9 facts about Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter

My friends often ask me, why do designers make clothes which are not wearable by common people? And when students before coming to a fashion college ask me such things I become their teacher for a while. So I thought of writing it for everyone. Guys it’s very important to know the basics. Until I went to a fashion college, even I wasn’t aware of many such things. So, I understand and I am here  berto help you out! 🙂


First of all, you need to understand that fashion design has different categories which consists of Haute Couture, Prêt-à-Porter and Mass market.

Haute Couture literally means ‘high-fashion’, ‘high sewing’ or ‘high dressmaking’.
E.g. Dior, Chanel, Sabyasachi, etc.

Prêt-à-Porter literally means ‘Ready-to-Wear’ or ‘RTW’.
E.g. Global Desi, AND by Anita Dongre, Chanel, Sabyasachi, etc.

Mass market is a market for goods produced on a large scale for a group of significant number of end consumers.
E.g. Zara, Marks and Spencers, H&M, etc.
Above is the definition of each type of fashion design in simple words with examples. Now, I am gonna make you aware of the facts that I hope will answer all your queries.

1. It all started in Paris.
Two things that happened simultaneously in 1850s and changed the history of fashion being the reason behind the birth of Haute Couture: First, Isaac Singer invented the first continuous stitch sewing machine that operated at 900 stitches per minute. Second, The instant popularity of a dressmaker named as Charles Frederick Worth with his first couture label.


2. 70% of the clothes were stitched by the people who wore them, of course the common people.
Before the industrial civilization, all the outfits were hand stitched. For common people it was sewn by themselves in a very individual way as a community. They used to give more importance to accessories as the clothes were almost the same for everyone as a region. These attires are now known as region’s ‘National Costume’’.

3. Rich people, the other 30% used to get their exclusive outfits stitched by designers/dressmakers.
The kings and queens and the influencers used to customize the outfits in their own size and style, which started pretty much the idea of Haute Couture. The outfits were rich in fabric, embroidery and style. They were a sign of luxury.


4. The designers used miniature dolls to show their designs across the world.
By the 1500s, the busiest dressmakers had struck upon an effective, economic way of showing their wares: they would make up miniature samples of their work and put them on dolls. One-half to one-third the size of humans, these dolls showed every minute detail. Clients could look through the dolls and pick the styles they wanted. The clothes were then custom-made to the client’s exact measurements.


5. Ready-to-wear came only after World War II
Ready-to-wear being more accessible and comfortable gained more popularity during WWII. Due to recession people started going to the suitable option. Couture started declining and the designers came into business by selling their ready-to-wear collections. By 1950s Prêt-à-Porter was everywhere. At this time, Haute couture and Prêt-à-Porter didn’t have that much difference. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel liberated women from petticoats, corsets and elaborate garments to a more simplified womenswear that was androgynous and comfortable in the early 1900s.


6. Haute Couture is made only once, one piece for a particular person totally custom made.
A model haute couture garment is made specifically for the wearer’s measurements and body stance.  The made to measure exclusive clothes are virtually made by hand, carefully interlined, stay taped and fitted to perfection for each client.


7. Ready-to-wear is gaining more interest these days and gets more business.
Since recession, ready-to-wear has gained more popularity whereas Haute Couture has to adapt to the changes of the era. Ready-to-wear gives more sales to almost all the fashion houses but couture is the reason the fashion students go to fashion colleges as couture gives liberty of design & art. Lots of designers are doing both Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter.


8. Haute Couture is expensive for valid reasons.
If you are not rich it’s hard for an individual to understand why the price is so high, but it’s for service, workmanship, originality of a unique design and superb materials of the finest quality. In addition the client would get a perfection of fit only achieved by painstaking methods of cutting and fitting to the client’s body.  The manual labour needed to produce a garment this way takes between 100-150 hours for a suit and up to 1000 hours for an embellished evening dress.

Source: http://www.alisfashion.com/what-are-custom-haute-couture-gowns-at-oscars-2015/[/caption]

Lupita Wows everyone by this custom gown from Calvin Klein Collection by designer Francisco Costa. This breathtaking custom designed gown is incorporated with a variety of 6,000 different sized pearls to create a series of textures combined with metallic tulle and silk lame of the dress


Source: http://www.alisfashion.com/what-are-custom-haute-couture-gowns-at-oscars-2015/[/caption]

9. Not every fashion designer can produce the couture collection.
Designers have to get an official permission from the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture, which is based in Paris. According to the agreement, designers have to show their collections twice a year and not less than 35 outfits in one collection. That rule makes the Couture collection more desirable

I hope to have answered most of your questions. In case of any other query please comment below. Also, it’s my first blog ever, so let me know what was it like?  Suggestions or feedback are all welcome.  Thanks for being patient to read it all. Hope it was helpful. 🙂