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What is a Couturier?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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A couturier is a fashion designer who creates custom garments for his clients. His creations are usually executed with rich, expensive fabrics and a meticulous attention to technique and detail. Some couturiers design, cut and sew garments themselves, while others concentrate solely on design, relying on sewing professionals to physically produce their conceptions. A couturier may work independently or he may be employed by a design house.

The garments created by a couturier are known as couture. As each couture piece is designed to suit an individual client, no two are alike. This concept contrasts with the more common ready-to-wear and mass-market clothing production methods. While ready-to-wear clothing is usually manufactured by fashion houses using fairly intricate techniques and high-quality fabrics, it is not custom-made and thus is usually less costly than couture. As its name suggests, mass-market apparel is mass produced, sometimes using mid- or low-quality fabrics, and is in most cases the least expensive category of clothing.

In exchange for a couture garment’s uniqueness, fine materials, and scrupulous craftsmanship, the client typically pays the couturier a premium rate. Many couture pieces involve complicated construction techniques, some which must be executed by hand. As a result, the client may face significant waiting periods before her garment is complete.

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Some couturiers attend to every aspect of a garment, conceiving its design, selecting fabric and embellishments, and cutting, sewing, and finishing the piece. In other cases the couturier may simply design his clients’ pieces, leaving their execution to his assistants. For certain couturiers, this may reflect a preference for design over execution. Others may simply have an abundance of clients and are thus unable to personally attend to every step of a garment’s production.

Often a couturier is associated with a fashion house, or maison couture. In many cases, larger fashion houses will do couture work for individual clients as well as producing ready-to-wear lines each season. A couturier may be the head of a house and oversee both its couture work and its ready-to-wear production, or he may just be employed by the house to work in a particular area.

Other couturiers are independently employed. These designers may choose to work solely in couture. They may keep a workshop where they can receive clients and execute their designs. As their client pools can be small, self-employed couturiers may not utilize assistants, instead doing all design, construction, and finishing work by themselves.

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Clairdelune
Post 4

I imagine that movie stars and other high society types have to order their evening gowns way ahead of the event that they are planning to wear it to.

Their couturier first has to come up with a design that they like and that is very unique. Then all the measuring of the client, cutting and fitting precisely to fit the customer.

Then the basic sewing and more fitting. Finally, all the sequins, sparkle and shine have to be sewn on by hand, which takes forever. There might be some all night sewing sessions to finish the dress on time. I like to sew, but I don't think I would like to be a couturier.

Esther11
Post 3

Whenever a couturier designs and sews garments for their clients, the fit is superb. Measuring and tailoring a piece of clothing to fit one person's body is going to result in a fit that is way better than those that are mass produced.

Just look at the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton and the bridesmaid's dress of her sister. They looked so good because their dresses fit like a glove.

Oh, wouldn't it be nice to afford custom made clothing.

indemnifyme
Post 2

@Monika - There's definitely a pretty big gap between the rich and the poor here in the United States. Most of the wealth in this country is controlled by a very small portion of our population. I'm pretty sure those are the people that can afford to utilize the services of a couturier.

However, I do think some couturiers are starting to cater to a wider audience. Some designer labels have started putting out mass produced clothing lines through regular stores. Although they aren't one of a kind, "regular" people can afford to buy them.

Monika
Post 1

I'm always amazed at how rich people live. I can't imagine ever having enough money to pay a couturier to make me a one of a kind wardrobe. Of course, I don't go to fancy events where I would need such things either!

Still, I'm always amused when I read fashion magazines such a Vogue. They make it look like paying thousands of dollars for a dress is something that normal people do on a regular basis.

With the way our economy has been the last few years, I'm surprised anyone can even afford to do this anymore!

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