Couture 101


Couture Collections Fall 2015 - Versace, Elie Saab, Valentino | Couture. The phrase itself has a slightly haughty connotation to it and can prove impossible to say correctly unless one has mastered a French accent. (For the record it's: koo/tewr) For the uninitiated, couture season may seem like just another set of runway shows, another reason for the fashion crowd to come together among beautiful creations and marvel at the subtleties of each design. In a way, that's exactly what it is. However, there are some small, but important, differences between a couture collection and a ready-to-wear collection.

How is Couture different than RTW?

Couture may look similar to ready-to-wear collections, especially those of known "luxury" brands. However, they warrant their own collection because of the incredible amount of work put into each garment. Often, couture collections are more conceptual than ready-to-wear collections because they don't necessarily have to be marketable - just gorgeous. They are incredibly expensive to create because of the materials used and the handcrafted workmanship put into each piece. Ordinary people, even wealthy people who can typically afford designer duds, don't buy couture gowns. They are unable to be purchased off the rack because they are - by definition - custom made.

What does it meant to be couture?

Couture refers to creating exclusive, custom clothing for a client. However, to be a true haute couture house in French legal terms, you must adhere to the following rules according to Wikipedia's entry:

  • design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings;
  • have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen staff members full-time;
  • have at least twenty full-time technical people, in at least one workshop (atelier); and
  • present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public every fashion season (twice, in January and July of each year), of both day and evening garments.

Brands who do not fit these criteria are not true haute couture houses.

Who wears couture?

In short: actresses and uber-rich people. Actresses can pull from couture collections for major award shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Socialites and royalty can wear couture gowns to formal events like balls or the Met Gala. Stylecaster estimated that "there are less than 4,000 haute couture clients in the world."

How much does couture cost?

The sky is the limit. Depending on what the piece entails - diamond encrusting, hand-spun gold thread embroidery, etc. - a gown can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's why actresses only borrow the gown for a night.

My favorite Fall 2015 Couture Collections


Elie Saab Fall 2015 Couture |


Atelier Versace Couture Fall 2015 |


Valentino Fall 2015 Couture |

Have more questions about couture? Leave a comment!