Haute Couture And Prêt-à-Porter

Linda Atuti

I am twenty years old and a fashion and style enthusiast always looking forward to try out new things trending in fashion in order to pick out what really works for me at the end of the day.


Fashion in the sense of clothing and accessories is simply what is trending at a particular period in time. People embrace the new by picking what works for them and accommodating them in their style. There are two classifications of clothing and accessories in the fashion world, these are:

  1. Haute Couture
  2. Prêt-à-Porter
Further explanation of what these are is as below.

What is Haute Couture?

Watching Fashion Television over the years, I used to wonder what Haute Couture actually meant despite thinking it meant very expensive, elegant clothing made for rich people with designs that portrayed high intellect and mastery. Recently, I discovered that it is actually a French word that simply means High Fashion. Haute means high, while Couture can either mean sewing, needlework or dressmaking but is used to mean fashion. Haute Couture truly began in France in the 18th century with couturier Rose Bertin.

The Place of Men and Women in the Fashion World

The domination of the fashion world by men dates back to the mid 1800s with Charles Frederick Worth who was an Englishman living in Paris. It was previously ran by women who were the sole dressmakers. The women made garments depending  on their client’s specifications, choice of material, their tastes and even style. Charles Frederick Worth is considered to be the father of modern Haute Couture, since the term originally referred to his work in the 19th century. He established the first couture house, the House of Worth, in Paris in 1858 and was the first to use the term fashion designer. He was the first person to ever label his work through tags in the garments he made. He made great pieces, from day wear to evening gowns for the elite women and royalties way back in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Designer Qualifications and Design Protection

The phrase Haute Couture was first used in 1908. The first Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was established in 1868 by Charles Worth with an initial purpose of protecting couture designs from being copied, later it was used to determine which designer had earned a right to call himself a Couture House with reference to various specifications later outlined in 1945.

Rules of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture

  • The designer should design custom-made for  private clients, with one or more fittings and everything should be in line with the client’s desire
  • A designer should have an atelier in Paris that has at least 15 full-time staff
  • The designer should have at least 20 full-time technical people at the atelier
  • The designer should showcase a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public every fashion season consisting both daytime and evening wear

High Fashion Extended

Most clothing pieces classified under Haute Couture are made by very established  and famous brands. These exquisite pieces take a lot of time to create since they are usually made by hand from scratch until their completion. Their designs are usually extraordinary and sometimes the materials used are unimaginable. They are made using very high quality materials and embellishments and the materials themselves, including the fabrics used are very expensive. Haute Couture  can include both garments and jewelry. These pieces are usually made with a lot of precision and care and great attention is paid to detail. Only very highly experienced sewers are the ones who sew the garments, and Haute Couture jewelry made by the very skilled jewelers and very skilled horologists make Haute Couture watches for the horophiles with very exquisite taste in watches. Haute Couture pieces are usually custom-made and designed for specific people to fit a person’s exact measurements and body posture.

Personalities and Fashion Brands in High Fashion

Some very famous people in the Haute Couture world include Mouna Ayoub, who is very well known for her Couture enthusiasm. She is a Couture Garment collector said to possess the highest number of Haute Couture garments in her personal collection and never wears the same garment twice. Some Haute Couture designers include Yiqing Yin, Adeline Andrè, Alexandre Vaulthier and Georges Chakra. Some Couture fashion brands include Chanel, Dior, Lacroix and Saint Laurent.

What is Prêt-à-Porter?

Prêt-à-Porter simply means Ready-To-Wear. These type of clothing were made in large quantities for the United States Military during the war of 1812. High quality Ready-To-Wear clothes were soon made available for men due to proportionate sizing making mass production of the garments possible. Through establishing of the first chain department store by Isidore, Benjamin and  Modeste Dewachter in 1875,the Dewachter Frères, these three brothers were able to offer Ready-To-Wear clothing for men and children to their Belgian clientele.

Women and Ready-Made Clothing

Prêt-à-Porter garments were not available for women until the 20th century. In the early 19th century, women used to alter their clothing to fit current trends. The rich women were able to be made for or buy clothes to suit a particular trend, while the middle-class and low-class women just altered their clothing either by adding,say slits, cutting their long skirts to be short or even lowering necklines. This lack of  Prêt-à-Porter clothing for women was mainly caused by women’s fashion being highly florid and dependent on perfect fit.

Additional Information on Prêt-à-Porter Garments

The popularity of Ready-To-Wear garments shed light on existing economic difference which determined people’s abilities to purchase the Prêt-à-Porter clothing, it also expressed the desire for independence in the fashion industry and spark recognition by the media. Interest in the Ready-To-Wear clothing influenced manufacturers to produce them in large quantities and affordable prices. Ready-To-Wear clothing were a deviation from the Parisian fashion and were in favor of the publicity of patented attire. As a result of standardized measurements in regard to clothing, Ready-To-Wear clothing had some perks such as; people began paying attention to their diet, health and beauty.

Ready-To-Wear Clothing and the Dynamic Fashion World

Ready-To-Wear clothing expose people to the latest trends in the fashion world. Some inspiration for the high-end Ready-To-Wear hails from those of Haute Couture through presentation of concept later adopted by them. Ready-To-Wear clothing require very little time to be invested in their making and materials can range from very high quality to poor quality. Some Couture houses like Chanel, Saint Laurent , Lacroix and Dior produce prêt-à-porter clothing despite also  producing Haute Couture garments. These clothing are very profitable to people involved in the clothing business.

Fashion Seasons And Fashion Weeks

Ready-To-Wear clothing are usually displayed by high-end fashion houses  during Fashion Week which takes place in the major fashion cities that include Milan, London, Paris, Tokyo and New York City. Fashion Week usually occurs twice in a year, the first season is the Fall/Winter which takes place in February and the second season is the Spring/Summer which takes place in September. Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter fashion shows usually occur at different times, with the latter taking place first. Prêt-à-Porter garments are usually held to a lower standard than Haute Couture garments because of their very industrial characteristic.