The French term Haute Couture translates literally as ‘high dressmaking’ and refers to the creation of custom made clothing to the highest standards of fitting using traditional hand-construction techniques with painstaking design detailing.

The home of the movement is of course Paris, where Haute Couture was founded and is still regarded as the beating heart of the now worldwide fashion industry. But did you know that Lincolnshire has a substantial claim to the origins of Haute Couture as well?

13th October is a day we will be marking with pride here at Jane White Couture Tuition as this date marks the birth of Charles Frederick Worth in 1826. Worth is universally regarded as the ‘Father’ of Haute Couture and we are proud to say that he was a ‘Lincolnshire lad’, hailing from Bourne here in Lincolnshire.

From the Lincolnshire Fens to the Paris catwalks

Originally, only Parisian couture houses could use the term Haute Couture, and to this day the term has protected status and can only be used by firms that meet strict criteria of garment production. Paris based firms such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Givenchy are members of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and are joined by a select number of fashion houses based around the world’s fashion elite cities of London, Milan, New York and Tokyo including those of Armani, Valentino and Versace as associate members, together with a very select group of jewellers and makers of accessories.

In 1992 the qualifying criteria for a claim to be a Haute Couture house was defined as follows:

  • To produce designs made-to-order for private clients, requiring one or more fittings
  • To have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen full-time staff members
  • To employ at least twenty, full-time technical staff in at least one workshop
  • To present a collection of at least fifty original designs to the public in January and July of every season, including day and evening wear.

Charles Frederick Worth is credited with bringing the skills of the master dressmaker (Couturier) to a new high standard and status. His fashion house ‘The House of Worth’ was the first to present the dressmaker as an artist of garment design and construction and was the first to ’show’ a collection in the style of the catwalk shows we see today.

The likes of Chanel, Dior and Balenciaga all followed in Worth’s footsteps to open their own Couture houses throughout the 1960’s, nurturing new young talent such as Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Ungaro.

Modern Paris Haute Couture shows are still the highlight of the fashion calendar. These days the designs shown are not produced for sale, but to showcase talent, reinforce the creativity of the brand and of course, for publicity purposes through celebrity patronage of a front row seat.

In its pure state, anything other than designs produced by an authenticated Haute Couture House, of which there are very few, are in fact correctly referred to as simply Couture.