Couture garments are some of the most beautiful garments you will ever come across. The attention to detail is almost overwhelming. While designer couture garments may be out of reach for most of us due to the price tag, home sewers can also sew couture garments. If you’re worried that your sewing skills are not advanced enough to sew couture, don’t be. In her book Couture Sewing Techniques, author Claire B. Shaeffer asserts that if you can sew, you can sew couture. Couture sewing certainly takes more time and patience, but it is attainable for the self-taught sewer.
Couture dress by Craftsy member RedPointTailor
What is couture sewing?
The definition of what makes a garment couture is a little nebulous, but it basically means that a garment has been designed and sewn to an individual’s specifications and measurements. High-quality fabric, utmost attention to detail, and hand-executed techniques are also elements of a couture garment. If you’re sewing for yourself, you’re already sewing garments based on your specifications and measurements, so you can sew a couture garment simply by practicing more advanced sewing techniques.
5 couture sewing techniques to try
Sewing couture certainly takes more time, but you’ll find that the results are more than worth the effort. The specific couture sewing techniques you’d use will vary based on your garment, but there are five basic couture sewing techniques that I think give a good overview of the couture sewing process:
Photo via the Craftsy class Sew the Perfect Fit
1. Making a muslin
When fashion sewing, you can usually get away with cutting your fabric based on your pattern pieces. With couture sewing, however, you will always begin by creating a muslin, or toile. The muslin is constructed the same way as the final garment so that the fit can be perfected. Once the muslin is adjusted and any changes made, the final pieces can be cut out.
2. Marking fabric
Unlike in fashion sewing, raw edges are rarely used as a guide for seaming when sewing couture. This makes marking your fabric extra important. Fabric can be marked a few different ways: with chalk, a tracing wheel, and carbon paper, or with thread. Thread-tracing or tailor’s tacks are preferred over chalk or a tracing wheel because the marks can be seen on either side of the garment. The downside is that either of these methods will take a bit more time, but remember that patience is key when sewing couture.
If you’ve used interfacing for any of your garment sewing projects, chances are you’ve reached for a synthetic fusible interfacing because it’s easy to use. Interfacings on couture garments are always made from a natural fiber and are not fusible, so they will need to be sewn into your garment.
3. Hand sewing
There is a big emphasis on hand sewing when sewing couture, much more so than in fashion sewing. For instance, all of the plain seams in your garment will be basted together before being sewn on the machine. Zippers, which are used less often in couture, are sewn in by hand for better control of the fabric.
Photo via Craftsy instructor Lynda Maynard
5. Seam finishes
A variety of seam finishes are used in fashion sewing, depending on the garment and type of fabric used, and is usually done by machine. In couture sewing, seams are finished by hand. The most popular (because it gives the best results, not because it’s easy or fun!) of seam finishing techniques is overcasting stitches along the raw edge. Seams can also be bound with bias binding, though this method is usually reserved for heavier weight fabrics since it would show through on the right side of the garment with lightweight fabrics.
Any of these techniques can also be used in fashion sewing; it’s a great way to get your feet wet with sewing couture and practice the techniques.