Ever wondered how many words you might use a day that are misused or misinterpreted? Unfortunately, much more than you expect. One of the major words that people tend to misuse in the world of fashion is "Couture". What exactly is couture? Is it something you have paid a fortune for? Not necessarily. Is it a garment made by a high-end designer brand? Maybe. Is it a purely handmade product? Definitely not. These are just some of the major mistakes that fashion lovers and buyers tend to make when it comes to Couture.

Fashion and style has become a world of its own, a place of competition not only amongst designers, but more obvious amongst clients and consumers. It is a constant battle between people wanting to look their best and dress themselves in designer clothing for any occasion – be it a special night out or simply a coffee rendezvous with a friend. The admiration of our peers has such an enormous effect on us, that many of us strive to look our best for others, instead of for ourselves. During soirées and evening occasions, when one woman admires the outfit of another, it might even be her instinct to state that the outfit is “couture”. The term has such an immense impact on the perception of an individual, that it seems fair to use, however, it is most often misused in our fashion vocabulary.

The word Couture is a short form commonly used to imply Haute Couture. The actual phrase "Haute Couture" is French and dates back to the mid-19th century. The word Haute refers to high, excellent and elegant, while Couture denotes dressmaking, sewing or needlework. Thus, the emergence of the term quite literally means high fashion, tailored for a specific client through extreme delicacy and precision. A couture garment should be personally tailored, custom-made and custom fitted for the client with the main focus being to maintain inimitability. Keeping this in mind, next time you go shopping and the salesperson attempts to convince you that a garment is a one-of-a-kind couture piece, you should know better!

Did you know that “Haute Couture” is a protected and registered name in the fashion world? It is protected under the law drawn by the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Only certain French and international firms have the legal right to use the term, granted they abide by and follow set standards. Of the various standards required for qualification, there are three main points a designer must maintain:

* The garments must be “made-to-order”, meaning clothes are individually tailored for private clients.

* The designer must have a workshop in Paris that employs at least fifteen full-time dressmakers.

* Last but not least, the designer is obliged to present two collections per year to the Paris press; both including night-time and day-time couture garments.

A couture outfit is actually tailored to and made specifically for the individual wearing it. Prior to the creation of the outfit, the client is asked to meet with the fashion house a number of times in preparation for the construction of the final look. The creation of the dress takes up to a couple of weeks. Once the sketches and build-up of the actual dress is decided on, a dummy model is created with the exact measurements of the client. After the dress is constructed, the client visits the fashion house for a number of fittings. During the fittings, the designer and tailors see if any adjustments need to be made so they can ensure that the dress is perfect. Well, that explains the extremely expensive price tags! Want to learn another interesting fact? Only around 3000 women worldwide are considered “Couture” buyers, and as little as 300 are regulars!

Of all the fabulous designers worldwide that blow our minds with each and every design, there are less than 20 legally registered Haute Couture houses in Paris. Those are Adeline André, Anne Valérie Hash, Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Dominique Sirop, Franck Sorbier, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maurizio Galante, Stéphane Rolland, John Hogstad Lund. International fashion houses that are official Haute Couturiers are; Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Elie Saab and Maison Martin Margiela.

Such a shockingly small amount of legal couture designers in comparison to what we always thought was Haute Couture.

– Maya Moussa. Images: Hautfashion.com

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