Couture vs Ready To Wear- What Is The Difference?

Couture vs Ready To Wear- What Is The Difference?


In the fashion world, you will encounter many terminologies, some of which can be confusing and misused by even the most seasoned designers. An example is couture vs ready to wear. Most people think they mean the same and, as such, use them interchangeably. But that isn’t the case, as these two terms have very distinct meanings. As a fashion enthusiast, it is crucial for you to have the proper knowledge about your industry; this includes the language and terminologies specific to the industry. In this article, we will take a close look at the factors that differentiate these two fashion terminologies. 

  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – The Origin
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – How it Works
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – Purchasing Method
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – Affordability
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – Presentation
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – Product Prices
  • Couture vs Ready to Wear – Diffusion Line

Couture vs Ready to Wear – The Origin

When exploring the difference between these two terms, it is important that we go back to the origin. The term “Haute Couture” is derived from the Fédération Française de la Couturex, which is the body that governs the French fashion industry. Charles Frederick Worth created the first Haute Couture in 1868. 

Haute Couture is translated to mean high sewing. This is because of the high level of attention to detail given when producing a couture garment. It is not just a custom-made cloth but a one-of-a-kind piece. The couture designs have reserved and detailed patterns and styles. 

In past years, French socialites were the significant target market of couture designs. They order when they need to wear custom-made outfits for luxurious or royal events. But in recent years, it has become widely adopted in Russia, the Middle East, and Asia.

An interesting fact about haute couture is that celebrities wear them to promote the brands. In most cases, they barely own the pieces. Also, some people hold the haute couture pieces as an investment. They end up selling at a higher price in the future since couture designs are usually produced in limited quantities. 

On the other hand, ready-to-wear outfits are referred to as pret-a-porter in French society. They are readily available and not restricted like the haute couture. They are high-end garments that you can purchase from online and storefront boutiques. However, it is worth noting that some of the top fashion brands (like Dior) that are into haute couture also produce ready-to-wear pieces.

Couture vs Ready to Wear – How it Works

When comparing couture vs ready-to-wear, an essential factor that will help you understand the differences better is the mode of operation. 

For couture dresses, the customer gives detailed information to their fashion designer on what they want while the designer gets to work to bring it to life. They are always a perfect fit and will need little to no adjustment. In fact, they mainly include evening dresses, dinner gowns, and party attires. Customers opt for this option for special occasions, including weddings and red carpet events. Before a dress can qualify to be in the couture category, it must have met the usual standard. Production managers will examine and confirm it fits fashion runways and shows. Hence, the exclusivity of a dress does not only depend on quality materials. 

As for ready-to-wear clothes, the focus is primarily on casual and corporate attire. They are usually produced in large quantities and various sizes (Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large). Customers who purchase ready-to-wear outfits may undergo several fittings before finding the perfect fit. This predicament is because ready-to-wear dresses are produced in custom sizes, so you might not find the one that is your exact fit. However, though they are produced in mass quantities, that does not make them of lesser quality. 

Couture vs Ready to Wear – Purchasing Method

In the same way, haute couture requires much production effort and time; the purchasing method is more complex than ready-to-wear dresses. The body that governs Haute Couture is the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture. This body is located in Paris. Intending buyers will need to obtain a permit from this body before getting the product. Each owner should have not less than 35 pieces in a collection. This means that every owner has a unique collection, having signed an agreement to display it twice a year. However, the customers are at the top percentile of wealth, and they would not mind going through the effort. Haute couture has the highest price range anyone can find in the fashion sector. This is why less than 500 people worldwide purchase haute couture. 

Couture vs Ready to Wear – Affordability

When comparing couture vs ready to wear, the affordability is a significant difference. Couture outfits are costly, which further explains why only a few people own the product. In fact, many celebrities worldwide don’t own pieces of couture dresses; they borrow couture clothes for extravagant purposes like a walk show or fashion shoot. Though some ready-to-wear brands copy the designs, they may not have the same quality, but manufacturers better understand the audience or public interest. Many people desire to wear couture products but cannot pay for them. So, these manufacturers give them something similar for less. Haute couture outfits can be priced for as high as $90,000. Generally, designers tag couture products at higher prices than ready-to-wear. This is because a lot of time, work, and creativity go into it. It also includes long hours of handwork such as embroidery or beading. Although the high cost has discouraged many buyers, the sector has generated high revenue, especially in recent years. Also, the high prices of couture dresses are understandable because they are made with premium materials. These materials include gold fibers, luxurious wool and silk, pearls, and gems. On the other hand, you can get ready to wear products for way less. 

Couture vs Ready to Wear – Presentation

Couture fashion houses showcase their morning and evening wear two times a year. For instance, the Paris couture houses offer their winter collection in January and July. Only influential individuals are allowed to attend these runway shows. The guests already have the events calendar, and they usually prepare for it months ahead. There are also exclusive rules guiding the presentation, just as with the products. 

In the real sense, couture dresses are sometimes exaggerated. They depict a designer’s creative intent and the extent a creator can promote the design. This is why they are suitable clothing choices for runways and explicit events.

On the contrary, the ready-to-wear houses showcase their collections once every year. For instance, a 2021 summer collection will be displayed in 2020. It is open to everyone, with no restriction to less influential customers. However, the shows may sometimes include top individuals in fashion blogging. The aim is to reach a large percentage of society without losing its value. 

Couture vs Ready to Wear – Availability

Couture brands target high-paying customers who visit the fashion house to get products based on an existing fitting. Also, there is a strict regulation guiding production and market availability. The product descriptions will also indicate if a particular celebrity rocks a couture brand or not. For instance, Jane Doe in Givenchy couture would mean that the dress was customized to her preference. Among the reputable brands in the fashion house are Hermes, Balenciaga, Valentino, and Chanel.

On the other hand, ready-to-wear dresses are available in several sizes and forms. Hence, there are several options for customers to choose from. Although customers cannot get customized wear, they can tailor the clothes to their preference after purchasing. Some top couture brands like Carolina Herrera and Vera Wang display their ready-to-wear dresses more than they do their couture dresses. This is a marketing strategy most brands have employed – putting the ready-to-wear outfits at the forefront. 

While haute couture dresses are available during winter and summer, ready-to-wear dresses vary with economic and climate changes.

Couture vs Ready to Wear – Diffusion Line

The diffusion line is the commonality between haute couture and ready-to-wear. The diffusion line is when designers of top couture brands produce ready-to-wear products at a lower price. For instance, the diffusion label Armani collection is the Armani Exchange. Many people refer to them as sister labels, which is also the same for other top brands. 

Ready-to-wear producers implement a diffusion line that allows customers to buy branded wear at lower prices. Hence, most of these top brands have their diffusion lines, which target a wide range of audiences. The good part is that customers can copy celebrities’ designs at a low price. Although it may not look exactly like the couture dresses, it can be a cheaper substitute for those who can’t afford the cost and process of owning an haute couture dress. 


The vast collection of ready-to-wear clothes is possible because manufacturers have learned to channel the luxuries in couture appropriately. Despite the uniqueness of couture and ready-to-wear garments, the involved brands use them as a tool to promote the other. Hopefully, the questions concerning couture vs ready to wear have been answered in the information presented in this article.

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