Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The truth about haute couture

By: Anne Robinson
What do Chanel, Dior, and Valentino all have in common? Well for starters, I'd like to be wearing their haute couture designs on my trip down the Red Carpet....which I'm convinced could happen at any moment, so I better start planning my fittings.

To clear up any confusion, here I only refer to couture in its true meaning, which means that really cute half-off sweater I bought last weekend at Juicy Couture doesn't mean I can now say, "of course I have couture in my closet, what fashion-friendly girl doesn't?"

So, let's back up and have a quick history lesson on haute couture. Get your phones ready because you'll be booking a trip to Paris by the end of this.

In order for a courtier to be considered haute couture they must make their designs at their own premises. They must also take their collections to the press in Paris twice a year.

Haute Couture is a French phrase that comes from 'high fashion' and 'dressmaking, sewing, or needlework'. Couture items are made in Couture houses in Paris. Today, there only a handful of authentic couture houses. It means that a design is made and fitted exactly for you. The first step in the creation process is a sketch. Then, the design is sewn in toile- canvas material that can be adjusted and marked to fit the actual model. (Toiles are useful because they save designers from using expensive fabrics for the initial model) Next, the garment makes it's way down the runway. Then, clients can choose to buy the garment, in which case the client would have at least two fittings, so that the garment could be made to fit their exact measurements.

Expect to pay an exuberant amount...only the best fabrics are used and the manual labor is somewhere between 150 hours (for a suit) and 1,000 hours (for a wedding gown or embellished dress). Prices vary depending on the client's measurements, personal tastes, fabrics used, the amount of hours it takes to complete the design, etc. Some couture gowns can be bought for around $25,000 but don't be surprised if the price reaches into the millions. Samantha Mumba (picture here) wore a $9 million Scott Henshall couture dress to the Spiderman 2 premiere.

Often times today the term 'couture' is used out of context and refers to ready-to-wear high fashion clothing. In reality only a select number of couture houses meet all of the standards required to be considered haute couture.
But in the end, if you are fortunate enough to be one of the roughly 3,000 women worldwide who can afford to buy haute couture, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your garment was made just for you, and that besides your closet, is can be found no where else in the world.

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