Dress, designed by Charles Frederick Worth

Worth, Charles Frederick

An English-born textile salesman who became a world-famous Paris fashion designer.

Charles Frederick Worth was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire and worked first as an apprentice and clerk for two textile merchants in London. Having acquired an expert knowledge of fabrics through his work, he moved to Paris in 1845 to join a French textile company.

Whilst working as one of their leading salesmen, he opened a small dressmaking department within the company and in 1858 set up his own firm. His designs were known for his use of luxurious fabrics and Worth’s name came to dominate the Parisian fashion scene in the latter part of the nineteenth century. This dress was made for Mary Holden Illingworth of Bradford (1838-1908), who wore it to her daughter’s wedding in 1881.

Mary came from a wealthy Yorkshire mill owning family. Her father, Isaac Holden, was a self-made man who made a fortune in the weaving industry, with mills in both Bradford and Paris. His daughter Mary was interested in fashion and this was not her first dress from Worth.

She later recounted how ‘fittings were of dubious delight, as Monsieur Worth was of the habit of taking a cup of warm fresh blood straight from the local abatoir at 11a.m.’  The dress was bought with the aid of a contribution from the LACF in 2011.

Textile; silk, velvet, glass, metal


Other pieces in our collection

Become a Friend to Art in Leeds

Show your support for arts in Leeds, enjoy exclusive membership benefits and help to acquire great art for the city. Join for as little as £20 per year.