Couture is not a new concept. In fact, the term—a catch-all for the design and manufacture of clothes made to a client’s specific requirements and measurements—has been used since the 1600s.
Of course, couture doesn’t look or act anything like it did back then.
At its inception, couturier Rose Bertin (the French fashion designer to Marie Antoinette) was credited for popularizing couture in French culture, encouraging stylish locals and visitors to order made-to-measure garments from Paris’ renowned designers and dressmakers.
As the years went on the biggest and best of them—Lanvin, Chanel, Shiaparelli, Balenciaga and Dior, to name but a few—expanded beyond couture, too, focusing their attention on ready-to-wear collections to meet increasing global demand.
Demand took a turn for the worse with the advent and exponential growth of online shopping, however; with the tide turning towards fast and fast-er fashion, many fashion houses were forced to increase costs or cease couture activities altogether, reserving true couture (original pieces, made-to-measure) for those with deep pockets and access.