Haute Couture has played a major role in fashion history for over 100 years and its influence is felt today even in the “everyday” clothes that we wear today. For those with an interest in fashions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Parisian Haute Couture has exerted a near-irresistible force on perceptions and a focus for those attempting to recreate those fashions. What’s not to like? Exquisite fabrics, flawless construction, and an attention to detail that’s simply mind-boggling combine together to create what can only be called masterpieces of art.
However, behind the glamour and beauty was the reality that these garments were created by armies of seamstresses, milliners, tailors, pattern makers, et al., laboring mostly behind-the-scenes. Recently, we came across some pictures that were part of a book published in 1910 entitled Les Créaeurs De La Mode by Leon Roger-Mills which gives an overview of the fashion industry in Paris. We have not done a complete translation of the book but it’s safe to say that it was no doubt intended for public relations. What is especially interesting is that in contrast to 1900 or before, the various couture houses were forthcoming with information and permitted photography of their operations.
Up until the early 20th century, Couturiers were extremely averse to much in the way of publicity for fear (often rightly so) of others using that information to steal designs and create knock-offs. The House of Worth was especially adamant about avoiding the press and it wasn’t until the passing of Charles Worth that the House of Worth engaged in any sort of publicity.
As with today, Haute Couture of the time dealt in the creation of one-of-a-kind garments made custom to fit the individual client. While ready-to-wear was becoming commonplace, it was definitely absent in the world of Haute Couture. When a client came to a couture house to shop for a dress, various styles would be modeled and the client would make their selection (couture houses maintained crews of models who were available at a moment’s notice). In some cases, a style would be selected for the client by the designer (Charles Worth was especially noted for this).
A key thing to note is that couture houses often worked off of standard patterns modified to the individual; underneath all the trim and decoration the pattern pieces were often simple and *relatively* uncomplicated. 🙂
Now we go behind the scenes…
From the designers to those who did the construction and assembly…
And then final fitting:
And finally, delivery:
Parisian Haute Couture relied on an army of skilled specialists to execute the designs and they often worked in less-than-optimal working conditions and pay (needless to say, none of those people could afford the garments that they made). Today, Parisian Haute Couture is not as prominent or influential as it was 100 years ago but the legacy still lives on and it never fails to inspire us here at Lily Absinthe.