RTW vs. Couture

Watching runway shows on Style.com or seeing images from runway shows, I would wonder "Where does one wear that?" What I soon learned, is that the large headdresses, intricate patterns and elaborate make-up most likely means that the show it a Couture show, not a Ready-to-Wear (RTW).  With Milan Fashion Week over, Paris Fashion Week underway and Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week on the horizon, I wanted to take a look at Couture vs. RTW and how they are both important to a company's bottom line. (And, what they mean to us, as consumers and admirers!) Haute couture, often shortened to couture,  is a French term lawfully protected by the Paris Chamber of Commerce.  In order to achieve this high fashion status, a house must produce a collection in line with a series of guidelines, including 1) Design made-to-order clothes for private clients, with one or more fittings; 2) Have an atelier in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time and 3) Twice a year, present a collection to the Paris press, with at least thirty-five outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.  Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Cartier and Elie Saab are among the houses listed.

Haute, meaning high or elegant, and Couture, meaning dressmaking or clothing, together make for elaborate fashion. It is estimated that approximately 3000 women worldwide can afford a haute couture piece, and less than 300 will regularly purchase a piece. When an evening gown costs roughly $80,000, you can understand why! For example, a couture house like Chanel will have about 150 regular clients who purchase their couture creations and Dior will make about 20 couture bridal gowns a year. Each piece is measured and handmade for the client specifically from the highest quality fabrics.

Below are examples from an Haute Couture runway show (Left to Right): Chanel, Christian Dior and Bouchra Jarrar.


Hard to sustain their bottom line on unpredictable high-end purchases, fashion houses incorporated their pret-a-porter, or Ready-to-wear lines into their collections.  Bought off the rack and mass produced, RTW pieces need no measurements, but are fitted in the standard even numbered sizes.  The RTW line produces a greater profit, as it is marked at a price point that is attainable for a larger percentage of the population.  Unlike Haute Couture, there are no guidelines for Ready-to-Wear and all clothing that we acquire from an online boutique or an in-store purchase falls into this category.

Below are examples (Left to Right) of RTW: Chanel, Band of Outsiders, ADAM

Ahh, I feel better prepared and more informed on different levels of fashion as we see the Fashion Shows take shape Stateside in the next few weeks.  What do you think about the Couture pieces? Artistically astounding or Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? For me, I respect the artistic talent of many of all of the designers, but will save my artistic creations for the kitchen!