Haute Couture- a brief History

Haute Couture

At Bag Religion, we love keeping in touch with the latest innovations in ready to wear and Haute Couture Fashion. This week, we’re highlighting our favourite looks from Paris Couture Week and taking a little history lesson.

The word couture sure gets thrown around a lot these days, doesn’t it? Couture is a common abbreviation for the fancier phrase ‘Haute Couture.’ Based on its use in movies and television, one would assume “couture” describes expensive, sought after, and fabulous clothing.

It takes a true fashionista to know the pop culture use of the word is often a shallow representation of its true meaning.

Feeling a little lost? No worries. We’ll have you rubbing elbows and chatting with the best of them in no time.

Flashback to 1868

Charles Frederick Worth is an Englishman, Libra, and enterprising designer who relocated to Paris to live his best life and showcase his fashion creations on live models.

Napoleon the third is in power, and France’s empire is rising like a Phoenix after the French revolution. Napoleon decides it’s time for the country to assert itself as a sparkling jewel in the European crown.

People want luxury and they want it now. Worth has a reputation for making custom pieces in his own workshop, the House of Worth. Naturally, he is keeping busy during this imperial boom.

Take Note

Being a Libra and a fashion icon, he decides to enforce some rules when it comes to dressing well. “On Wednesdays we wear pink!” He declared. Just kidding. But can you imagine?

The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture is established to stop people from making cheap recreations of high fashion designs. Only the best of the best are accepted into this elite group.

Some years later, a group of about 100 designers has the couture seal of approval. The qualifiers include sewing by hand using the best fabrics, creating a limited run of designs, hiring all French employees and working in a French fashion house.

Traditions from Yesterday – Today

By today’s standards- a couture garment refers to a one of a kind piece, meticulously handcrafted and custom tailored from luxurious (sometimes unusual) fabric. The details and construction are exquisite- making Haute Couture less about wearability and more about artistry.

Some well-known designers still participate in couture shows; including Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy. The list is shrinking. Because couture pieces can take over 300 hours and many thousands of dollars to make- some designers choose to stick with ready to wear.

There are those who refer to any quality garment as haute couture, but at the end of the day- the term is reserved for a select few.

So, smarty pants, where will you take this new fashion knowledge?