This month’s American Vogue has a beautiful article on couture. Hamish Bowles goes behind the scenes at several of the top couture houses to see how the workrooms operate. What’s really special about the article is that is does not focus so much on the designer as it does on the relationship between the designer and his staff. And it all comes from the perspective of the directors and dressmakers.
In the workrooms there are two types of workrooms; the flou, or dressmaking, and the tailleur, or tailoring. Different sewers work in the two types, as it takes different skills to work with chiffon than it does tweed. Each workroom has a premiere, who is the head of that room.
There are basic skills needed for all couture work, but each house has different techiniques that set its work apart from the others. And each couturier works differently with his staff. Lagerfeld produces highly detailed sketches that are easy for his workrooms to translate into fabric. Lacroix produces less detailed sketches and invites the input of his staff.
The article is illustrated with photos of some of the staff for the houses. Especially interesting are the little pockets, or pochettes the sewers wear around their necks. The pouches are filled with their tools and around their necks are tape measures, and many have pincushion bracelets.
I don’t collect couture, as a general rule. It’s usually out of my price range, and frankly, not many couture clients come from the wilds of Western North Carolina. But I do have a few pieces; the Givenchy suit pictured here, a Chanel dress and coat ensemble, and a Jacques Griffe little black dress. I’ve been meaning to put together an article explaining what makes couture special, and the detail photos below will be a part of that future article.
The amount of handwork in this suit is amazing. It is practically all sewn by hand except for the actual seams.
The zipper is set in using a cross-stitch, which cannot be seen on the outside of the skirt.
It all matches up… perfectly.
The fabric is thick. Buttons are sewn on with a shank.
The wool is inner-lined in silk, and all the seams are finished by hand.