Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So What IS Haute Couture?

Think about your all time most favorite article of clothing. Was it a favorite because of the fabric, the way it fit, the color, how it made you feel when you wore it.... just what was it that made it special to the point that you are glad you own it or wish you still did?

Considering the volume of clothing we wear in the course of a lifetime, it says a lot about a favorite if we recall it even after we no longer own it. But often even our favorites get forgotten. Recently I was looking at old photos with my daughter and upon seeing my 17 year old self I exclaimed, "I forgot about that shirt! I really liked it!". That reminded me of how transient our clothing actually is and how fleeting our relationship is when it comes to what we wear.

So what is it that makes certain items more special than others? My favorites these days tend to be items that hit all the marks. The fabric has to be of good quality, the color has to be a fave, the fit needs to be perfect and I need to feel great when I wear it. For me the favorites are few and far between these days as self employment requires only casual wear. This is perfectly fine by me. If I want a new favorite, I can design and make it. This is one of the perks to being a clothing designer and seamstress. But what about those that want the ultimate in favorite clothing? Enter Haute Couture.

This topic holds much fascination for me. My interest in one of a kind clothing goes back to my first hearing about this process. Most of this type of work is done through the big name design houses in Paris and there is a long history to go along with it. To define, Haute Couture is French for high fashion. Specifically, Haute means high or elegant. Couture refers to the creative aspects of construction such as sewing, dressmaking etc. To clarify, these garments are handmade (as well as hand SEWN) originals and often one of a kind, that are perfectly fitted to the buyer. They are usually structured and lined in ways that allow for comfort and to give the garment a long life. The start-to-finish process can take anywhere from 100 hours for a simple design to over 1000 hours for an evening or bridal gown. Those hours can multiply with the addition of bead work and embroidery.

So, you want to invest in a bit of Haute Couture? The process is amazing. First you set an appointment with the design house of your choosing. You want to make sure that their current sample designs are not on tour somewhere else. Plus, they want to know you are a serious buyer since you will be paying thousands of dollars for one item. After perusing the samples you choose a design, get measured and work with your sales person, called a vendeuse. She is in essence your personal clerk and will usher you through submitting your order, all your fittings and delivery of your item. Once measured, you can plan on a minimum of 3 fittings. Initially a muslin will be created. This is a proto-type of your garment that is altered to fit you more and more perfectly after each of your fittings. Eventually the muslin is perfect for your form. With all its markings and notes for the placement of each detail such as buttons, vents etc, the muslin is then recreated in your chosen fabric. Here is where the real work begins. Each piece is cut and hand stitched together. Hand stitching creates ease in the garment which allows for a better flow on the body as well as a more precise manipulation of the fabric which also creates better detail and fit. Linings and underlinings and all the details are added. It's no wonder it can take hundreds of hours to complete a single item. Each tiny detail is attended to with great care and precision. Nothing is overlooked. And did I mention that your garment will be created by just one seamstress? From start to finish only one person will be working on your design. Once completed you will head back to Paris for a final fit and to pick it up. You also get to pay for it. How much? Based on my latest research you are looking at anywhere from $15,000 up to $65,000 and more. And often the design houses LOSE money on Haute Couture. (The trade off being that they make up for the losses through their ready to wear lines.) These days only the elite can afford this type of clothing. It is hard to fathom purchasing a single item of clothing that costs half as much as my house but for those that can it is probably a very fun and exciting process. Think of all those trips to Paris! Tres Bien!

Now that I have officially defined Haute Couture I realize my designs while NOT Haute, ARE Couture. They are all one of a kind clothing. All are handmade. (just not hand sewn) My patterns are all original. I use great fabrics and take great care when constructing them. I love the details and I even create muslins when creating a new design. And I offer all this without the inconvenience or expense of going to Paris. Plus, you don't have to pay $15,000 to $65,000 for one of my creations.
You can get a handmade original design that is truly one of a kind simply by visiting my website at So pour yourself a cup of French roast coffee or have a croissant and pretend you are in the City of Light while you peruse my Couture. Each item is Tres Bien!

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