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The dictionary defines haute as the French word for “fashionable” or “high class.” Couture is “the business of designing, making, and selling fashionable custom-made women’s clothing.”

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that haute couture “is made to order [clothing] 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.”

Margaret's the Couture Cleaner -- Master Care for All Things Couture

Chambre syndicale de la haute couture is the official couture society of Paris. According to its rules, in order to be called haute couture, “a garment must be designed and made to order for a private client with one or more fittings. The designer must have a workshop in Paris employing at least 15 people full time. And twice a year, a haute couture designer must present his collections to the Paris press at the haute couture shows,” says Williams. Sounds like some serious regulations, which is why haute couture items are so prized.

Williams says that some of the oldest and most famous names in fashion, such as Dior, Valentino, Chanel, and Lanvin, produce haute couture alongside their ready-to-wear collections.

Who buys haute couture? It’s hard to know for sure. Forbes.com reported in 2016, “Karl Lagerfeld said that the 2,500 people who buy couture are so rich and so secretive that they’re not even in Forbes,”

Check out The Secret World of Haute Couture on YouTube for an inside look into this interesting, overlooked area of the fashion industry. The segment starting at 9:25 min for on the making of an haute couture piece with Karl Lagerfeld is fantastic!)

Tell us: Who are your favorite couture designers?