Haute couture is a phrase that many toss around carelessly. Some of my students foolishly think that a denim mini skirt from Abercrombie can be considered haute couture so long as they think it’s cute. However, “in fashion parlance, haute couture is something very specific: A garment that is completely custom-made, from impeccable lining to hand-stitched hem. Not only is the dress bespoke, the fabrics and embellishments are of the highest quality, and the tailors, seamstresses, embroiderers, lace makers and other craftspeople who spend hundreds of hours assembling these pieces are the most skilled in the world.” These beautiful works of art can cost up to $100,000, though you shouldn’t expect the design houses to give you prices.
Last night, PBS aired a documentary called The Secret World of Couture in which a British journalist tries to infiltrate the very elite world of haute couture. She travels to Paris, New York, and Los Angeles in hopes of finding one of the 200 members of a very exclusive club of haute couture lovers, from both old and new money . The club is more of a secret society with its very hush, hush nature. The designers featured in the documentary, Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, John Galliano of Christian Dior, Valentino, and Christian Lacroix refused to disclose any details about their wealthy clients, adhering to a type of doctor-patient confidentiality.
One of the club members who agreed to be interviewed is fellow Houstonian, Becca Cason Thrash, wife of multi-millionaire doctor and oil fortune heir, John Thrash. She is known for her posh parties and amazing couture collection. If you must ask, no, we don’t run in the same circle. Becca guides the journalist through the arduous process of becoming a member of the haute couture club. According to Becca and the other women in the documentary, once you go haute, you never go back. The ladies all feel that their love for the art form is a bona fide addiction. Each season, they absolutely must flock to Paris to add more designer creations to their collections. It’s an impossible habit to break, though they aren’t trying.
Personally, I love flipping through the pages of Vogue admiring the beautiful creations, but that is probably as close as I will get to the exclusive world of haute couture-wearing women.