Creating Couture Garments
garments is a special skill that is learned over
time with practice and patience. It is a diminishing
art that is being replaced by cheaper, off-the-rack
clothing made in developing countries, where workers
are less skilled and paid a meager amount of wages.
There are many reasons why we sew our own clothing,
whether it be to stop the exploitation of the
�sweatshop� worker, or that we just want a better
fit in our clothing that retailers can offer. Maybe
we want something special, made with our own
positive energies manifesting into something that
carries special meaning.
The couture garment is a combination of technique,
proper fit, and quality. When we sew our own couture
garments, we are creating a special item of clothing
where we have paid special attention to the details
of the design and construction.
Hand sewing is an important key in couture sewing,
as well as straight seams, darts, and pressing
techniques. Along with interfacing and fabric
backing (also called interlining), they add depth
and dimension to a simple piece of fabric.
If you inspected a couture garment, the one thing
that would stand out most is the fine hand
stitching. The many virtues of hand sewing are
apparent: you have more control over the precise
construction of the garment; the top side of the
garment can be sewn inconspicuously; corners that
are too narrow for a sewing machine (such as lapels
and collars) can be navigated more easily by hand;
the removal of hand stitching does not ruin the
fabric; and lastly, the tension of hand sewing is
softer than machine stitching due to the fact that
there is one thread instead of two.
When constructing a sleeved garment, such as a
jacket, you will notice that sleeves are shaped to
fit the body�s form, and the fabric hangs correctly.
Steam and gentle pressing are used to coax the
fabric to the desired shape. Sleeves are eased into
the armscye by hand to produce a perfect fit to
allow plenty of free movement without binding.
Long straight lines can be machine stitched.
However, to prevent common stitching problems such
as fabric slippage and uneven lines, all seams are
hand basted together before being machine stitched.
Backstitching with a machine is not used in couture
sewing. Though it is a fast and easy way to secure
threads at endpoints, couture is not about fast and
easy. When you remove the garment from the machine,
leave extra room to make a tailor�s knot (also
called an overhand knot) to end the straight stitch.
A toile or fitting is always made to create a
pattern for a couture garment. It is basted together
by hand over and over for successive fittings until
the fit is perfect. The fit is examined multiple
times to make sure all lines are even and trued up,
and that there are no wrinkles or signs that the
garment is ill-fitting.
Thread-tracing is used to mark garments and
fittings. This is a durable way to mark garments and
it is visible from both sides of the fabric.
Fashion fabrics of couture garments aren�t always
lined. You will most often find that fabrics are
backed with a light fabric to stabilize and give
body to the garment�s fabric. If a couture garment
is lined, it will usually be lined in silk fabric or
other light natural fiber. This prohibits extra bulk
that would otherwise affect the fit of the garment.
Linings and backings should be made from high
quality fabrics even though they are not seen. Silk
muslin, silk crepe, cotton batiste, voile
handkerchief linen, or self fabrics are all
excellent choices for backings.
Hemlines are often controlled by adding weights.
Also, the addition of interfacing adds support and
creates a smoother hemline. Uses of bias-cut strips
of hair canvas, muslin, and horsehair braid are
wonderful ways to smooth a hemline.
Buttonholes and zipper are always hand sewn in
couture garments. You�ll also notice that patterns,
stripes, and plaids are always perfectly matched at
the seams, darts and pockets. You�ll even see
brocades and jacquard patterns matched.
If you traveled to Europe to purchase a couture
garment, you could expect to pay anywhere from $2000
to $15000 for a garment. Couturiers charge what they
are worth: sometimes over 130 hours of hand sewing
can go into a finished garment.
When choosing a design for your garments, picture
yourself paying attention to all these details and
the many hours needed to achieve this level of
perfection. If you want a garment that lasts and
that wears well, invest the time and energy into
using couture techniques.
Most people find it is easier and cheaper to by
clothing off-the-rack. But will the garment last?
Will it be made using quality techniques? Will it
fit correctly? If you make a couture garment, you
can be assured that the answers to these questions
will be an undoubted and resounding YES.
Resources used for this article: Bridal Couture,
by Susan Khalje (ISBN 0801987571) and Couture Sewing
Techniques, by Claire B. Shaeffer (ISBN 0942391888)