What Does “Couture” Really Mean?

January 10, 2021

From the cover of Vogue to signs in our local vintage shop, the word “couture” gets used a lot in our daily lives. You may be used to hearing it on your favorite makeover show or see it pasted over an editorial in magazines, but where does the term “couture” come from and what makes it so elusive in the fashion world? You may be surprised to learn the complexities of the fashion industry and how famous fashion designers to local designers try to achieve a status worthy of calling their clothing “couture.”

Defining “Couture”

While the word couture literally means “sewing” in french, it has come to specify the business of designing, creating, and selling custom-made, high fashion clothing; a mainstream word used to describe almost any high-priced, custom-designed clothing. The real significance of couture is tied to the French expression “haute couture” which translates to high fashion.

For a fashion designer to legally claim that their dresses are haute couture, they must be given the title by the French Federation of Couture, Ready-to-Wear Tailors and Fashion Designers. (You can think of this distinction similarly to how people often call all sparkling wine champagne, while in actuality the only real Champagne is made just outside of Paris, in the Champagne region of France.)

From there, even more work goes into getting labeled haute couture, as the designer must qualify as a member of the couture division of the federation and employ a full-time staff of 20 people within a Paris-based workshop and create 35 original designs twice per year. Couture is one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn clothing using the highest quality fabrics and materials. A couture gown can take upwards of 300 hours to complete and is custom-made exclusively for a client, typically with a big budget, as many couture gowns start at around $30,000.

The Rise of Demi Couture

Not in the market for a $30,000 dress? Don’t fret, because In the last decade, there’s been a rise in what’s known as demi-couture fashion, which is created using the same hand-made craftsmanship of haute couture but without individual fittings. Department stores including Neiman Marcus in the US, Colette in Paris and Harrods in London, sell demi-couture which are made to fit standard sizes and cost 10% to 20% less than the price of couture pieces. Demi-couture can be ordered through a retailer directly, as it isn’t usually stocked on the shop floor.

Demi-couture pieces generally appear on the runways alongside the ready-to-wear collections, so it is not as elusive and can be made for a wider range of clientele. A good example is the wedding industry. As more brides want their special day to be memorable and to be unique, brides are looking for dresses that are specially made but not many can afford the price tag that comes with a couture dress. This way, a dress can be handmade, special to the bride and not cost as much as the car they will eventually be driving their kids to soccer practice in. Affordable couture brings the fashion world into more homes and allows every day people to feel as special as a runway model when they put their new dress on.

Looking for your dream couture wedding dress?

As fashion trends collide and couture moves into the mainstream, brides have become more fashion-forward and many are choosing to wear couture gowns on their wedding day. On a bride’s wedding list, the gown is definitely at the top. A made-for-you dress that is unique and designed perfectly for the big day is a must in today’s wedding culture.

At Sposa Mia Bridal, you can find exactly the gown you are looking for. With over 500 curated, couture dresses to choose from, your dress is waiting to be discovered.

To schedule your visit, please give us a call at the boutique or take a moment to complete our appointment request form. We will get back to you as quickly as possible to confirm the details!

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