This page looks at couture vintage clothes.
All the image examples of dresses here are
from Vintagetextile.com who sell high end vintage fashion on the internet.
On the previous page I mentioned the importance of clear photography for
internet vintage sales. Notice how beautifully displayed the clothes
are on these models. Trains are artfully draped and fanned, whilst
sleeves are supported to show their true shape.
Antique and Vintage Couture from Vintagetextile.com
Many people want to concentrate on collecting vintage couture
only. Haute couture reached it's peak in the late 1940's to the end
of the 1950s. Thus couture vintage has become highly sought after. Haute Couture is a
French phrase for high fashion. Couture means dressmaking, sewing, or needlework
and haute means elegant or high and together they imply excellent artistry
and fashioning of garments. The top level of hand customised fashion
design and clothing construction made by a couture design house is the purchase
of a haute couture model garment.
Model haute couture
garments are different in that they are made solely for the wearer's body stance
and to personal body measurements. Exclusive made to measure clothes like
these are virtually made by hand, carefully interlined, stay taped and fitted to
perfection for each client.
This is time consuming
with about 100-150 hours for a suit and up to 1000 hours manual labour for an
embellished evening dress. An evening dress might have thousands of hand
sewn beads. It may have been done the famous Parisian embroidery and
beading firm of Lesage, founded in 1922 by Albert Lesage. An example of a
beautiful beaded gown from vintagetextile.com is shown directly below.
Vintagetextile.com is a
stand alone vintage website selling a variety of finest quality antique
and true vintage garments. Countless items are couture and most
have superb provenance. Each garment is photographed in great
detail and is accompanied by clear explanatory expertly written notes.
Some of the museum quality artefacts they sell are over 200 years old and can be found in
both mint and excellent condition.
Directoire-period fancy silk evening dress with
metallic trim, c.1800. High-style fashion with distinctive
The sleeves are a work
of art: outlined with green silk corded binding and scallops of gold
Their site is enjoyable to browse and is informative
about antique and vintage clothing from an investment point of view. These sellers really understand the many reasons why an individual would
want to buy a vintage or antique garment. Many of the antique and
vintage pieces they
sell are works of art. Dedicated collectors will enjoy visiting their
site to see luscious dresses, coats and scarves.
1920's vintage beaded dresses and evening wear are very
desirable as many are like works of art. Frankly the quality of artistry
is such that it's unlikely that similar items will ever be produced again as the
cost and existing skill base prohibits this from happening. This gown right is
an example of outstanding beadwork.
One aspect of couture that excites the vintage buyer is the
quality of materials used. The fabrics available
to the couture houses have always been very luxurious with expensive silks, fine wools, cashmeres, cottons,
linens, leather, suede, the latest novelty fabrics and skins or furs. In
the case of a famous design house the design and colour of a cloth, would have
been exclusively reserved for that couture house for that season of use.
Quality in couture fabrics has always stood way above the fabrics used in mass
produced goods. Typical fabrics used today might cost about £100 or more a metre.
Dependant on the Haute
Couture design house and the garment, the cost of a couture item today can run
to £40,000 and often beyond that figure. A Chanel couture suit for
example in 2003 might have cost £20,000. The price reflects an original
and unique design, materials of the finest
quality, superlative workmanship, customer service and personal attention.
It follows that if you are buying vintage garments with haute couture designer
labels of any era, the value of a vintage couture dress, gown or suit in excellent condition
will astound you. The low price of a couture garment in a poor and
tattered condition will also amaze you. Some mint condition couture
designs can sell for $10,000 and more (with provenance such as that of Princess
Diana) at auction, but the same unwearable item may
attract only $100 when in a tattered condition.
Outside specialists made accessories and innovative pieces and
complement the fabrics and fashion ideas being created. Superb
craftsmanship and exclusivity commanded a price to match. Likewise people will still pay for vintage
The lower priced designer ready to wear version called Prêt-à-
Porter makes large profits for the couture design house through the
volume of mass market international sales. These items made for
the ready to wear market and which include just about anything from clothes to
belts to perfume to powder compacts are also considered to be very collectable vintage pieces,
but are not as valuable as custom made or catwalk couture items.
Whether or not
you will ever be lucky enough to find a great couture designer vintage
dress no one can tell. It may be more likely than you may think, as
on occasion cast off couture pieces were passed to valued house staff
such as maids and housekeepers or to impoverished relatives. These
eventually surfaced from ordinary homes in sales when grandma moved to
simply been stored for years in grand houses where adequate room existed
to store wardrobes of garments. This beautiful black beaded
Edwardian gown left would be just the type of garment I should like to
Fortuny couture pleated garnet silk Delphos gown, c. 1928.
Fortuny's famous hand-pleating method has never been
successfully duplicated. The resulting garment is incredibly soft
and liquid, moulding to the curves of the body. From the grandmaster
of 20th century design and decoration.
twenties is where you want to be you will still have opportunity to buy
a variety of quality couture made 20's garments. There is a
collector's market for 20's clothes of all types including unusual items
like this exquisite, desirable and rare Fortuny couture pleated garnet
silk Delphos gown, c.1928 shown right.
One reason a
Mariano Fortuny vintage dress is so desirable is that every aspect was hand
crafted in the Fortuny studio. The original Fortuny method of
producing the fine silk pleated fabric is lost, but another reason would
be that for very occasional wear this late stylish example in a luxury
fabric is timeless and so could be worn today. Another probably
more valid explanation is that this garment was and is, fashion as art.
Stores often sourced garments from well know designers
of the day. Look out for bills of sale or labels which provide
extra information. Couture labels will be well hidden very often in the
make up of the garment side seams.
Search for the labels and note that true couture
has the designer name label usually with a stamped or hand written ink
number and sometimes the customer's name.
The quality of workmanship will also be very noticeable with
small, neat, even fine stitches around cuffs, hooks, fasteners, collars and buttonholes.
The garment was probably also respected by the owner because of the
initial cost and so is likely to have been stored well and should
great condition. Deciding to collect couture vintage may easily be
justified if one considers the phrase 'less is more' when choosing what
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