Every woman wants to feel both beautiful and unique when she’s attending a special event, which often means choosing a designer gown that’s as distinctive as she is. When you’re shopping for the perfect dress, it’s normal to feel confused about the terminology – couture, bespoke or ready to wear dresses are all slightly different propositions, and it’s important to know the difference.
Here's our guide on what to consider when buying a unique garment:
What you need to know about choosing a couture gown.
Anything that's couture will be created and managed by a fashion designer and/ or their trusted team. It's also made in house (that is, in the designer's fashion house) and is never factory produced. The design will be imagined by the designer alone, and then custom made and then made to fit you precisely.
Couture gowns are expensive to buy but use the finest, most luxurious fabrication and exquisite workmanship. Often, they’ll be based on something the designer has shown on the catwalk and will be a one-off design.
What you need to know about selecting a bespoke dress.
Made to measure gowns are a collaborative effort between you and your chosen designer. You’ll come to the designer with an idea of what you’re after, and together you’ll work to bring your dream dress to fruition.
The price of getting bespoke custom-made gowns will depend on the designer you choose and your specifications. Excellent tailoring can make almost any garment work for any body, and it’s a great option for those who fall between regular standard size ranges. Plus, knowing that the dress you’re wearing perfectly accentuates all your curves and none of your flaws can make you feel like a million dollars, even if it doesn’t cost that much.
What you need to know about ready to wear gowns.
An easier option that’s preferred by many, you can buy off the rack designer gowns are readily available and come at a lower price point than bespoke or couture dresses. Often abbreviated as RTW they are machine manufactured pieces that follow a more standardised sizing guide than custom wear. Seasonality is key with 'pret-a-porter' clothes, so staying up with seasonal trends is more pressing. Boutiques generally carry a range of gowns that are popular for that season and will change their stock regularly, so you’ll always find new designs to try on
You can also shop online for ready to wear dresses and grab some great deals into the bargain. When buying online, make sure you have your bust, waist and hip measurements on hand to guarantee your choice is the right fit.
What you need to know about alterations.
If you want the made to measure experience, but not at the couture price point, remember that you can still purchase a ready to wear dress and have it customised by a dressmaker to suit your exact requirements.
If this is what you plan to do, search out a good tailor (your favourite boutique should be able to point you in the right direction), and ask them to nip and tuck your fashion purchase to fit your shape, including more faithfully following the lines of your body, streamlining your silhouette or adding/removing extra room in a garment. Always buy to fit the fullest part of your body and have your dressmaker take the rest in to suit.