What Exactly is Haute Couture?

By: Diamond Buckley

Turn on any movie that involves fashion and you’ll hear the words “Couture” or “Haute Couture”. If you’re like most people; you probably thought those words were code for “very expensive, pretty clothing.” You really weren’t that far off. The true definition is a little more intricate than you would think, though.

In France, the term “Haute Couture” is heavily protected. The Chamber of Commerce in France only gives fashion houses the right to call themselves Couture House if they meet a specific list of criteria, as follows:

-They have to design made-to-order garments for private clients.

-These clients then have to follow up with at least one fitting.

-They have to have a workshop in Paris that has at least 15 employees.

-And twice a year they have to present a collection to the Paris press for each season.

The Couture fashion circle is extremely elite and hierarchical. Even after receiving membership into a couture fashion house, members are still split up based on how long they have been members.

Haute Couture has beginnings that stretch back to the 19th century. The very first Couture Fashion House was established in 1858, by Charles Frederick Worth. Worth created the House of Worth, which was one of the foremost fashion houses of the 18th and 19th century, and is known as the ‘Father of Haute Couture.’

Contrary to belief, Haute Couture pieces are actually never shown in any of the fashion weeks held around the world. While the garments that are displayed are intricate and handmade, they simply aren’t Couture. You will only find shows showcasing Couture pieces at the two fashion weeks in Paris, which are specifically held for Haute Couture pieces.

While it’s safe to say that many of us will never own a Couture garment, it’s still amusing to marvel at the beauty of each piece. Haute Couture clothing takes unmeasurable time and patience to construct and they truly are a form of art.