What Is Couture?

What does the word 'couture' mean? We get asked this question a lot.

The French word 'couture' makes several appearances in English. It may be pronounced as it is in French, koo-TYUR; in English it is equally okay to say koo-TOR.

Literally it translates to 'sewing' or 'seam,' both extremely worthy words.

But sometimes the word is used in the more remote, almost forbidding phrase 'haute couture.' Don't be put off. This phrase-- say OAT koo-TOR-- just means 'high sewing,' or more commonly 'high fashion.' It is used to refer to the high end of the fashion trade: custom garments from stylish salons for very large amounts of money. In our study of couture, we once got to know a dress that decades ago sold for $30,000. More on that later.

From 'couture' it is a very short trip to the word 'couturier,' the practitioner of the fine art of couture. Names like Christian Dior (1905-1957) or Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) come to mind. And yes, it is equally as fine  to say koo-TOR-ee-ur, if you'd rather not venture into unknown territory with the French pronunciation, koo-TYOR-ee-ay. Much more important that you derive some pleasure from the work of these extraordinary artists.

While haute couture and the couturier bring  beauty to the world, there is another, livelier meaning that brings much joy. Couture is also used to describe a method of clothing construction used in the making of custom garments. It is highly evolved problem solving, beautiful fabrics and trims, and fine craftsmanship. Couture technique pays careful attention to the grainline of cloth, relies heavily on hand sewing, and privileges the original contours of the seam line at all stages of construction to ensure the best fit and the truest rendering of the design.

Our time at couture sewing school had an important influence on our design process. At Anikka Becker we start with beautiful fabrics and trims.  Our pieces incorporate techniques from traditional couture, such as a handsewn zipper or French grosgrain waist stay, for both beauty and durability.  Couture is how we enjoy the art of every day.

Posted on November 5, 2017 .