Meg here! I am really thankful that Sharond sent this brilliant information that every woman that loves her fashion should know! I am unfortunately, pretty run down from my travels and nine loads of laundry so this piece came in the knock of time! Thanks Sharond! I learned a lot.
In the past I wrote an article about haute couture designers and which design houses are allowed to use the haute couture attached to their name. In this article I would like to explain what goes into creating a couture collection. I would like to emphasize that I am writing about couture designers only. I have not done enough research on other designers to know their methods and when their showings occur.
Twice a year, January and July, each couture house spends a fortune to make and present its collections, which has to be at least fifty designs though most houses do many more, to their most important clients, celebrities and the press. In the past the shows were a quiet affair mostly held in couture salons, however they have now become a theatrical extravaganza with loud music and lights.
The first phase of assembling a collection begins in the couturier’s design studio many months before the show. The couturier has a thorough understanding of human anatomy and the properties of fibers and fabrics and will begin with either the fabric or a silhouette. These must be compatible because of the combined qualities of fabric, its weight, drape, texture and hand, which is the fabric’s crispness or softness, will make it appropriate for some style of silhouettes and not others. If the designer is contemplating a sculpted look, he would want a tightly woven, crisp fabric and if he were looking for a soft flowing look following the curves of the body, he would choose a fabric with a soft hand.
When the fabrics arrive, the couturier drapes unfolded lengths of each fabric over a dress form or model to see how it hangs on the lengthwise or crosswise grain and then on the bias. Using this information as a guide he will make hundreds of design sketches for his collection. Since it would be impossible to make a toile (test garment) for every sketch, the editing process starts to select the best designs and fine-tune the focus of the collection with the help of design assistants and the premières (heads of the ateliers or workshops) whose technical expertise is highly regarded. The final design sketches chosen are then distributed to the workrooms.
Depending on the type of garment the couturier has designed, his sketch will go either to the tailoring or the dressmaking workroom. In the dressmaking atelier, where many gowns, dresses, blouses and other garments are sewn, silk is the primary fabric. Many of the garments made in this workroom are softly draped designs that have to be sewn on a dress form from the right side of the garment in order for the draped fold of the design to be accurately pined and stitched in place. Some designs have no inner structure and rely on the body to give them shape. Others may be backed or rely on an elaborate inner structure such as a corset.
After discussing the designs with couturier, the première will decide who will make the toiles and sew the prototypes. Usually these are sewn by the premières mains, or first hands, which are the most experienced workers in the atelier and have a wide variety of skills and training. A muslin fabric in the appropriate weight for the design is selected, the toile is draped on a dress form to duplicate the couturier’s design sketch and provide the basic pattern from which the garment will be sewn. Depending on the complexity of the design, this process takes four to eight hours.
Once the toile is approved by the couturier, he reviews the fabric selection for the prototype to make certain it is still appropriate for the design. Then the toile is carefully taken apart and pressed so that it can serve as a pattern for cutting the fashion fabric. After the fashion fabric is cut, a prototype is basted for a first fitting on a house model. It is then modified and corrected as needed, which usually involves two or three more fitting before the couturier is satisfied with the results. Finally the jewelry, hats and shoes are selected by the couturier or his assistants for the press show and the design is entered in the production book or livre de fabrications.
This same process is followed in the tailoring side of the atelier or workroom. The fabric, padding, structure of the garments and material will be different depending on the clothing item.
For this article, I researched the information from various sites on the internet, all of Claire B. Shaeffer’s books and discussed the techniques with Karin whom I met several times at my favorite fabric shop. She was a première in a couture house in France and has since retired. She offers lessons at $75 an hour on a very limited basis. She asked that I not use any of personal information since she has retired and is happily settled into the quiet lifestyle of her mountain home in new adopted country.
The evening gown we have pictured is by Christian Dior, Paris. It was designed by London-trained John Galliano, artistic director for Dior since 1997.
Makeup and fashion go hand in hand! Who else has a product addiction that goes beyond lipstick and lashes but also to shoes, handbags and dresses-Oh My?