You hear the terms couture and haute couture everywhere nowadays. The term haute couture is French, for “high sewing” or “high dressmaking” or “high fashion”. It refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is fashion that is constructed by hand (without the use of sewing machines and sergers/overlockers) from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.
The criteria for haute couture were established in 1945. Which follows:
~Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
~Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen staff members full-time.
~Must have twenty, full-time technical people in at least one workshop (atelier).
~Every season, present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public, both day and evening garments, in January and July of each year.
However, the term haute couture has been misused by ready-to-wear brands, so that its true meaning may have become blurred with that of prêt-à-porter (the French term for ready-to-wear fashion) in the public perception.
Info provided by Claire B. Shaeffer in her book Couture Sewing Techniques.
I’ve had more than the usual amount of clients commenting on how they are having difficulty getting other seamstresses to take the 25+ measurements I require. So, if those seamstresses are saying that I should only need bust, waist, hip and height, why do I ask for so many?
The first thing I do with your measurements is pad a dress form to your shape, size, and posture. The reason for this is, several women can be say… a size 8. They will all measure 35″ at the bust, but one could have a tiny rib cage and big breasts, and another could have a wide back and small breasts. Basic measurements will not tell me that. They also do not say if you have a short or long torso, wide shoulders or narrow shoulders; details that can mean alterations after you receive your dress and not all designs can be altered.
After the dress form is ready, I begin drafting your pattern. Detailed measurements mean more accurate patterns and faster drafting times. Often times when the patterns are finished and checked against the dress form, re-drafting is unnecessary. Because of the dress form’s accuracy, the need of multiple fittings is unnecessary.
While I do not fit the criteria of haute couture, I do…
~Make each and every piece customized to you
~Take 25+ measurements based on gown design
~Draft every pattern from scratch
~Pad a dress form based on those measurements
~Embroider, bead, sequin, attach laces or hem by hand as much as needed
~If the design requires it, building undergarments, bustiers, and petticoats to maintain the design’s integrity.
Typically, considering the amount of time, money, and skill that is allotted to each completed piece, haute couture garments are also described as having no price tag – in other words, budget is not relevant. Each couture piece is not made to sell. Rather, they were designed and constructed for the runway, much like an art exhibition. I feel like each piece I make is a work of art and I take great pride in creating them.
While I’ve been told by some that I charge too much for my work, the reality, is very different. When I’m hired to build you a gown, you’re getting more than a seamstress. You’re getting a vendeuse, an atelier, a designer, a master draftsman, a couturier and an embellisher. You’re getting a truly unique gown that will likely fit no one else the same way. In truth, for the hours I pour into each creation, the amount I ask for my work covers the operating costs only.
The point of this little article is, I’m not sewing ready-to-wear clothes off of ready made patterns. It’s not a sundress it’s a wedding gown. Those extra measurements I ask for are very important. Please stand you ground, and get those numbers for me.