Is Haute Couture Dead in a Millennial Era


Fate of Haute Couture

Though haute couture is steeped in nostalgia and history, it can be remembered because as a collections branch that operates on a short time line, especially in the season they show in. Couture week do offer a visual delight for fashion fans across the globe. It presents to the fanatics a sense of up close imagination and artistic merit of fragile techniques incorporated with grand sweeping volumes. The modern forms of haute couture shows are not meant for commercials rather they are just fir credibility and shows. These shows are not modeled for money making purposes; they are publicized for the purpose of understanding brand image and perception as well. Fashion houses which look forward to participating in couture week, they don’t draw from custom clothing as the sole income source.

This in essence is because there are about 2,000 female customers throughout the world and if they focus on drawing from direct sales, it would be more costly than the production costs. This approach however does boost the image of the brand in its ventures. Again another advantage is that it adds an aura of fashion to the related luxury products and the ready to wear clothing (Mdermott, 2010). A good percentage of individual has the assumption that couture has its origins in France. The name ‘haute couture’ can be translated directly to mean ‘high dressmaking’ (Steele, 1998). These collections are always displayed in Paris, and some uptight governing rules are outlined by The ChamberSyndicale de la Haute Couture. It is true that this concept was coined by Charles Fredrick Worth an Englishman born in 1826.

Charles demystified the dressmaking industry and turned it from the female dominated into a male dominated industry as we see in the current times. When Charles was just starting his sewing career in the mid-1800s, women dominated the dressmaking fashion industry (Steele, 2000). Charles Fredrick was the pioneer and the one who introduced the haute couture concept in France. In 1947, there was the return of ‘New Look’ fashion. This was immediately after World War II. This fashion entailed the dresses with majestic busts, tiny waists and full skirts which swelled from beneath small bodices to make them similar to the Belle Époque style. The manner in which this form of fashion utilized extravagantly the fabrics and the feminine elegance associated with them, made them more appealing to the clients of a post war situation. The most popular fashion houses of the time included Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain and both opened in 1952. In 1945, Elle, a fashion magazine was founded. Coco channel returned to Paris in 1952 all by herself.

Charles Fredrick Worth turned around the dressmaking tradition from a female dominated affair to a male dominated affair as is evident today. In around 1800s when Worth was just into the sewing venture, it was a female dominated affair and these females always designed various outfits according to the demands of their wealthy clientele. During this period, Worth was a worker at a textile shop. His move was met with strong opposition but he managed to convince his employers that he had exemplary skills too in dress making and he deserved a chance. He was given a go ahead and his first work was designing a gown for Madame Metternich, who was an Austrian Princess, the Paris Ambassador’s wife. Madame Metternich wore this to a ball and Eugeine the Empress present acknowledged and appreciated the design. Charles was the first to put his name tag on the inside garments of the products which were produced by the House of Worth designers.

This was shortly after the establishment of the House of Worth and it was the common concept of ‘fashion designers’ (Cumming et al, 2010). Worth is popular for constructing portfolio designs for the House of Worth as well as producing outstanding designs for the wealthy clienteles of his. The House of Worth workshop produced tailor made duplicate garments which the clients would choose as per their desired color and fabrics. Worth did a combination of standardized ready to wear characters and individual tailors which was a developing trend at the time and his mentors included legends in fashion such as Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Cristobal Balenciaga.

It might be because the rich classes are always there and for the common assumption, it has been the rich who give attention to specialties. This can be linked to the world today such that those having smart phones can be a part of the unfolding extravaganzas in close up or from photogenic angles. It was an open place that most houses allowed photographers without fear of the copy cats. The photographers would freely take pictures from the houses without any resistance. In my beginnings in the houses line, it was always a common view that “couture is here to sell perfume” but during this time people had to have a feeling of it through the magazines stories or the newspaper reports doing rounds. Over the past decades, it is the rich classes who have come out to appreciate special possessions.

Again the rich were among the sponsors of trendy fashions, they paid much attention to special designs which would make them outstanding and recognizable. The fashion calendar is on the verge of making major shifts. This can be attributed to the fact that the industry is assuming the ready to wear culture provided by couture as this makes business more appealing. Setting the stage for male incorporation into the dress making industry, Worth contributed much and was dedicated to quality. This scrapped the common assumption that dress making was solely a women affair. The wealthy clientele made the industry a success.

The role of women in the global fashion will be in a little while reduced petites mains which refers to hands that are small and their male counterparts are soon monopolizing the fashion industry. Les petite mains are described as a bunch of 2,200 seamstresses that carefully bring the couture of haute in the life. Doing their jobs in the ateliers, these patient and skilled women are ardently loyal to a house of fashion having their whole career in the single brand. The house has been divided into two areas, one which is purposefully meant for dressmaking (flou) and the other house for tailoring (tailleur).  These entire houses are always on the watch and management of a designer and are also closely connected to the Vendeuses.

