*Today’s post is written by a guest writer
When most think “Parisian Fashion,” they think “Haute Couture.” Yet, most of us don’t know the first thing about “haute couture” (and those who do are frequently misinformed). No judgment. If you too are clueless, you’re in good company. Most people (myself included until recently) have a big of misconception about what “haute couture” is; even ever-candid superstar Jennifer Lawrence, who freely admitted on the Golden Globes’ red carpet that she was “wearing Dior Haute Couture. I don’t know what “haute” means, but they told me to say it.”
Subsequently, I thought the timing was perfect to dish out a lesson in haute couture, courtesy of style icon (and avid haute couture collector and wearer) Daphne Guinness.
(Don’t worry. It won’t be cumbersome. I assure you it won’t take longer than a game of “binguez.)”
The literal meaning of “haute couture” is “high dressmaking.” In this instance, “high fashion” refers to “exclusive, custom-fitted clothing.”
Charles Frederick Worth was the first designer to produce “haute couture” pieces in mid-1800′s Paris. Specifically, Worth created “one-of-a-kind pieces” for his affluent clients. The client would specify fabrics and colors, and Worth would individually tailor each unique piece to the clients’ measurements.
Nowadays, haute couture is a “protected name” – in France by law – and only fashion houses whom the regulating commission deems “eligible” can dub themselves “haute couture houses.”
Sadly, haute couture is a dying art form. Fifty years ago there were more than one hundred operating haute couture houses. Currently, there’s a mere ten high-ranking couture houses.
Haute couture’s downward spiral is one I hope is soon reversed for, extravagant as it may seem, haute couture is the living soul of dressmaking.
“People think ‘couture’ just means expensive, and that’s just completely wrong,” Daphne Guinness stipulated in an interview with Alex Fury. “Yes, if you’re buying something that’s beaded from head to foot of course it’s going to be expensive; but you’re not paying for the name. You’re paying for the artisan, the concentration of the work. And it shows! The more intention you put into something, the more you can see it. If somebody runs something off very, very quickly and just writes their name off, you can see it. And the more you concentrate on something, the more of yourself is invested in it. It just means so much more.”
On the flip side, haute couture is also a BUSINESS. Guinness goes on to articulate, “These are industries; these are jobs;” and, in the case of many houses, “two, three hundred years worth of families that know how to make lace and sew.
This isn’t about rich people putting on something so that they can look better than everyone else; it really isn’t about that.”
So what IS it about?
I believe Guinness nailed it when she stated haute couture was about the “artisan, the concentration of the work,” as well as YOUR OWN investment in the process. (Cost aside, making a couture piece requires a timely commitment to multiple fittings on the clients end.)
Ultimately, as with anything, the more of yourself you commit to the process, the more meaningful the end product will be. And haute couture is no exception to that. If anything, it’s the rule.