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The True Meaning Of Couture
Written by Lisa Merton

Bridal CoutureFor those of you who may feel a little puzzled by the terminology, let me briefly explain…. Couture is a French word which basically means “made to measure”. The term “Haute Couture” refers to High Fashion, or the best work that house can produce, and strictly speaking is an exclusive title owned by the long-standing, well established couture houses in Paris and Milan, who have been creating extravagant hand-made pieces with extraordinary price tags for decades. These couture houses are extremely well respected and trusted for inventing new looks and setting trends that are sometimes not apparent for two or three seasons. We don’t have Haute Couture here in Australia, but we do have a growing number of local couturiers who cater for a diverse range of different tastes, styles and budgets.

Having a couturier create your gown is a very time-consuming process, but of course the quality, originality and perfection in fit is something that cannot be achieved through simply buying a dress “off the rack”. Therefore, the prices charged by couturiers are always higher than a dress shop or dressmaker, but well worth the extra expense… as with most things in life, you definitely get what you pay for. Couturiers are highly skilled and trained professionals who have thorough knowledge of fabrics, colours, textures, tailoring and fitting, and they should be able to look at your figure type and let you know what will, and won’t, suit you. They can also advise on trends, both local and international, and assist with designing a total look that includes not only the bride and bridesmaids, but also the whole bridal party.

The differences between a couturier and a dressmaker are many… a dressmaker will follow a commercial pattern and use basic sewing skills to make a dress according to a given design specified by the customer, with one or two fittings. A couturier, however, will design a gown exclusively for you, select and source exclusive specialized fabrics, construct a pattern from your measurements, and fit the first version of this pattern on you in calico (this is called a toile). Once the toile has been altered to fit you exactly, the couturier will then cut the fabric into the perfected pattern and gradually complete the gown through a number of specific fittings, usually around four or five. Hand beading, embroidery, hand painting and other unique finishing touches are applied once the gown is finished.

The couturiers’ reputation is always on the line, and every gown they create is an advertisement for their particular style and quality, so they are often quite choosey in which designs they will accept. Word of mouth is their best from of advertising, and bad reports travel far quicker than good ones, so couturiers will try their absolute hardest to ensure their customer is more than happy with their final result, and has enjoyed the whole process of meetings and fittings.

Generally, the timeframe for a couture gown is six to eight months, although of course there are some exceptions depending on the size of the business and how busy that particular couturier is. Booking in advance is always a good idea, as couturiers can get booked out many months ahead, especially for peak season which is September through till March.

The kind of bride that will chose a couturier is usually confident, fashion-conscious and has a genuinely desire to look unique and stand out from the crowd… she wants to dramatically impress her groom, family and friends and create a look that will somehow set the course for the rest of her life… this may sound a tad extreme, but your wedding day is the one day of your life where you should truly SHINE!!!

For further information on Culture Shock Bridal and Eveningwear please contact Lisa Merton.

Lisa Merton
Culture Shock Bridal and Eveningwear (Sydney)
Ph: 02 9569 0551


As seen in Wedding Style Australia magazine. Wedding Style Catwalk Report - January 2003 edition.

This article has been reproduced on Wedding Central Australia with permission. © Lisa Merton 2003. All Rights Reserved.



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