THE BEGINNING OF COUTURE
The first fashion designer who was not merely a dressmaker was Charles Frederick Worth (1825 – 1895).
Before the former draper set up his (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous tailors and seamstresses, and high fashion descended from styles worn at royal courts. Worth’s success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear.
EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
Throughout the early 20th century, practically all high fashion originated in Paris and to a lesser extent London. Fashion magazines from other countries sent editors to the Paris fashion shows. Department stores sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy (and openly stole the style lines and trim details of others). Both made-to-measure salons and ready-to-wear departments featured the latest Paris trends, adapted to the stores’ assumptions about the lifestyles and pocket books of their targeted customers.
At this time in fashion history the division between haute couture and ready-to-wear was not sharply defined. The two separate modes of production were still far from being competitors and they often co-existed in houses where the seamstresses moved freely between made-to-measure and ready-made.
Around the start of the 20th century fashion style magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential than in the future. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste.
drew exquisite fashion plates for these publications, which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette du Bon Ton which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925.
The outfits worn by the fashionable women of the ‘Belle Époque‘ (as this era was called by the French) were strikingly similar to those worn in the heyday of the fashion pioneer Charles Worth.
By the end of the 19th-century, the horizons of the fashion industry had generally broadened, partly due to the more stable and independent lifestyle many well-off women were beginning to adopt and the practical clothes they demanded. However, the fashions of the La Belle Époque still retained the elaborate, upholstered, hourglass-shaped style of the 19th century.
No fashionable lady could (or would) yet dress or undress herself without the assistance of a third party. The constant need for radical change, which is now essential for the survival of fashion within the present system, was still literally unthinkable. The use of different trimmings was all that distinguished one season from the other
Conspicuous waste and conspicuous consumption defined the fashions of the decade and the outfits of the couturiers of the time were incredibly extravagant, elaborate, ornate, and painstakingly made. The curvaceous S-Bend silhouette dominated fashion up until around 1908.
S~Bend corset was very tightly laced at the waist which forced the hips back and the drooping mono bosom was thrust forward in a pouter pigeon effect creating an S shape.
Toward the end of the decade the fashionable silhouette gradually became somewhat more straight and slim, partly due to Paul Poiret’s high-waisted, shorter-skirted Directoire line of clothes.
The Maison Redfern was the first fashion house to offer women a tailored suit based directly on its male counterpart and the extremely practical and soberly elegant garment soon became an indispensable part of the wardrobe of any well-dressed woman. Another indispensable part of the outfit of the well-dressed woman was the designer hat.
Fashionable hats at the time were either tiny little confections that perched on top of the head, or large and wide brimmed, trimmed with ribbons, flowers, and even feathers. Caroline Reboux, Legroux, and E. Lewis were the most sought-after names of the time. Parasols were still used as decorative accessories and in the summer they dripped with lace and added to the overall elaborate prettiness.