Accessories and embellishments are incrementally added majorly from the outside source to the couture. The finest and the well-made materials done by experienced artisan will be brought in the couture. Therefore, houses are always looking upon the Massaro to supply shoes, Lemarie to supply feathers, Desrues to supply buttons and ornamentations and cause to supply gloves. Specialization in specific field is always important. Nonetheless, in looking at garments that are unembellished, the current couture house overly an independent room assigned for ateliers.  On top form, both in form of tailored material and in the variability in dressmaking, is another aspect of the couture value. The provisions of specific techniques and designs have been considered a force to reckon with and an ultimate imagination discipline which is not accountable to the cost. As is described by the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the major aim of couture is to establish plenty of most pleasing clothes that can be admired by the whole world (Saillard, et al 2012).

The landscape of fashion changed once more after the World War II, Christian Dior who was aged 42 put an overhaul in the fashion industry o 12th February, 1947. The new face of Dior substituted scrimping with discernible show of opulence and femininity that was unabashed. His first presentation of haute couture set to the media in salons found in the 30 avenue Montaigne, littered with Lachaume flowers. He formed very specific silhouettes, waists that were small, lengths that were new and independent volumes. Two years after the end of the World War II, Dior in association with his new collection, apparently turned the chapter on rationing, restrictions and uniforms making history in the process. After so many centuries, couture has been symbolical of the achievements of fashion and costume.

It characterizes the merging of social needs and fashion with the creation of dressmaking, skilled crafts and tailoring. Haute couture was a preserve for the wealthy and influential Parisian after its discovery in the 19th century.  It was a house of vital power dressing with women going to couture to acquire custom-made clothing which distinctively revealed their passion for fashion and set above their peers. This trend has been in practice till today. Nonetheless, currently French socialites are not only the major purchasers but also women from, Middle East, China and Russia. Couture has staked a crucial claim on realties that are important in the society. It has employed many women in the world a stride seen to galvanize its authority in the field of fashion.

Couture production was seen as crucial in the economies of Britain and France since it looked for new consumer markets as well as serving the rich clients. As years passed, they opened up boutiques, produced perfumes and sold their designs to manufacturers who were in other parts of the world.

Dior launch of the couture on 12th February 1947 became a revelation that was seen in the whole world. His collections of designs were climax of various fashions and masculine. His collections were characterized by sloping shoulders, a bust which was full and clinched in full waist, skirts. It was ‘baptized’ immediately by Camel Snow, as the new look in the fashion industry. Further it was described by John Cavanagh as the style of complete satisfaction to women. The length of the needed collection of fabric established by the new look created an anger among the people of London since ration was still being done. Further the collection was only made to the rich people of England as well as Queen Elizabeth II at the French embassy in London. However it later gained popularity in England especially after the adoption by Margaret.

Sometimes most designers work for their labels while at times they work the house of couture. Few models of couture are sold in a year totaling greater than 1500 sales a specific house. This is because very few women totaling 3000 or more are able to afford these collections and less 3oo women buy them regularly.

Due to this reason, haute couture always experiences massive losses in the fashion industry. Houses of designs often show and present expensive fashions that are always not legitimate but the designs are made in such a way that they are purchase by only super models and those very important people in the society. The sales in the house of couture are only made to specific customers that order their purchases by contract. The gains and benefits from these types of sales are negligible and does not account to the whole budget. As it results only in not more than ten percent of the total benefits accrued.

While expecting to make so low sales and profits from the same, one may wonder why the Couture houses usually still work hard to get to their targets within some time frames that have been set for them by other parties and environments. They only do so because they believe in the phrase ‘sell a dream’. The fashion houses usually ensure that there is maximum publicity for the fashion houses, and they sell the beauty, chic cachet and exclusiveness; all of which are intangible (Breward, 2003), but are appealing and affordable to the general public.

Most of the customers can only afford the auxiliaries of the couture houses; the handbags, couture labelled cosmetics, a scarf or even the couture house labeled bottle of perfume. However, with just as little, the customers have the satisfaction that they are just as elegant as the super models who actually regularly wear the couture house designs, who are in real sense less that 100 of them (Kawamura, 2002).

The products are actually usually of very high quality, and for the standard and image that comes with them, the customers are willing to pay much exaggerated prices for them. However, for many, it can just remain a fantasy that is unattainable. For such, why not actually get the online catalogues in which clothes for real people are usually featured.

The original French designs usually have Haute couture as their front. Therefore, this explains why there is the less costly but still expensive line of similar products, referred to as “Prêt-à- Porter or ready to wear” (Hollander, 1999). In this way, the couture house is able to make much more sales through the ‘ready to wear’ labels which are actually of a lower level. There is usually employment of a large workforce to assist in the making of the accessories which are usually sold to the mass international markets that are readily available for them.

High Fashion in French is referred to as Haute Couture. To couture is basically sewing and dressmaking while on the other hand, haute means high or elegant. When the two of them are combined, they result in these garments that have been excellently made with so much artistry (Hollander, 2002).  To purchase an haute couture garment is actually to purchase a customized garment. Such are usually made by hand, sewing, and are actually usually made to fit specific people who have their measurements already taken. A lot of attention is usually paid to such garments, in terms of ensuring perfect interlining and they actually remain to the client’s specific measurements and specific fitting.

