Purple wool, velvet and lace two-piece Worth dress, c. 1890. The period was defined by the well-corseted waist, huge gigot or leg-of-mutton sleeves, high collar and long, full but smooth skirt. Tailoring was featured as was elaborate trimming with lace and braid. This outfit has a matching capelet.

Bearing a signature label from “C. Worth / Paris,” this gown was from the couture house of Charles Frederick Worth. The English-born designer opened his own firm in Paris in 1858 and soon rose to haute stature, creating fashionable garments for Empress Eugénie and other titled and wealthy women. Worth established the custom of sewing branded labels into his creations, was the first designer to show his garments on live models, and sold his designs to his customers rather than letting them dictate the design. All of this earned him the moniker, Father of Haute Couture. He was immensely popular with wealthy Americans as well as European royalty and aristocrats. Many clients travelled to Paris to purchase an entire wardrobe from the House of Worth.

Many beautiful couture garments came to The Charleston Museum from Gertrude Sanford Legendre, whose grandmothers were part of the Sanford (of Sanford, Florida) wealth and notoriety. This dress was worn by Sarah Jane Cochrane Sanford (Mrs. Stephen Sanford).

Want to see more 19th century dresses from our collection? Join us for a curator-led 19th Century Fashion History Tour on Friday, May 27th at 2:00!

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday