What does "haute couture" really mean?

There is probably no other term that conjures up the same mystique as "haute couture" when it comes to clothing. Yet, most people have no clue what the term means and, as a result, they cannot properly evaluate clothing in terms of quality. First of all, most of the cost of an haute couture garment is for the materials and labour. An haute couture garment satisfies three main criteria:

  • the fit,
  • the materials, and
  • the workmanship.

Each of these areas requires great skill which takes many years to acquire, as well as a significant amount of labour hours. This is the reason that haute couture clothing will always be far more expensive than ready-to-wear. In fact, an haute couture garment will far outlast a ready-to-wear garment because the materials and construction are so well done; no detail is overlooked. And the look and fit of an haute couture garment is second to none.

half-scale-mannequin

Half-scale mannequin

Proper Fit

Haute couture clothing must be properly fitted. The way the fitting is done depends on the natural proportions and silhouette of each individual client. A keen eye and skilled hands are needed to properly do the fitting. These factors, as well as personal preferences of the client, are then incorporated into a custom pattern.

The success of the fit is 100% determined by the pattern. No matter how good the sewing and materials are, if the pattern is not carefully thought out and prepared, the garment will not fit. No amount of tweaking on the garment will fix a poorly made pattern. Angelina di Bello emphasized this point many times to all her students and TV viewers.

How do you create a well-fitted pattern? A skilled designer knows what measurements to take on a client and how to take them accurately. The designer also considers the proportions of the whole body. At Creativ Dezign, we do not just consider the breasts and rib cage for custom bras, we consider the whole body and its proportions to create a pattern that is well fitted and flattering.

fine-English-wools

European wools

Highest Quality Fabrics

All haute couture garments are made from beautiful, soft, high quality fabrics. Natural fibres like wool, silk, and cotton of the best quality are always preferred. A skilled designer knows how to prepare these fabrics for cutting, and how they must be handled when sewing. A lot of labour goes into preparing the material and constructing the garment.

Italian-handkerchief-silk

Hand-rolled edge on Italian silk

Hand-made, Not Homemade

In the "Pins & Needles" TV series that aired on TVO, Angelina di Bello always said that the materials and labour are the most expensive part of an haute couture garment. She also emphasized the difference between hand-made and homemade. Haute couture garments have a lot of hand stitching and a lot of details. Why? So that the garment feels comfortable on the client and lasts a long time through repeated wearings. Some details can only be done by hand, like rolled edges that look round instead of flat. Each detail and type of hand stitching has a purpose, and these couture touches depend on the garment.

Custom-made vs Ready-to-wear

Some people think that a ready-to-wear garment, even at a high price point, means that it is just as good as a custom-made garment. Let us be very clear about one thing: ready-to-wear is a completely different product that does not guarantee fit or quality of any kind. Some ready-to-wear is better than others, but no ready-to-wear manufacturer will go through the trouble of working with certain fabrics or adding certain couture details.

When it comes to fit, the vast majority of ready-wear is extremely badly fitted because those companies are interested in profit at the lowest cost. If you are considering bras or any other undergarments, the chance of finding anything well-made and properly fitted to you in ready-to-wear is close to impossible. Bras are closely fitted to the body and have no room for error in fit. They are also worn next to your skin, so the materials used can end up causing all kinds of discomfort and health problems.

Simply put, a custom-made haute couture garment is a high-quality hand-made garment that is superbly fitted to a client's body. No ready-to-wear garment can equal that.