What Is Couture?

Anyone who has watched "Project Runway" has heard the word "couture" thrown around a lot. But what does it mean?

1. The business of designing, making, and selling highly fashionable, usually custom-made clothing for women.
2. The high-fashion clothing created by designers.

Generally, it seems like if a garment is high-fashion (and maybe somewhat over-the-top), then it's couture. But being "high fashion" isn't the only main point of "couture", it's also the fact that it's "designed" and "made".

Actually, the origin of the word comes from Old French/Latin words meaning "sewn together" or "to sew". When people say "couture", they probably mean "Haute Couture" which means "elegant sewing". In the fashion industry, Haute Couture is a big deal - you can't call yourself a couture designer without being approved by the French Department of Industry.

So it seems that the true definition of couture is more equal parts:
1. Highly fashionable
2. Hand sewn and well made
3. Custom-designed for a specific customer (thus likely one-of-a-kind)
And it typically is:
4. Made of expensive material
5. Involves many hours of detailed hand-sewing (instead of machine-sewing)


1. High fashion - check!
2. Hand sewn - check!
3. Custom-made for a customer - check!
Not Couture:
1. High fashion - check!
2. Hand sewn - maybe check?
3. Custom-made for a customer - NOPE!

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