable pattern pieces, and unique fabrication, the couturier ensured that each dress was not only different, but completed two weeks later.
Worth’s prices were staggeringly high and often shocked even his most wealthy clients. In 1867 Miriam Folline Squier, an American client wore a purple gown of such magnificence that it was reported to have cost $20,000! In the 1890s, Worth told a reporter that ‘It is impossible to make a dress itself worth above a certain value, but the trimming can increase the cost to any amount. Suppose that you string solitaire diamonds around the corsage? Gold and silver thread and jewels make heavy cost. Several years ago we were paid $24,000 by a Peruvian lady for a single gown, but the laces alone cost $23,600. A cloak we sold for $9,000 had $2,800 value of fur.’
From early in his career Worth recognised that the latest fashions performed on the stage did much to attract female audiences and, once broadcast as front page news around the world, fuelled the fashion choices made by countless women. The same is of course true today and clients such as Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson, Cheryl Cole and Kate Moss have captured worldwide attention wearing designs by the House of WORTH.