In histories about the founding of Parisian Haute Couture, Charles Worth’s name always comes up, but he didn’t invent the industry single-handed. One of the other prolific houses of couture at the time was founded by Mme Merlot Larchevêque in 1855, three years before Worth’s name ever appeared on any Parisian dressmaker’s establishment.
Soon after the end of the American Civil War, steamship travel across the Atlantic increased as more Americans, made wealthy from recent industrial growth, toured European points of historical and fashionable interest. Parisian couturiers, like Mme Larchevêque, recognized the profits to be made from this nouveau client and catered to their needs. In 1867 she advertised in the American fashion journal Godey’s Lady’s Book that English was spoken in her shop on the Boulevard des Capucines (conveniently located across the street from the Grand Hotel.) Godey’s described the atelier in their February 1867 issue: “We enter the inner sanctum of Mme. Merlot Larchevêque, and see tissues of the most exquisite hues, of the richest textures, and in an unprecedented variety, thrown round in the greatest profusion.” Her address was identified alternatively on various labels as 21, 23, or 25 Boulevard des Capucines. No references could be found for the firm after the mid 1880s.