Couture at Court

An Icon of Cosmopolitan Fashion circa 1890

September 14–November 10, 2019

Worth Gown detail

Widely recognized as the first couturier, Charles Frederick Worth opened his Paris salon, the House of Worth, in 1858. The Worth firm was known for its striking selection of fabrics and trims, examples of which are seen in the remarkable confection possibly worn at the Russian and English courts by Countess Sophie Petrovna Shouvaloff Benckendorff (1837–1928), wife of the Russian ambassador to England, in the dramatic years leading up to World War I. The long, slit sleeves, rich embroidery, and removable train are features of Russian court apparel of the period, while English court protocol dictated a gown with a lengthy train. For this dress the House of Worth embroidered luxurious satin with a Turkish pattern in dark-green silk chenille, gold thread and sequins, and thousands of tiny freshwater pearls. The gown, and the court etiquette it reflects, speaks to the concept of exceptional formality in clothing and behavior.


Image: Court dress (French), c. 1890–1905. House of Worth. Silk satin with embroidery of gold thread, sequins, crystals, and freshwater pearls. Purchased from Lady Nathalie Ridley with funds contributed by Miss Elizabeth Hicks.