Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Inside an Haute Couture Garment...

The secret to haute couture lies inside the garments themselves. A second skin that’s molded to a client’s every curve, the skills and craftsmanship that go into the construction of such clothes has been described as pure wizardry. How else does one account for a dress being able to stand up on its own after a wearer has stepped out of it?

It is a reminder that despite all the innovative fabrics, cuts and styles emerging from haute couture, for over 100 years it has relied on something much simpler-the highly skilled hands of a woman and a needle. If one were to turn a couture dress inside out, you can marvel at a constellation of intricate seams and stitches done to the exact millimeter by hand. A couture hem is never pressed and the seams are basted to perfection.

Each dress has its own name and a particular inventory carefully inscribed on a card. A seamstress must ask for the specific thread to sew it together, as well as the hooks, eyes, and buttons to fasten it, (it was only in recent years that zippers were allowed in haute couture).

With the proliferation of designer handbags, cheap knock off’s and what some have termed the “democratization of luxury,” the truly affluent are now searching, more than ever, to differentiate themselves through exclusive products that are beyond the reach of the average consumer.

This shift in shoppers' values has not gone unnoticed, with some wealthy women putting a premium on owning a one-of-a-kind frock. "Couture isn't dead," said Antoinette Seillière, a baroness who was snapping pictures of her favorite dresses at French designer Franck Sorbier's show in Paris last July. "It's like painters in France: They're still there, just not as central as in the past."

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