Paris Couture

Although wealthy people still wore custom-made clothing in the 1800s, the guilds were gone by the time Charles Worth, ironically an English immigrant to Paris, opened the first couture house in the mid-nineteenth century. The Paris couture, offering exclusive new styles for women to be made-to-order each season, reached its peak volume in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Only the richest women could afford couture apparel, and volume was never large, but the couturiers were masters of publicity. Actually, the practice of holding well-publicized "showings" of new fashions each season originated in England not with clothing designers but with such enterprising businessmen as Josiah Wedgwood, who in the late eighteenth century invited well-to-do customers to seasonal openings of his latest designs in tableware and decorative ceramics (See McKendrick, Brewer, and Plumb).

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