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Haute couture (/ /; French pronunciation: [ot ku'tyʁ]; French for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" or "high fashion") refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. "Couture" means dressmaking, sewing, or needlework and is also used as a common abbreviation of haute couture and refers to the same thing in spirit. "Haute" means elegant or high. An haute couture garment is made specifically for the wearer’s measurements and body stance.
It originally referred to Englishman Charles Frederick Worth's work, produced in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. In modern France, haute couture is a "protected name" that can be used only by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing, whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals such as London, Milan, New York or Tokyo.
The term can refer to:
- the fashion houses or fashion designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions
- the fashions created
Legal status 
In France, the term haute couture is protected by law and is defined by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris based in Paris, France. The chambre syndicale de la haute couture is defined as "the regulating commission that determines which fashion houses are eligible to be true haute couture houses". Their rules state that only "those companies mentioned on the list drawn up each year by a commission domiciled at the Ministry for Industry are entitled to avail themselves" of the label haute couture. The chambre also deals with piracy of style, foreign relations and coordination of the fashion collection timetables, and do some international advertising for the French fashion industry.The chambre also runs a Paris couture school to teach upcoming designers and technicians the couture trade. The school helps bring new designers to help the couture houses that are still present today. The criteria for haute couture were established in 1945 and updated in 1992.
To earn the right to call itself a couture house and to use the term haute couture in its advertising and any other way, members of the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture must follow these rules:
- Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
- Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
- Must have twenty full-time technical people in at least one atelier (workshop).
- Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
However, the term haute couture may have been misused by ready-to-wear brands since the late 1980s, so that its true meaning may have become blurred with that of prêt-à-porter (the French term for ready-to-wear fashion) in the public perception. Every haute couture house also markets prêt-à-porter collections, which typically deliver a higher return on investment than their custom clothing. Falling revenues have forced a few couture houses to abandon their less profitable couture division and concentrate solely on the less prestigious prêt-à-porter. These houses are no longer considered haute couture.
Many top designer fashion houses, such as Chanel, use the word for some of their special collections. These collections are often not for sale or they are very difficult to purchase. Sometimes, "haute couture" is inappropriately used to label non-dressmaking activities, such as fine art, music and more.
Members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture 
For the Spring-Summer 2012 season the official list of members is:
- Adeline André—Gustavo Lins (fr)—Chanel—Christian Dior—Christophe Josse—Franck Sorbier—Givenchy—Jean Paul Gaultier—Maurizio Galante—Stéphane Rolland 
Correspondent members (foreign)
- Alexandre Vauthier (fr)—Bouchra Jarrar (fr)—Iris Van Herpen—Julien Fournié—Maxime Simoens—Yiqing Yin (new in season SS2012) 
Recent Guest members have included the fashion houses of Boudicca, Cathy Pill (fr), Richard René and Udo Edling, as well as Eymeric François, Gerald Watelet (fr), Nicolas Le Cauchois (fr) and Wuyong. In the 2008/2009 Fall/Winter Haute Couture week, Emanuel Ungaro showed as an Official Member. Former members
- Alexis Mabille
- Anna May
- Anne Valérie Hash
- Callot Soeurs
- Carven (fr)
- Christian Lacroix
- Elsa Schiaparelli
- Emilio Pucci
- Erica Spitulski
- Erik Tenorio
- Fred Sathal
- Gai Mattiolo
- Guy Laroche
- Hanae Mori
- Jacques Fath
- Jacques Griffe (fr)
- Jacques Heim
- Jean Patou
- Jean-Louis Scherrer (fr)
- Jeanne Lafaurie
- Junaid Jamshed
- Lecoanet Hemant (fr)
- Lefranc Ferrant 
- Loris Azzaro
- Louis Feraud
- Lucien Lelong
- Mad Carpentier
- Madeleine Chéruit
- Madeleine Vionnet
- Madeleine Vramant
- Maggy Rouff (fr)
- Mak Shoe
- Marcel Rochas
- Marcelle Chaumont
- Nina Ricci
- Paco Rabanne
- Patrick Kelly
- Paul Poiret
- Pierre Balmain
- Pierre Cardin
- Rabih Kayrouz
- Ralph Rucci
- Robert Piguet (fr)
- Ted Lapidus
- Yves Saint Laurent
Italian leadership in European fashion may date from the 18th century, however French fashion is also considerably influential in terms of Haute Couture - when the art, architecture, music, and fashions of the French court at Versailles were imitated across Europe. Visitors to Paris brought back clothing that was then copied by local dressmakers. Stylish women also ordered fashion dolls dressed in the latest Parisian fashion to serve as models.
