Monday, January 2, 2012

couture vs. Ready-To-Wear and other brain teasers

I don't know about you, but I read lots of things online about industry methods versus couture methods (or vice versa) and I have gone through phases of enchantment with many approaches.  Nowadays, I feel reconciled to all of the options available.

I could wear this if I wanted to, because I can sew it for myself:

You might enjoy this article on tailoring vs. dressmaking.  It gives a nice definition of those terms, as well as explanation of made-to-measure garments and where they fall in the spectrum between bespoke and RTW.  The information is presented objectively and provides background and context for how these terms are most often used.  [I am not including the recent phenomenon of the gross overuse of the word "couture".  Here is one of many examples: CoutureCandy]

We DIY clothiers are creating a whole new way to enjoy high quality, unique style and the creative satisfaction of designing our own clothing.
Remarkable, isn't it?

While some moan of all that has been lost, we are at the cutting edge of what is new.  We are part of a movement.  Not only can we enjoy wearing clothes we like, we are dressing ourselves in an ethical way, given the state of global economic turmoil.  Don't get me wrong, I am SORRY that so manufacturing jobs are gone from the US.  I am SORRY that the art of tailoring seems to be declining, and I am SORRY that the great couture houses are slowly declining.  In the face of that, what can one person do?  I can take matters into my own hands and enjoy learning and doing for myself.

I am excited to be a part of something new.  This whole DIY thing is exciting.  No one has to follow any one approach, rather we can quietly lead the way.
Are you noticing some of these conversations around the blogosphere and in the newspapers?
What do you think?


  1. I love your description of those of us who sew most of our clothes--DIY clothiers! I'm going to use that--thanks!

  2. Happy New year, Robin! Ah yes, the language evolution that "couture" now means "expensive" or "currently fashionable." Love seeing those wonderful women's jackets in that article. I for one am glad that I no longer feel the need to reach that level of skill before I can be proud of garments I sew. I appreciate more than ever the time it takes to make something well fitting and long lasting but I like the kind, gentle coaching of a Susan Khalje to the harsh scolding approach of my home ec teacher. Some of the discussions about couture, bespoke and home sewers seems to take on those same tones. Hooray for DIY skills of any sort ....sewing, cooking, home improvement. IMHO encouragement is more inspiring than correction. Thanks for being one of those encouraging voices.

  3. The Haute Couture Club of Chicago will have back-to-back programs that will highlight two very different approaches to DIY-sewing: In February our speaker is Janet Pray from Islander Sewing Systems--industrial techniques for the DIYer. In March Susan Khalje will talk about the French (ie, Chanel) jacket--lots of basting and handwork. I use both fast and slow methods, but enjoy the slower, more labor-intensive approach.

  4. Genius! We are the cutting edge of what is new. I love that. Thanks for the article, which I'll read after I leave this comment. I was never DIY growing up - my people were such outsourcers. But my husband is incredibly self-directed and has an eye and mind for creating things out of nothing. He has taught me how to do this and I have caught the bug.

  5. I don't feel "on the cutting edge" as I have been sewing for myself for 45 years, lol. In 1966, it was expected that girls and women sew their own clothing, in my part of the world, and in my social class. Nowadays I am something of a freak because I sew my own clothes. Perhaps you are onto something, Miz Robin, ma'am. I'd rather be on the cutting edge than on a museum shelf. Happy New Year!

  6. I feel a huge resurgence in the sewing world itself and I feel that as with many other fields of interest, when you start getting to the top of the craft - like couture sewing and tailoring - there are fewer and fewer people who do them. But I think that as more and more people return to or find a new interest in the craft of sewing, there's more and more folks interested in the finer aspects of this art. And that feels wonderful to be apart of. There is so much information to be had on so many sewing subjects out there and truly its wonderful to be apart of that and to still be learning from it! Happy New Year!
    xoxo, Sunni

  7. Robin, you are spot on with your observation. I love what you said about us clothiers being on the cutting edge. I like the fact that we can make our own technique as we go along. We don't have to follow any standard, but find what works best for us. And share it if we like or keep it a secret.

    Great post and I look forward to seeing all the beautiful things you will make in 2012.

  8. What a well written post! I think its sad that tailoring and couture are slowly fading out, or though they only catered to such a high and small market and I would never have been in it anyway.
    Its great that people can make their own, high quality garment and not be earning millions.
    It will be interesting to see how things evolve, in the industry and couture

  9. Love it. To think that I am on the cutting edge at my age! Couture has become such an overused, badly used, word these days. I don't think that most of the people who use it have the faintest clue as to what it actually is.
    What's nice about being a diy clothier, and I love that term, is that we can pick and choose the techniques we want in making our garments having to neither make them all one or the other but just what we need or what works for us at the time.
    Great post. Have a wonderful New Year.

  10. Oh, I have to mention that I recently made a fitted skirt for my dd. Not only was she thrilled that it fit her perfectly,(her waistis 2 sizes smaller than her hips) but she loved that it was finished and sewn better than she could have bought. She referred to it as her custom skirt and was the envy of all her friends. Definitely a plus to be a sewer these days.

  11. Thanks for this its inspiring and should make us all proud of our work!

  12. Love the "DIY clothier" to describe what we do and thanks for letting me know I am on the cutting edge, just when I thought my edge was fading into the sunset!

    I do despise the overuse of "couture", Kiddy Couture, Juicy Couture, ad nauseum. Like Nancy, I think very few even know what it means.

  13. Thanks for the nice post. that we are Best cine tailoring in chennai and school uniform tailors in chennai .That I will inform about your post to my friends and all the best for your future post..

  14. Thank you for posting that link to Cutter and Tailor. I have recently started learning tailoring and that website (along with the forum) will help me tremendously!

  15. " In the face of that, what can one person do? I can take matters into my own hands and enjoy learning and doing for myself."

    I love this! Yes! Exactly right!

    Sometimes I wonder if this kind of lifestyle (slow cooking/DIY/internet communities, etc etc etc) is part of a New Feminism.

    I've been keeping track of what I do around the house... I do a LOT of "green" things as part of my daily life... Composting, vegetable gardening, making my own clothes, etc etc. I can do that because I don't have a "regular" job. But we save a ton of money purely because there's someone at home looking after everything.

    The way I see it, the DIY movement is very closely tied into that...

    And daaaaamn, that's a great dress. I vote make it. Right now...

    In fact, now I want to make a striped shirt dress...

  16. Also, I would like to say that 95% of the time, I rather enjoy all the work I do. I don't feel like an oppressed 1950's housewife, perhaps because I have my blogging and sewing to keep my brain engaged...

    Oh, oh, and I like to mix together traditional couture-type techniques (though couture is more a discipline than a collection of techniques) and the newest modern sewing stuff. Pretty much whatever gives me the simplest, nicest finish.

  17. I admire that you have taken matters into your own hands and that you 'put it out there' for all of us to be inspired! I love that suit, by the way!

  18. I'm nodding my head the whole way through this post... beautifully written! I am soooo with you on this one... and this dialogue is very exciting to me too. If only I could circulate irl with more folks like you...

    Now off to educate myself more on the difference between tailoring and dressmaking... thank you!

  19. Not too many years ago, I thought garment sewing was on it's way out. I owned a quilting and sewing store and all anyone wanted to do was quilt. I love the emphasis on fit now and getting it right on the pattern level. I'm also excited to be taking part in this wonderful craft

  20. Wonderful post, great links, good analysis. thank you for this conversation.


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