Haute Couture Fashion:
In direct translation ‘Haute Couture’ means ‘high sewing’, ‘high dressmaking’. Historically, aristocratic and upper-class women’s fashionable Western dress was created by an individual negotiation between the client and her dressmaker. The investment in the design was principally in the cost of the luxurious textile itself, not in its fabrication.
Haute Couture is designed by the leading fashion houses designer that is custom-made. Haute Couture designers created clothing as one off pieces for a specific client. To get finest designs and preserve the highest standards of fashion craftsmanship they maintain the custom-fitted high-end fashion design, world’s most luxurious fabrics, one-of-a-kind embellishments, notions and exclusive trimmings.
High Fashion is a generic term for Haute Couture. High fashion is the expensive, luxury end of fashion intended for upper-class, distinguished customers.
Though haute couture is traditionally associated with worn fashion, the style is also prominently featured in upper-class interior design. From window treatments to wall coverings, furnishings to delicate embellishments, upper-class interior designers use fabrics and patterns from haute couture labels such as Chanel as inspiration for high-class home decor.
All the different sectors of the industry can be grouped under two category called “haute couture” and “ready-made” sector.
History of Haute Couture:
The origins of the haute couture system were laid by the late seventeenth century as France became the European center for richly produced and innovative luxury silk textiles. In 1858, Englishman Charles Worth establishes first haute couture fashion house in Paris. In 1868, the ‘Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode‘(FHCM) was founded in Paris to maintain and preserve the highest standards of fashion craftsmanship. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the Paris based haute couture created a unique fashion system that validated the couturier, a fashion designer, as an artist and established his or her “name” as an international authority for the design of luxurious, original clothing.
In the early 2000s the business of haute couture is viewed as a costly and luxurious design laboratory that attests to and sustains France’s international cultural position as a taste leader. Though haute couture posts enormous financial losses and produces less than 10 percent of the French clothing industry, the salons garner fantastic international press and prestige for the house name, which fuels lucrative licensing agreements for ready-to-wear collections, perfumes, accessories, and domestic products.
Today’s Haute Couture:
The finest jewel in fashion’s crown, haute couture is an anachronism today. Couture clothing has largely been replaced by luxury ready-to-wear, which is generally called couture in America.
To qualify as an official Haute Couture house, members must design made-to-order clothes for private clients, with more than one fitting, using an atelier (workshop) that employs at least fifteen full-time staff. They must also have twenty full-time technical workers in one of their workshops. Finally, Haute Couture houses must present a collection of no less than 50 original designs — both day and evening garments — to the public every season, in January and July.
The use of Toile:
A couturier’s design was usually first created in inexpensive muslin, called a toile, so as to perfect the design, cut, and fit. These toiles record the exact cut and sewing techniques, and include samples of the interlinings, linings, and fabric required in the final garment. Paper patterns were also used to replicate designs.
To use biotechnologies:
Haute Couture designers (also known as couturiers) started to use biotechnologies for example, they used biodegradable fabrics made from corn sugar (such as Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Heatherette, and Elisa Jimenez).
This technological advance is driven by a World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology work; they can now check how their innovation is influencing the fashion industry. Biodegradable fabric is a very important innovation as it solves all waste ethical problems created by the fashion and fabrics industries.
Different Types of Luxury Fabrics for Haute Couture Dresses:
To make exclusive Haute couture dresses, elegant and luxurious fabric selections are essential. Couture sewing takes time and effort and is only worthwhile on the best-quality and richest materials. Never compromise on the fabric and trimming, because no amount of handling will make up for it. Treat it with respect, storing it carefully without creasing it; out of light and away from moisture.
The haute couture fashion house workrooms are carefully distributed according to sewing techniques. The sewing staffs are divided between two areas: dressmaking (flou), for dresses and draped garments based upon feminine dressmaking techniques, or tailoring (tailleur), for suits and coats utilizing male tailoring techniques of construction.
“Fabrics make all the difference. Quality, compatibility and hand are necessary considerations of great design.”