As railroads and steamships made European travel easier, it was increasingly common for wealthy women to travel to Paris to shop for clothing and accessories. French fitters and dressmakers were commonly thought to be the best in Europe, and real Parisian garments were considered better than local imitations.
The couturier Charles Frederick Worth (October 13, 1826–March 10, 1895), is widely considered the father of haute couture as it is known today. Although born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, Worth made his mark in the French fashion industry. Revolutionizing how dressmaking had been previously perceived, Worth made it so the dressmaker became the artist of garnishment: a fashion designer. While he created one-of-a-kind designs to please some of his titled or wealthy customers, he is best known for preparing a portfolio of designs that were shown on live models at the House of Worth. Clients selected one model, specified colors and fabrics, and had a duplicate garment tailor-made in Worth's workshop. Worth combined individual tailoring with a standardization more characteristic of the ready-to-wear clothing industry, which was also developing during this period.
Following in Worth's footsteps were Callot Soeurs, Patou, Poiret, Vionnet, Fortuny, Lanvin, Chanel, Mainbocher, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Dior. Some of these fashion houses still exist today, under the leadership of modern designers.
In the 1960s a group of young designers who had trained under men like Dior and Balenciaga left these established couture houses and opened their own establishments. The most successful of these young designers were Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, André Courrèges, Ted Lapidus, and Emanuel Ungaro. Japanese native and Paris-based Hanae Mori was also successful in establishing her own line.
Lacroix is one of the fashion houses to have been started in the late 20th century. Other new houses have included Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. Due to the high expenses of producing haute couture collections, Lacroix and Mugler have since ceased their haute couture activities.
For all these fashion houses, custom clothing is no longer the main source of income, often costing much more than it earns through direct sales; it only adds the aura of fashion to their ventures in ready-to-wear clothing and related luxury products such as shoes and perfumes, and licensing ventures that earn greater returns for the company. Excessive commercialization and profit-making can be damaging, however. Cardin, for example, licensed with abandon in the 1980s and his name lost most of its fashionable cachet when anyone could buy Cardin luggage at a discount store. It is their ready-to-wear collections that are available to a wider audience, adding a splash of glamour and the feel of haute couture to more wardrobes.
The 1960s also featured a revolt against established fashion standards by mods, rockers, and hippies, as well as an increasing internationalization of the fashion scene. Jet travel had spawned a jet set that partied—and shopped—just as happily in New York as in Paris. Rich women no longer felt that a Paris dress was necessarily better than one sewn elsewhere. While Paris is still pre-eminent in the fashion world, it is no longer the sole arbiter of fashion.
The number of couture houses decreased considerably over the 20th century, from 106 in 1946 to a mere 18 in 2000. By 2004 there were only 9 high-ranking couture houses: Chanel, Versace, Valentino, Dior, Givenchy, Gaultier, Lacroix, Mori, Sirop, Scherrer, and Torrente. The listing has been in considerable flux in recent years.
See also 
- Haute Couture, Its Meaning and Role in Fashion Today - Fashion-Era
- "What is Haute Couture?". Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- Claire B. Shaeffer (2001). Couture sewing techniques "Originating in mid- 19th-century Paris with the designs of an Englishman named Charles Frederick Worth, haute couture represents an archaic tradition of creating garments by hand with painstaking care and precision". Taunton Press, 2001
- Chambre Syndicale History and Development - Fashion-Era
- Wuyong - Dancing In A Haute Couture Debut
- "Haute-Couture Spring Summer 2012 Definitive schedule". Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- "HAUTE COUTURE - 19 décembre 2011". Retrieved 2011-12-22.
- "SS2012 Haute Couture Fashion week designers". Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- "Haute-Couture Fall Winter 2009/2010 Definitive schedule". Retrieved 2009-07-05.
- "Haute-Couture Spring Summer 2008 Definitive schedule". Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- "Haute-Couture Fall Winter 2008/2009 Definitive schedule". Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- "Haute-Couture Spring Summer 2011 Definitive schedule". Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- Jacqueline C. Kent (2003). Business Builders in Fashion - Charles Frederick Worth - The Father of Haute Couture The Oliver Press, Inc., 2003
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Haute couture|
|Look up couturier in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Introduction in Haute Couture
- "Haute Couture" from Label France, a magazine of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs
- Haute Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History
- "The Golden Age of Couture". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
- "Interactive timeline of couture houses and couturier biographies". Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Fédération française de la couture
- Haute Couture News
- Christian Dior, exhibition catalog fully online as PDF from The Metropolitan Museum of Art