Depending on the garment being made and Haute Couture House in question, their products usually range at around a low of 10,000 pounds to 40,000 pounds or even more, just for a simple blouse. In 2002, a Chanel Couture suit could have cost around 20,000 pounds. By the mid-2004, an evening frock went for about 50,000 pounds (Hollander, 1994).  Most people who are not rich would actually find it very difficult to understand why these are so expensive.

In real sense, it is just a fair compensation for the high quality of materials used, the workmanship employed as well as the quality of the garment, as well as the unique and original designs employed (Cumming, 2010). More to that, the client is able to get a perfect fit, which is usually created by actually cutting and fitting to the client’s body. To do this, the manual labor required for the production of a garment is a lot of working hours; about 100-150 hours for a suit and even up to 1000 hours for an exquisite evening gown which probably could have thousands of hand sewn beads which most likely would be done by an expert, such as the famous embroidery firm of Lesage, founded in 1922 by Albert Lesage.

Chanel Couture House for instance could have a regular 150 clients and a House such as Dior can even make up to about 20 bridal gowns in one year (Saillard et al, 2005).The fabrics that are available in a couture house, as expected would be very fine and of great quality. They would include such materials as cashmeres, leather, skins, fine silk, fine wools, suede or even furs (Sterlacci, 2009).  In some instances, some colors of fabrics are usually reserved just for the particular Couture houses, thus translating to exclusive production of the same.

The accessories, such as the hats, trimmings, buttons, belts and shoes as well as other pieces which are made by specialists who do so by either virtue of inspiration or even design. The fresh ideas, the international publicization as well as the careful and superb craftsmanship would as expected attract a very high price. There is also a very high level of privacy that the customer pays for. Customarily, couture houses are made up of two different segments; dressmaking (flou) and tailoring (tailleur) for the coats and the suits being produced.

The accessories and embellishments (decorations) are mostly usually outsourced. Therefore, for those pieces that have no decorations, it is an autonomous piece of work by the auteliers who mostly usually carry out these activities under surveillance of the designers and a close connection with the vendeuses in the maisons particulières of the houses in which the work is being carried out. Mostly they are in very elegant locations (Condra, 2008).. The designers could present their designs in form of sketches or muslins which have been cut and draped in two forms; the tailored one and the dressmaking form. The designer or a trusted fitter is the one who is given the task of taking the measurements of the client, to the specifics that would be most comfortable for them.

The fact that Couture offers a great distinction in their design and techniques makes them outstanding, without even initially taking into consideration the quality. It is considered a discipline that is of ultimate imagination and unaccountable of its cost. For the customers, they gain very high recognition and respect. Just as it was initially created for, it remains steadfastly committed to the quality of their work. It serves its purpose and provides clothing that is actually the most excellent pieces of all time.


Work cited

Breward, Christopher, The Culture of Fashion: a new history of fashionable dress, Manchester:    Manchester University Press, 2003.

Hollander, Anne, Seeing through Clothes, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Hollander, Anne, Sex and Suits: the evolution of modern dress, New York: Knopf, 1994.

Hollander, Anne, Feeding the Eye: essays, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999

Hollander, Anne, Fabric of Vision: dress and drapery in painting, London: National Gallery,         2002, Kawamura, Yuniya, Fashion-ology: an introduction to Fashion Studies, Oxford and     New York: Berg, 2005.

Martin, Richard (1994). Madame Grès. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN         9780870997273.

Steele, Valerie, Paris Fashion: a cultural history Oxford: Berg, 1998.

McDermott, Kathleen, Style for All: why fashion, invented by kings, now belongs to all of us      (An illustrated history), 2010

Perrot, Philippe, Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: a history of clothing in the nineteenth century,          Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Steele, Valerie, Fifty Years of Fashion: new look to now, New Haven: Yale University Press,       2000.

Steele, Valerie, Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2005

Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda. Haute Couture: [… in Conjunction with an Exhibition Held at            the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 7, 1995 – March 24, 1996]. New        York: Abrams, 1995. Print.

Condra, Jill. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History. Westport,           Conn: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.

Palmer, Alexandra. Couture & Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s. Vancouver: UBC Press [u.a., 2001. Print

Saillard, Olivier, Anne Zazzo, Elizabeth Heard, and Anna Hiddleston-Galloni. Paris Haute           Couture. Paris: Flammarion, 2012. Print.

Cumming, Valerie, C W. Cunnington, Phillis Cunnington, Charles R. Beard, and C W.      Cunnington. The Dictionary of Fashion History. Oxford: Berg, 2010. Internet resource.

Calderin, Jay, and Laura Volpintesta. Fashion Design: An Indispensable Guide. Gloucester,         Mass: Rockport, 2013. Print.

Sterlacci, Francesca, Joanne Arbuckle, and Francesca Sterlacci. The a to Z of the Fashion Industry. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2009. Internet resource.


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