Monday, July 23, 2012

Couture or Not Couture

I have a big confession to make. I’m not a fan of “couture”, particularly since that term is misused constantly. For us home-sewers couture techniques (a gazillion tonnes of hand-stitching, basting everything, interfacing on the interfacing, boning, stays, finishing every seam with glorious perfection) are IMHO mostly a waste of time. Unless of course you are making a bridal gown or a formal ball gown – then by all means, knock yourself out! For everyday wear there is no point. It just has to be sturdy and functional and fit the body reasonably well. OK, and look good too! Especially on the outside.

Couture has always been a way for the uber-rich to feel uber-special in their perfectly fitted and carefully hand-stitched garments. Though there might be a Big Name attached to the design the actual execution is usually by some nameless underpaid peons in a cluttered workroom. Big Yawn. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the details or the skills involved in executing them. But I don’t aspire to re-create couture-level garments. I have no need for them in my life. Call me crazy, but I don’t even admire the classic Chanel jacket. Probably reminds me too much of my childhood. Heh.

And do not get me started on how silly most of the haute couture runway garments actually are! Perfectly made as they might be, they are obviously not for real wear. They are a form of performance art. Some of the basic ideas may filter down into the shops eventually in a far more wearable form. Think colour-blocking, lace, see-through fabrics etc. But our streets are far removed from the catwalks of NY and Paris. Thank goodness since most of us don’t look at all like the poor animated clothes-hangers that model them. Couture houses make most of their money from their ready-to-wear lines anyway. Just goes to show you.

As someone who makes clothing for myself (and very occasionally other close family members) I have to be a generalist with my skills. In industry those skills are embodied in different individuals: designer, drafter/draper, fitter, cutter, sewer etc. so they have time to get really excellent at what they do. But I have to learn how to do it all myself. Of course we are all better at some things than others, right? I’m pretty good at cutting out and sewing accurately. I’m getting much better at fitting. My drafting skills are slowly improving but “frankenpatterning” remains my favourite method. Standard drafting instructions still need fitting changes made to them. It’s often a lot easier to tweak something that you know already fits. And as a designer, I tend to borrow ideas from others. It doesn’t usually come out the same anyway. Wonder how that happens?

Yeah, I still haven’t shown you my latest tunic. I have pictures but they’re still in the camera! And I’m already working on a new neckline for the pattern that I used for the Toasted Waffle Tee. I spent yesterday with another migraine so I didn’t get much accomplished in spite of my best intentions. Today nothing much is getting accomplished either. We will be babysitting the Larger Beasties while their parents go to a movie to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Yikes! Has it been that long that my baby boy has been married?

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