Who made the Peacock dress?

The dress was made by the prestigious House of Worth, Paris, in collaboration with Kishan Chand of Delhi.

The defining feature of the gown is the extraordinary gold and silver embroidered fabric, created by zardosi craftsmen at the atelier of Kishan Chand in Delhi, according to a sketch (above) published in the Illustrated London News in the days following the Coronation Ball in 1903, where the dress debuted. The embroiderers were all men, practising an art form handed down from father to son for centuries on the Indian subcontinent.

The House of Worth were the premier haute couture fashion house in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. They are remembered, in fact, as the first of their kind, Charles Frederick Worth having single-handedly raised the status of dressmaking to an art form. A brilliant and pretentious figure, he had the audacity to dress in a beret and smock and called himself an artist, instructing clients on what he thought they ought to wear, rather than waiting for instructions. He was a brilliant salesman as well as a brilliant dress designer. By 1902, society was falling at his feet and other designer dressmakers were following suit, laying the foundations of the haute couture industry as we know it today.

Having secured the patronage of the Empress Eugenie in the 1860s, Worth became the go-to fashion house for everyone who was anyone in high society, Lady Curzon included. (The Metropolitan Museum in New York holds a wide selection of clothes made by Worth, some of which you can browse here.) By the Edwardian era, wealthy American society women formed the core of their clientele, but they also dressed the most famous and celebrated actresses and opera singers of the day, such as Nellie Melba.


Posted on

August 30, 2014

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