Firstly, I’m just going to put it out there almost every time you’ve seen the words “haute couture lingerie’ strung together in a sentence and believed it, I hate to say it, but you’ve been sold a lie. (Unless you’re talking about Jean Paul Gaultier or Zahia Dehar, see bottom)*
Misused, just the same as the word ‘luxury’, haute couture is an exclusive cluster of fashion world which is commonly misrepresented. The reason why I’d like to smoothen out some wrinkles here is because when labels brand themselves with the words ‘haute couture’ or ‘couture’ without actually being the real deal, not only does it confuse us to bits and we loose out on what we’ve paid for but it also gives the whole category a bad name. So to ensure you know exactly what you’re buying (or not buying), here’s a simple guide to what everything is.
AKA: Bespoke or Made to Measure. Simply put, couture directly translated from French, means sewing. Couture clothing is basically a fancy term for tailor made. Each garment is created to your measurements and is one of a kind in that way. A couture piece will always involve a number of fittings.
The misconception here is when you visit blahblahblahcouturelingerie.com, and they offer pretty bras but you’re only able to order regular sizing…this isn’t couture. This is just a lingerie store you’re paying too much for. The next misconception is that because it’s couture it will be made with the finest materials and bejewelled with the finest jewels. Also not the case. Yes, this is how it has been done in the past and you would think that this what you could expect but I would always double check this particularly with new brand. Know where your fabrics are coming from if you’re paying a high price for a ‘couture’ piece.
Demi Couture is a sneaky little word which literally means ‘half couture’. How can something be half couture you ask? Demi Couture simply put means that the piece comes with all the opulence, embroidery and fine materials (and price tags) but isn’t made to measure. It’s RTW and Couture mixed together. Agent Provocateur use it in their Soiree collection (which is amazing and you can see here)
The misconception here is people see couture and jump to the conclusion that the item is made to measure.
Personally, this just makes me cringe when I see it misused, and it is misused the most. Haute Couture means high sewing and is the highest form of fashion. If you see any lingerie label listing themselves as haute couture, they are not. There are no haute couture lingerie labels, this is not a thing. They do not exist.
The term is reserved exclusively by those European fashion houses that offer made-to-measure apparel in or around Paris and belong to the Fédération Française de la Couture (which began as the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 1868 by Charles Frederick Worth).
“Haute couture is fashion that is constructed by hand 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.”
To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture must follow these rules:
- 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.
If you’d like to see an entire list of labels who do produce haute couture see here
The Difference Between Handmade and Couture?
This one is up for debate, however this is the popular opinion I’ve found over the years in fashion. Couture pieces and handmade pieces are very very similar, however they are not the same thing and there are a few key factors which separate the two. The two main factors between couture and handmade are that unlike a couture piece, a handmade piece can be created with the use of machinery and ready made laces, applique, ect. whereas a true couture piece cannot. The other factor is that a handmade piece is created and sold by directly by the designer themselves, whereas in a couture piece, it is common for a team of couturiers to work on the piece before it is then sold.
For a little more behind couture and to find out a little more as to what it actually means to create a haute couture piece, take a look at the video
*Unless you were talking about Zahia Dehar has been the only designer who has been close to holding a Haute Couture show. Encouraged by Karl Lagarfeld, the former escort held a ‘Couture’ lingerie show in 2012. You can read more about it here.