I feel it would be safe to say that anybody with the slightest interest in fashion has asked the question, “what’s the difference between haute couture and ready to wear”? Visually it can sometimes be hard to tell, especially with contemporary abstract fashion concepts disintegrating the systems of traditional dressing. In this post, it is my goal to explain the difference and clarify the topic.
First, some key terms:
- haute couture: French for ‘high fashion’
- pret-a-porter: French for ‘ready to wear’
- ready to wear: clothes made for the general public, bought off the rack
According to Fashion Design Course (Faerm 2010, 22), Haute Couture is ‘the most expensive, well-made and labour-intensive type of clothing, and it is strictly monitored by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris.’
- highest of quality
- garments fitted to and exclusive to a client
- designers are exclusively invited by the Chambre Syndicale
- must be based in Paris – some rare standalone cases excepted.
- Alta Moda is the Italian equivalent.
- Two shows yearly, showing at least 35 looks in a balanced mix of evening and daywear
- The final look of the show is traditionally the ‘bride’ of the collection
Haute Couture is largely used by brands to hype up interest and direct attention to their upcoming ready to wear collections. In recent years, the publicity around Couture week has been on the rise, I believe, partly because of the prominence of social media, but also due to a growing general appreciation of high quality craftsmanship and luxury.
Pret-a-porter/ Ready To Wear:
- Standardized sizing
- Seasonal collections
- Made for the general public
- Bought off the rack
Ready to wear is self-explanatory. The collections are shown for the first time either on a runway or at a press presentation, and then the clothes appear in stores not too long after buyers have chosen which pieces to stock commercially. The clothes are not bespoke – they are for diverse, universal clients. Ready to wear is more affordable than haute couture, but bear in mind that it is still high (luxury) fashion, and the items retail at an above average price-point.
Faerm, Steven. Fashion Design Course: Principles, Practice and Technique: The Ultimate Guide for Aspiring Fashion Designers. London, England: Thames & Hudson, 2010.
Elie Saab: Vogue.co.uk Elie Saab Spring/Summer 2017 Couture Collection [http://www.vogue.co.uk/shows/spring-summer-2017-couture/elie-saab/collection/]