I am greatly indebted to the couture industry, which helped me enormously with the research for the original edition of Couture Sewing Techniques. My thanks in particular go to the Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne, the governing body in Paris of the couture industry, and to the couture houses, bespoke tailors, embroiderers, and custom shirtmakers in Paris, Rome, London, Florence, and New York. For the 2nd Edition of Couture Sewing Techniques, I thank Ralph Rucci and James Galanos for allowing me to visit their workrooms, observe the techniques which they used, and interview their employees. This project expanded my knowledge while reminding me that many couture techniques which I had written about earlier had changed little, if at all. I want to thank Sarah Benson who helped with so many things from typing and editing, making samples and photos, organizing, repairing, and pressing the garments to dressing mannequins. And last, but not least, my thanks to my mother, the late Juanita Sumner Brightwell, who taught me that only my best was good enough, and to my husband, Charlie Shaeffer, MD, whose support and encouragement make it all possible.
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Haute Couture When I left for Paris in January for a week of press previews of the haute couture collections, the Gulf War had just begun and the weather was brutally cold. Although I had visited the workrooms of many couture houses over the years, this would be the first time I would have the opportunity to attend the runway shows debuting their collections, Inspired by a Guy Laroche dress, the author designed this evening gown for Vogue Patterns.
It has a single seam at center back with darts positioned vertically and horizontally to enhance the figure. The muslin toile, or working pattern, at the right was used to refine the fit and determine the best construction techniques. Photo by Ken Howie. I soon found that each show was as different from the next as the designs it presented. All were extravagant and exhilarating to watch. The designs themselves were magnificent, although some were so flamboyant that it seemed they were not really intended to be worn off the runway.
For the homesewer, haute couture designs have a special relevance. It may surprise some to learn that most of the techniques used in couture workrooms can be duplicated at home. The process involves numerous steps and people with specialized skills, from the couturier, or designer, who creates the design to the team of assistants, fitters, and needleworkers who bring it to life.
Today, even though there are excellent couturiers in Rome, the center of haute couture remains in Paris, where there is still an enormous support structure of skilled workshops and needleworkers who specialize in hand embroidery, beading, feather work, braiding, fabric flowers, and custommade accessories.
In France, the term haute couture is strictly controlled by the Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne Parisian High Fashion Syndicate , the governing body of French fashion houses. To be named to the list remains the highest recognition that a designer can achieve. Even Deceptively simple, this timeless design features pintucking on the cashmere knit. The only American designer to have an eponymous couture house in Paris, Main Bocher changed his name to Mainbocher and gave it a French pronunciation.
This boned-strapless gown was considered old-fashioned in when Mainbocher created it. There are many factors, notably the fabulous, exclusive fabrics used, the flawless design, cut and fit of each garment, the exquisite craftsmanship, and the time required.
Whether classically styled or exaggerated, couture designs rely on such basic design principles as proportion, balance, color, and texture, and they conform to the image of the couture house. Most couture houses will go to great lengths to do both.
The black velvet, asymmetrical design featured a 4-in. Rather than demean the design, the house decided to lower the seamline, even though it meant cutting a new right front that positioned the ruffle precisely 4 in. Couture designs are enhanced by the extraordinary fabrics from which they are sewn. Only the finest luxury fabrics are used in couture, and they frequently cost hundreds of dollars a yd. Most fabrics are made of natural fibers, but they can be made of silver threads; and a few couturiers use metallic, plastic, and man-made fibers for special effects.
See Chapter 12, p. Designs by Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Givenchy have what initially appears to be an unnecessary use of an expensive fashion fabric for the lining or backing. A few couturiers work closely with a fabric house to develop new fabrics.
Some fabrics, such as the extra-wide silks manufactured for Vionnet, the silk gazar designed in for Balenciaga by the noted fabric-design firm of Abraham see below and the printed silk muslin designed in for Dior by the firm of BianchiniFerier see the photo in Chapter 12 on p.
Many other original fabrics are, of course, no longer available. Frequently used for Chanel suits, Linton fabrics are often a combination of wool and mohair, but many incorporate acrylic, metallics, novelty yarns, and even cellophane. The House of Chanel chooses from 15 to 40 exclusive patterns for the firm of Linton to weave in lengths of small amounts of 6 to 8 meters so they can make prototype designs for the runway.
Linton will also weave fancy selvages, which might include the more expensive yarns in the fabric and supply matching yarns and narrow trims when requested. As is typical for a couture design, the dress was made to fit its owner and cannot be altered successfully for another individual.
Photo courtesy of Chicago History Museum, gift of Mrs. Corson Ellis. The two most common reasons are to eliminate a hem at the lower edge and to provide an inconspicuous lining fabric that might show when the garment is worn. My favorite is a short, special occasion dress by YSL.
On the outside, the skirt has pleats at the waist; on the inside, the same fabric is tucked under the pleats to provide support. There is only a fold at the hemline. The coat is completely lined with self-fabric even though it most certainly added to the cost.
Photo by Taylor Sherrill. The Atelier In the atelier, or workroom, of a couture house, fabric patterns are sometimes cut apart, rearranged, and sewn back together to create special effects for a particular design for example, see the blouse by Chanel on p. Some are relatively simple creations—such as the red-and-bluestriped Chanel blouse I saw that was made by cutting red and blue fabrics into narrow strips and seaming them together.
