What Exactly is Couture?

4/07/2015

Earlier this week at work the subject of my 1871 dress came up. My boss asked me how it went since I mentioned the week before that I had just received 12 yards of fabric for it and was planning on spending my weekend working on it.

I told her that I spent the weekend cartridge pleating the skirt and since most people aren't familiar with these strange terms us costumers use, I offered to show her a picture. I also mentioned a little bit of the process with it all being stitched by hand and she said "oh, well doesn't that make it couture then?"

The cartrige pleating on my skirt thus far. The waistband is about 90% done.


Besides knowing that couture is high end and expensive, I don't really know what classifies something as couture. So I decided to do some research. What exactly does make an item couture, or haute couture? That's what this post is about.

Haute Couture is French for high fashion.  A couture garment is typically sewn completely by hand and draped specifically for the person wearing it.

I think one of the most noticeable things to me about couture is the way the fabric on some dresses is manipulated and draped. It's just so amazing to see how many different ways a single piece of fabric can be shaped, and how unique each and every piece of clothing is. It's really remarkable.

One of my favorite couture designers, Elie Saab.


The types of fabrics used are generally the highest quality natural fibers. Fabrics such as silk, cashmere, fine wool, leather, and furs are commonly used.

Prices for couture garments can be anywhere from $20,000 to over $100,000 for a single item. Sure that's expensive, but for the people who can afford it it means getting a one of a kind garment made specifically for them. Today there are only around 2,000 women in the world that actually buy couture clothing.

No couture collection is complete without a Christian Dior.


In conclusion, haute couture is a simple idea but it's all in the details that makes it special. I suppose that you could classify my dress under couture if you wanted to, but I feel like that's a little misleading. At least at this point in my costuming journey.

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