Tag Archives: The Duse

The House of Worth Breaks a Dressmaking Record: 1898

The record of rapid dressmaking has been broken by M. Worth. Some weeks ago the Duse was to play at Monte Carlo, and found at the last moment that none of her gowns were worthy of appearing at that paradise of frocks.

So she wired late one evening to Worth: “The day after to-morrow I am acting in the ‘Dame aux Camellias.’ I have simply nothing to wear. Can you let me have four dresses, one for each act. Mind, they must be as beautiful as you can possibly make them.”

This was rather a large order, for the journey from Paris to Monte Carlo alone occupies twenty hours. However, the great dressmaker set to work, and the whole house of Worth was ransacked from cellar to garret for its choicest brocades and cloths-of-gold. He created a marvelous ball-dress of white satin, incrusted with gold and pearl embroideries and sparkling with diamonds, with a long train smothered in priceless point d’Alencon. His young women sat up all through the night puckering and gathering into countless tucks and folds more than a hundred yards of white mousseline de soie for the gown which Marguerite Gautier was to wear in the death scene. And yet, in spite of the delirious hurry, everything was finished off as perfectly as if a month had been given to their preparation. In less than fifteen hours the four dresses were safely packed away in their big boxes and dispatched to their fortunate owner.  It goes without saying that this is Worth the Second and not Worth the First, who died some time ago.  

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 21 March 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “The Duse” was Eleanora Duse, one of the most celebrated actresses of the 19th century. She and Sarah Bernhardt were rivals. Trouble ensued when Duse began acting in Bernhardt’s favourite roles and when Gabriele d’Annunzio, with whom Duse was having an affair, wrote a play– ostensibly for his mistress–but gave the lead to Bernhardt. Duse was considered to be the more subtle actress while Bernhardt got the lioness’s share of publicity.

“Worth the Second” was Jean-Philippe Worth, who continued the business after the death of his father, Charles Frederick. The House of Worth dressed both Sarah Bernhardt and Eleanora Duse, but Jean-Philippe was devoted to the latter, a lady noted for her complicated love-life.  Obviously, she felt she had some claim on Jean-Philippe’s friendship and could make outrageous demands entailing hundreds of yards of mousseline de soie. Charles Frederick Worth would never have stood for such a thing.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.