What Is Haute Couture?

What is the true definition?

As someone who loves haute couture, I’m often asked the same question: what exactly is it? Pronounced ‘oht koo/tewr,’ the word is French for ‘high sewing‘, or ‘high dressmaking‘ and refers to one-off, exclusive, custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is high-end fashion that is made from start to finish by hand, using high quality, sometimes exclusive, and very often, expensive materials.

The word ‘couture’ is used a lot these days, but haute couture is a protected name that can only be used by a select group of fashion houses that meet certain standards. It is the role of the Chambre Syndicale De La Couture, the regulating commission, who decides which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses.

For the Spring 2016* season the official list of members include:

Official members: Alexandre Vauthier, Chanel, Christian DiorGiambattista Valli and Givenchy

Correspondent members (foreign): Elie Saab, Valentino and Armani Privé

Guest members: Guo Pei, Ralph and Russo, Zuhair Murad


Ralph & Russo SS15

Ralph & Russo Spring/Summer 2015. Photo: Ralph & Russo


Christian Dior Spring Haute Couture 2012

Christian Dior Spring 2012. Photo: Yannis Vlamos / GoRunway.com


Elie Saab Spring 2016 Couture

Elie Saab Spring 2016. Photo: Kim WestonArnold / Indigitalimages.com

A few words about ready-to-wear

As well as my love of haute couture, I’ve occasionally shared a few of my favourites from the ready-to-wear collections on this blog, so just a few final words about this particular type of fashion.
Almost every haute couture house makes a ready-to-wear or pret-a-porter collection, which is made en masse and sold off the peg in standard sizes. These collections typically deliver a higher return of investment than couture collections. Ready-to-wear collections are intended to be worn without much alteration and designers use standard patterns, factory equipment, and faster construction techniques to keep costs low.


Valentino Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-To-Wear

Valentino Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-To-Wear. Photo by Indigital


Alexandre Vauthier Fall 2016-Ready-To-Wear

Alexandre Vauthier Fall 2016-Ready-To-Wear. Photo by David Bellemere


*The full list of the members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture for spring 2016 can be found here

Which is your favourite – haute couture or ready-to-wear? Leave a comment below.


Photos via Vogue

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