Buttons and trims are often custom-made as well. Braids run the gamut from silver crocheted trims to re-embroidered braids to threadwrapped embroidered topstitching. In addition to the array of high-quality trims employed on a couture garment, the fit is also a highly conceived element of any couture piece. For an asymmetrical figure, for example, the collar, pockets, and shoulder seam may be slightly narrower on one side.
For a full figure, vertical seamlines are moved in or out as needed to create the most flattering line, while for a short figure, all horizontal seamlines are adjusted, not just the waistline and hem.
Craftsmanship Impeccable craftsmanship is the essence of haute couture, and it begins long before the fabric is cut. At garment openings, floral motifs match so perfectly you have continued on p. According to Mme. Marguerite, who worked closely with him, he would then make quick sketches from which the atelier premiers would cut and sew the first toile. Photo by Bellini, courtesy of Christian Dior. Courtesy of Chicago History Museum. In so doing, he became the father of haute couture, a phrase coined in by an American client, a Mrs.
Worth was the first to establish a house style and create a collection of seasonal designs shown on live models. In , Worth established the Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne, the governing body of French fashion.
Worth was also the first to understand the relationship of the fabric to the design. He began cutting garment sections with the grain and used one of the concepts of mass production— interchangeable, modular parts— to create a variety of different designs.
Paris, nonetheless, continued as the international center of high fashion—albeit more restrained fashion—and Worth continued to design for women of wealth and note. At the same time, aesthetic dress, which was initially inspired by designs from late medieval and early renaissance periods, was introduced. These soft, loose dresses were simply embellished and worn without a corset. The aesthetic movement reached its height in the s. Although she became known for glamorous evening gowns, exquisite workmanship and innovative mix of materials, Pacquin was also a practical designer.
She introduced a dress style tailored enough for daywear but elegant enough for informal evening occasions. Photo by Steven H. Robert L. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Changing times When the new century dawned, women were still confined in tightly laced corsets and elaborately ornamented clothing, but the fashion world was ready for a change.
Credited with modernizing dress design, Paul Poiret introduced the straight silhouette in , which has dominated fashion for most of the century. Worn with a less confining corset, the forerunner of the brassiere, his new design—the shift—was a simple narrow tube with a high waist. The first couturier to collaborate with artists such as Raoul Dufy, Poiret produced new fashions that were bold, brilliantly colored and exotic, and were often distinguished more by their decoration than by their cut.
Madeleine Vionnet, another innovative designer, showed her radical new designs in while working for French couturier Jacques Doucet, one of the major competitors of the House of Worth at the turn of the century. Mass production of various goods began during the war, and many women entered the work force.
Even though clients from the Austrian, German, Balkan, and Russian courts had vanished, the couture houses thrived after the war. They created simpler, less individualized designs intended for wealthy, fashionable women in France and abroad, but most sales were now made to retailers, who purchased hundreds of models or to manufacturers who planned to copy them.
As a result, many couture houses became specialists in handmade designs. The coat is fabricated in a single layer of wool double cloth. Wool inserts conceal seaming on the face of the coat. Henry Clews. After Germany invaded France in , many couture houses closed, while others moved—Molyneux to London and Mainbocher to America—but most continued to present small collections.
Intended for a more active lifestyle, this style was straightforward and more youthful than the European tradition on which it was built. The New Look and Coco Chanel. Inspired by sportswear, Patou invented the V-neck sweater and the short pleated skirt, and was the first to use his monogram as a design element.
Chanel put her rich clients, who had been wearing satin and lace day dresses, into casual, unstructured jersey dresses and woolen cardigan jackets. The Wall Street crash abruptly ended the prosperous Roaring Twenties.
When the United States raised import taxes on couture designs, many houses began selling designs and toiles to retailers and manufacturers, 14 t h e b asics o f c o u t u r e s e w ing which could be imported to America duty free. In the s, fashions changed dramatically once more.
Italianborn designer Elsa Schiaparelli created outlandish fashions in unique color combinations. She is credited with inventing the long dinner suit and voluminous evening trousers. Influenced by La Belle Epoque, Dior restored femininity to a world tired of uniforms and uniformity and made fashion exciting once more.
The couture industry was revitalized. During the postwar boom and into the s, haute couture continued to flourish. Pierre Balmain created magnificent ball gowns, Jacques Fath introduced pastels to bridal wear, and Hubert de Givenchy introduced separates to high fashion.
By the mids, many designers were showing designs that bypassed the waist. The new relaxed silhouette was off and running but, unfortunately, its success, later combined with fashion and fabric developments in the s, would have a devastating effect on haute couture.
By the mids, couture fashions were less structured and even more casual, inspired by the loose-fitting fashions of the hippie movement. With the demise of the bra and fitted silhouettes, the fashions coming out of Paris were easily copied in all price ranges.
Couture Sewing Techniques
Haute Couture When I left for Paris in January for a week of press previews of the haute couture collections, the Gulf War had just begun and the weather was brutally cold. Although I had visited the workrooms of many couture houses over the years, this would be the first time I would have the opportunity to attend the runway shows debuting their collections, Inspired by a Guy Laroche dress, the author designed this evening gown for Vogue Patterns. It has a single seam at center back with darts positioned vertically and horizontally to enhance the figure. The muslin toile, or working pattern, at the right was used to refine the fit and determine the best construction techniques.
Couture Sewing Techniques - Claire Shaeffer