Understanding Haute Couture

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We all know I love a couture show. But in reading the comments I realized there are some questions/opinions concerning couture. And more specifically: Haute Couture.

So, I figured I would address a couple of them here!

What is Haute Couture?

Literally translated it means “High Sewing.”  But, when it comes to fashion, it is actually a legal designation in France.  That’s right, not just anyone can go around calling their shows or designs Haute Couture.  There are rules!  Some of the requirements include hand-sewn garments created on a made-to-order basis, custom fit to the intended’s body.  Each garment takes hundreds of hours to produce- some even thousands!  It is these elements that make Haute Couture so exclusive, coveted and, well, expensive.

Chanel Couture makes the move from runway to red carpet, on the back of Michelle Williams at the Oscars.

Common Misconceptions: Haute Couture is silly because you can’t wear it./ Haute Couture must be extreme in its aesthetic.

Since when does art have rules?  Especially in this day and age where the fashion set is much more daring (umm, Anna Dello Russo anyone?!) as is the general public!  In my opinion it is more about the labor, the technique and, of course, the designer’s vision.  It is these elements that make it art.  Not being un-wearable!

At the same time, just because it is on the runway doesn’t mean it is meant to be worn- at least not always.  Sometimes a look is a statement and a runway an art show.  And sometimes, it is your dream look.  Either way, at the end of the day Haute Couture has the ability to inspire.

Anna Dello Russo attending the Fall 2011 Couture Shows in Paris.

The point is, while there are rules to gaining the Haute Couture moniker, once the rules are embraced and the title assigned, then the designer and their audience are free to take the journey just about anywhere.


(For additional information including source, please click on the images.)


  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing!


  2. I think these points you brought up are very important! The French love to ensure every part of their culture is properly labeled, from l’ Académie française for the language, to INAO for wine to Haute Couture for fashion – and rightfully so! If these bodies of governance weren’t in place anyone could butcher the language, call a dress couture or a sparkling wine champagne. Now if only I could afford Haute Couture…

  3. I love freedom of expression. People are being a lot more adventurous in what they wear. I definitely think that the final Haute Couture piece is a work of art.

  4. I didn’t know there were “rules” for haute couture!!!

  5. Great explanation! I agree. Fashion is most definitely a form of self expression. And what is art? Self expression.

  6. I love ‘Haute Couture’……!!!! and everything, it stand’s for!

  7. That’s very interesting. I didn’t have a clue about Haute couture and what it actually means. I do think, however, that haute couture is art and is about inspiring people. Some are more inspiring than others, but I do view them as art.

  8. Great information Aleis, thanks :-)
    (Hope your hubby is feeling better!)

  9. Interesting post! I definitely didn’t know any of that stuff about Haute Couture! Thinking of it as art helps me understand it better: I probably wouldn’t want to wear it, but I can still appreciate the time and detail that went into creating it. It’s beautiful art! :)

  10. Whew! Love the second and third one! Thanks for the clarification, and your point is well made that sometimes a fashion piece is simply an art statement.

  11. Loved the lesson. Cause you know, I had no idea. But now I do. That’s why I love your blog. One of the reasons anyway.

  12. I love this all! Love the extremes of fashion and art – you need that extreme to move forward.

  13. Great post! I love Haute Couture. Lacroix was always my favorite. It was so luxurious!!!

  14. Omg. I am dying over Anna Dell Russo & her dress. I think you need to send this article to Alexis Bellino of Housewives of OC what with her “couture” dress line & all.

  15. Thanks for breaking it down always heard the term and knew it was expensive but I feel educated about it now. I agree it’s all about craftsmanship and somethings just don’t translate from the catwalk to sidewalk.


  16. Great summary here! I was always a little confused myself.

  17. Thanks for the info! I notice that people use haute couture very loosely, and I wonder if people really know what it means!
    Shasie of Live Life in Style

  18. Anna Dello Russo is what nightmares are made of.

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