Bespoke or Couture?

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To understand the difference between bespoke and couture, let’s explore their origins and meanings. 

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The definition for bespoke is ‘to speak for, be commissioned, or arranged’ whereas, couture is ‘hand-made’. In the layman's world, these two terms can be interchanged as 'made-to-order' with custom measurements. They both suggest high quality materials with high quality construction however, there is a distinct difference.

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More technically, ‘bespoke’ meaning 'made-to-order' from English origin, is often referred to as garments made up from customer's measurements, and alterations made to their taste. Customers choose the fabric, design and 'speak' for the outfit; the garments are therefore, 'bespoke'. This process, however, says nothing about how the item is constructed. A bespoke corset, for example, may be mostly machine sewn, but still has the integrity of high-quality materials, design and construction, but would not be considered couture.

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The French term ‘couture’ means 'hand-made' sewing or fashion, with at least some 60% of the garment being hand-sewn, not machine sewn. This generally means hand-finished seams, hand-finished hems, and perhaps some hand-beading or other embroidery.  Then, there is ‘haute-couture’ that relates to certain fashion houses who are legally allowed to use this term in France. Some criteria for membership include: design made-to-order for private clients with fittings, have a workshop in Paris with at least fifteen ateliers, at least twenty full-time technicals, and present a twice-yearly collection of at least fifty designs. You may recognize some official members by their famous brand names: Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

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Why do I write this, you ask?  Well, I would like to explain that I am a true ‘couturiere’. Over the years, many businesses have brutalised the ‘couture’ name, claiming the title despite lacking the right qualifications, training and workmanship.  It is proven by their lack of quality, basic finish and general disregard for artistic flair and design.   There is a huge difference between basic dress makers and couturieres.  

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I was trained using French techniques, incorporated in garment construction, design, pattern making and fit.  Over the years, I have gained invaluable information building on these ‘couture’ foundations.  I am always challenging myself and updating skills through evolving fashion and trends, while keeping the integrity of the design timeless.  Some people even travel interstate and internationally to visit me. This is my passion, that I offer to you.

Helena x

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