What Is Couture and Why Do We Need It?

Every year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences nominates 10 films (used to be five) that is considers to be the best representations of the movie industry. That would be 10 films out of literally hundreds that are released every year. Does this mean that the films that weren’t nominated should be ignored? Absolutely not. There is room for everyone to make a movie and let the audiences pick their favorites. That is kind of what haute couture is like to the fashion world. There are only a few genuine couture designers. Every year, followers of fashion flip to see what those designers will send down the runway. You’ve probably seen some of these wacky fashions that would never turn up in Wal-Mart. However, you can draw a line from couture to ready-to-wear clothing lines. In fact, it is a line that is followed every day.

Sewn In

The literal translation of haute couture is “high dressmaking.” Currently, there are only a handful of designers who can officially call themselves haute couture. That would be a designation handed down the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris. This is France, after all. The same place that regulates what you can call a baguette. To go couture is to have a one-of-a-kind dress made just for you. You’ll be sewn into this creation and there won’t be another one like it on the planet. It’s also going to cost you thousands and thousands. Can a couture designer make a living by creating just a few dresses each year? Perhaps, but the real money is in the ready-to-wear lines.

As the title implies, ready-to-wear refers to clothes you can buy right off the rack, slip on and be good to go. There are plenty of high-end ready-to-wear clothing lines from such high-end design houses as Dior, Chanel, Givenchy and Gaultier. These are the clothes you’ll find stocking the racks on Rodeo Drive. For the rest of us, fashion designers take inspiration from the ready-to-wear lines and adapt them for mass production. Think of it as “really ready-to-wear.” This is where Wal-Mart comes into play. Those couture houses might be appalled to find their fashions in Wal-Mart but you can follow that aforementioned line from couture to ready-to-wear to mass-produced. The results? Clothes for the average woman to wear as they go about the business of working, school and raising families a.k.a. life.