Mic Drop: ‘But Costuming was Invented at SFF Cons!’

All images within this post are © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016 .

You remember the post where I got Fighty about the imagined divide between Costumers and Cosplayers? There was a sort-of-but-not-quite rebuttal that sort of missed my main point. The point I tried to make?

We all love to make and/or wear costumes.

Ahem. I could go on about how there’s STILL a thriving costuming community but it’s called ‘cosplay’, but I’d rather move forward, by putting to rest the notion that SFF cons are the originator of costuming as a hobby.

Enter Charles Frederick WORTH

Charles Frederick Worth was an English fashion designer who founded the House of Worth, one of the foremost fashion houses of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He is considered by many fashion historians to be the father of haute couture.


This lovely lady below is cosplaying Gothic Architecture, design likely by CF Worth as it was found in his archives. Now it’s part of the Victoria and Albert collection.

Fancy Dress costume inspired by Gothic Architecture by CF Worth © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016. All Rights Reserved

Ahem. The emphasis below is mine:

During the 1860s, Empress Eugenie of France threw a number of extravagant masquerade balls which required the guests to wear elaborate and inventive costumes that were made up by Worth and other Paris dressmakers. … Worth was under great pressure to produce vast numbers of unique, one of a kind costumes and gowns, often at very short notice.

– Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016

Hm. Sounds like a cosplayer to me!

Sure, they mention it might have been for the theatre, so let’s look at some of Worth’s other designs!

L-R: costumes of Eve and the Serpent, Sorceress or Witch, A Clam.
Design attributions are in  the image description and alt-text

But what if no one ever made the costumes, then called ‘fancy dress’ into real garments?

Well there was a thing called the Devonshire House Ball in 1897

Also, what I love is that these costumer/cosplayers/costume-wearers are each posing for a staged photoshoot. That last one just makes me super happy, annnnnd now I’m going to need to make a reproduction -_-;;

xox Calamity