– by Giorgio Armani, Spring/Summer 2007 Fashion Show, Haute Couture, Paris
Types of Luxury Fabrics for Haute Couture Dresses:
Fashion designers are mostly preferred world’s most luxury fabrics for haute couture dress making. These fabrics are shortly described in below:
1. Hammered satin:
Hammered satin has a bumpy, textured finish similar in appearance to hammered metal. It made from silk or synthetic fibers. This fabric has a lustrous appearance and a soft handle that drapes well due to the weight in the cloth.
Uses: It is perfect for couture gowns for special-occasion or evening wear. Also use it for dresses, skirts and blouses. It looks sumptuous and drapes well.
Tips: Use a press cloth and light pressure when ironing hammered silk to protect its surface.
2. Silk Charmeuse:
Silk charmeuse has a very soft feel with a shiny surface and a matte back. It gives glossy finish. It drapes beautifully and catches the light, giving the impression of extravagance and luxury.
Uses: Use silk charmeuse for special-occasion and eveningwear, example in long and flowing dresses. This fabric is use for blouses, lingerie and also for linings. Use it to line jackets, skirts and dresses and to make bound edges on necklines and armholes.
Tips: Dry-clean garments that are made from, or lined with, silk charmeuse to prolong the life of the fabric.
3. Silk Dupioni:
This is crisp, woven fabric has an uneven surface created by slubs in the silk yarn. Both front and back look alike. But it creases easily. If you reduced this problem then you can use a suitable cotton interlining.
Uses: You can choose silk dupioni for eveningwear and bridalwear. It is also suitable for dresses, trousers, skirts, jackets and hats.
Tips: The front and back of the fabric look a like, so mark the wrong side with tailors chalk before making up a garment.
4. Silk Chiffon:
Chiffon is a sheer fabric with a plain weave. It is light and transparent with a floating quality.
Uses: Use it for loose, sheer jackets and tops as well as full, flowing dresses and skirts. Use several layers of chiffon together or a single layer over a lining. It is not suitable for tight-fitting clothes.
Tips: If you have a roll of paper then use it as a base when cutting out chiffon, and cut through both layers.
5. Silk Gazar:
It is similar to organza but is a slightly heavier weight with a stiffer feel due to an added “size”. The fabric does not drape and this limits its potential for some styles.
Uses: Use it for crisp blouses and shirts, dresses, skirts and loose coats. Also use for bridal gowns with full skirt designs.
Tips: when the garment is completed then Pre-shrink silk gazar with steam from the iron and dry clean.
Washing out the “size” will reduce the stiffness of the cloth.
It is medium to heavier weight and woven in plain, twill or damask weaves. All linen wrinkles and creases badly but it can be treated to reduce this problem.
Uses: Linen is suitable for blouses, shirts, jackets, coats and trousers depending on its weight. It is ideal for heirloom sewing. It is comfortable fabric to wear.
Tips: Pre-wash and iron or just press the entire length of cloth before cutting out. This will reduce the amount of wrinkling.
7. Handkerchief Linen:
Handkerchief linen is very lightest quality fabric. It is a fine, lightweight fabric woven in a plain weave from the other longest linen fibers. It is almost translucent, soft to the touch and has a smooth surface finish.
Uses: This fabric is ideal for children’s clothing, ladies blouses and men’s shirts. It is perfect for summer wear and lingerie items as it is so soft, light and absorbent.
Tips: Do hand-wash only and do not over-spin. Iron while it is still damp for a smooth finish.
8. Lightweight Knits:
All types of fabrics will have a degree of stretch because of the loop construction of the yarns. Some slinky knits have a luster and lend themselves to elegantly draped designs.
Uses: Lightweight knits for tops, cardigans and unstructured jackets, skirts, dresses and trousers.
Tips: A lightweight knit will curl at the edges, iron with spray starch to reduce this tendency.
