Charles Frederick Worth is widely considered the father of haute couture, the modern fashion system in which a known designer creates one-of-a-kind garments for individual clients. Born in Lincolnshire, England, Worth traveled to Paris as a young man and there worked for a textile manufacturer. Inspired by the luxurious fabrics, he began designing clothes in his spare time. His designs were innovative and he quickly rose to prominence by creating innovative fashions for Marie Vernet, who would become his wife. At his Paris salon, the Maison Worth, he designed garments for the most famous women in the world, including Eugénie, the empress of France; Lillie Langtry, the British-American actress; and millionaire Mrs. J. Pierpont Morgan, as well as many fashionable and wealthy Cincinnatians.
This dress, which Worth designed for Cincinnatian Mrs. Joseph Clark Thoms of the Swift family, is a semiformal dress made for receiving visitors at home. Constructed of blue silk satin and silk brocade inspired by textile designs of the 1760s, it epitomizes the ideal silhouette of the period. The bodice fits smoothly on the torso and down over the hips, a style called the "cuirasse bodice," after a piece of medieval armor that was molded to the body. The slim skirt is a simple sheath on which a collage of fabrics, trims, and ruffles is tacked.
Charles Frederick Worth was the first designer to use live models to show his pieces. His first model was his young French wife, Marie Vernet, who would often wear Worth's latest creation to a fashionable event to advertise his work.