It seems the word “Couture” is appearing more and more in reference to all types of clothing lately, and wedding dresses are no exception. Brides are naturally drawn to references of “Couture” when shopping for their dress, because it “sounds good”. There is a lot more to understand before making such a significant purchase however.
What are couture wedding dresses anyway?
Don’t feel bad if you’re confused! “Couture” is a very misunderstood and misused term. Not a coincidence: the use and abuse have naturally led people down the path of confusion.
Couture originates from the French term “Haute Couture” which literally translates to “high sewing” or “high dressmaking”. Haute Couture in France used to be a term that referred to the exclusive fashion houses in France: Chanel, Christian Dior and the like. Not just loosely, it was (and is!) even regulated who could use the term Haute Couture in their advertising. (You have to love the French – such sticklers for rules. I can say that since I’m half French!)
In order to qualify to use the term, the Couture houses have to satisfy certain criteria, of which the primary one is to design made-to-order clothing for private clients. This is the main distinguishing feature of “Pret-a-Porter” vs. “Couture”: Couture is custom made for the individual client and Pret-a-Porter (ready-to-wear) is fabricated to certain pre-determined sizes.
Coming back to wedding dresses, even though it can seem that you are “custom ordering your dress”, from a bridal boutique, the vast majority (I would say over 99%, but don’t quote me!) are made to pre-determined sizes and therefore actually pret-a-porter. This term is itself a little bit of a misnomer because as any boutique owner will tell you, the chances of your wedding dress that you ordered (even though it’s in your size) of fitting you perfectly are extremely slim! You will need alterations, which can be costly. The cost of alterations can be such a surprise that I recommend getting quotes on the alterations before purchasing your dress from a boutique, if you go this route.
OK, so if Couture wedding dresses are all custom made, why do several manufacturers have lines of wedding gowns made in stock sizes with “Couture” in the name? In a word: marketing. Even though “Couture” technically means made to measure, since savvy clothing labels have been using the term to mean “high end” or “designer”, consumers have started to interpret the meaning as exactly that. Hence all the confusion!
So, how can you get a real couture wedding dress you ask? Well, if you have upwards of about $40,000 to part with, you can see if one of the few big-name wedding dress designers out there will make a custom wedding dress for you. Or, you can Google “custom made wedding dresses” and find a couture service that will cost you a lot less! You will have to be comfortable with the notion of a “virtual relationship” with your couturier. You will also need to have your measurements taken by a professional to ensure that your dress will have that perfect fit you want.
Do your research carefully: you need to feel reassured that the couturier understands exactly what you want. Look for a company that encourages you to call them. You also want to look for a company who will have a designer sketch out your gown before it is made. There will be a fee for this extra service, but well worth it when considering what is at stake.
Why is the concept of custom made dressmaking worthy of such obsession and even legislation? It will sound cliche, but you have to experience it to understand completely. It’s all about the fit, and in wedding dresses, there’s nothing more important! Imagine, you’re walking down the aisle and you start to feel your dress slipping down just a little – or maybe a lot. It will show on your face to some degree. That precious moment of yours can be stolen from you so needlessly!
This is exactly why more and more brides are opting to have their dress custom made. Not only will their dress fit beautifully, it will be the exact design they are looking for. Now that’s worthy of saying “I do”.