“An intensely luxurious fabric with timeless appeal, velvet is available in numerous colors and weights. It suits simple pattern shapes, and constructions with few seams that allow the fabric to be shown to its greatest effect. If velvet is allowed to drape around the body you will get contrasting areas of deep color versus shimmering sheen as the fabric’s pile shifts in the light.”
Bottega Veneta, Autumn/Winter 2009, Milan Fashion Week
10. Silk Velvet:
Velvet is a woven fabric with a dense cut pile on its surface, making it a thick cloth. The fibers that create the deep pile catch the light in different ways depending on how the panels are cut. A rich color is produced when the pile faces upwards but a lighter sheen is reflected when the pile is brushed downwards.
Uses: Silk velvet makes beautiful, expensive clothing with a rich and luxury appeal. Use it for jackets, evening bodices, dresses and trousers. With appropriate interlining silk velvet can be used for many different purposes.
Tips: Do not fold velvet during construction. Keep the fabric pieces flat. When cutting out, keep the vacuum cleaner handy to control the loose pile fibers.
11. Lightweight Wool:
It includes fabrics like wool crepe, worsted wool and wool gauze or voile. Lightweight wool is less thick, smoother, and comfortable to wear and easier to work with.
Uses: Wool gauze is a fine sheer cloth and good for blouses and dresses while worsted wool is more stable and suitable for jackets, trousers and skirts. It is appropriate for bias-cut designs as well as trousers, skirts and jackets.
Tips: For a luxury finish on a lightweight wool garment, finish the raw edges of the seam and hem with Hong Kong binding in a fine habotai silk.
12. Cotton Batiste:
It is a soft and sheer plain woven fabric similar to lawn and organdy but slightly heavier. It can be produced from cotton, cotton/polyester mix, linen, all synthetic fibers, wool and even silk.
Uses: Use cotton batiste for heirloom sewing to decorate lingerie, nightwear and christening gowns. Cotton and linen batiste are suitable for summer dresses and tops. It is also use for interlining quilts.
Tips: Before working heirloom techniques on cotton batiste, use spray starch to stiffen the cloth and make handling easier. When machining, gently pull the fabric in front of and behind the presser foot to ease the fabric through and prevent wrinkling.
It is a sheer, transparent, and the fabric constructed in a plain weave, which is both thin and light. Voile is similar to cotton lawn and batiste but the fibers are highly spun and this gives a crisper finish.
Uses: Cotton and cotton-mix voiles are used for dressmaking such as blouses and dresses. These are suitable for casual jackets and wraps worn with a matching print dress. Cotton voile can be used for antique or heirloom sewing, interlining material for adding stability and crispness to the outer fabric.
Tips: When interlining, hand-wash voile and the outer fashion fabric it is to be backed to, to pre-shrink them before constructing the garment.
It is a plain-woven fabric made from very fine, combed cotton threads. Organdy is a very sheer, crisp cloth that creases easily, but modern finishes have been developed to reduce this problem. It is similar in appearance and handle to silk organza.
Uses: Mostly used for blouses and shirts, but the crispness of the cloth determines the styles it is suited to. It is perfect for summer wear because of its cotton fiber content and light weight.
Tips: If bias strips are required, cut organdy with a rotary cutter on a self-healing mat and use a patch workers ruler for perfectly straight lines.
15. Sheers and Sequins:
“Structured, sheer fabrics such as organdy or silk gazar combine the delicate appeal of a sheer fabric such as chiffon, but add their own unique design possibilities with clean lines and crisp edges. For a truly show stopping finish, consider embellishing your garments with hand-stitched sequins or beads. The safest place to start is with a type of bead or sequin that perfectly matches the color of your fabric to avoid a garish finish. Sequins can be built-up or ‘massed’ in a particular area of a garment (such as the collar and shoulders), gradually becoming more spaced out down the garment to give an overall effect that avoids hundreds of hours of hand stitching.”
Valentino, Autumn/Winter 2009, Haute Couture, Paris Fashion Week.
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Editor of Fashion2Apparel. She is a fashion designer and ex-lecturer in Fashion Designing. She wants to spread fashion knowledge throughout the world.