Just What Is a Couture Gown?
Photographs courtesy of Junko Yoshioka
September 20, 2010
Just What Is a Couture Gown?
Gown Boutique of Charleston schools us in Couture 101
For the past five years, Charleston Weddings has put on a springtime bridal show and for 2011 we’ve dropped the word “couture” from its name. Why? Well, we realized it was a misnomer considering couture means custom, handmade gowns and we didn’t want to confuse a show of high-end, often-but-not-always couture designer gowns with 100 percent couture ones. To learn to nuances, pros, and cons of couture, we visited with mother-daughter team Terri L. Espy & Krista L. Roach, owners of Gown Boutique of Charleston on Daniel Island, as this year they began carrying couture designer Junko Yoshioka. Here’s what they shared.
CW: You carry Junko Yoshioka, who is considered a true couture gown designer. What would you like readers to know about her?
GB: Junko Yoshioka and her talented team have been a delight to work with— their details are unlike any we have seen, and the fit is amazing. Junko has fabrics created exclusively for her gowns. She has the most amazing laces, textured organza fabrics, and accent pieces.
CW: What made you want to carry her gowns?
GB: We had to have her gowns because they are so unique and very well made…a great combo. They are soft and feminine, and her fabrics are very lightweight. It is warm in Charleston for most of the year, so our brides appreciate gowns that make them feel like a bride yet don’t weigh them down.
CW: Can you explain the difference between off-the-rack fare to designer gowns to customizable designer gowns to couture gowns?
GB: Any company can put a label on a gown and say it is a designer gown, customized designer gown, or a couture gown—these terms are used loosely in the bridal industry. Many gowns that are marketed as “designer,” “customized,” or “couture” are mass-produced in a factory that creates the same type of gown for many different labels. Gowns made this way are often not made of 100 percent silk fabrics, and there is little quality control to ensure that a gown is made to the bride’s specifications. Many of these gowns are sold at highly inflated prices. Therefore brides are paying a price much higher than the quality of the gown is worth.
When you purchase a gown “off-the-rack” you are purchasing that very gown, rather than having a gown ordered for you. Most gowns available for sale in this way are store samples that the store no longer wants to carry [and can include couture gowns, too]. These gowns are always sold at a discounted price, so it is a great way to save money.
To hold true to the definition of “couture,” a gown should be made with 100 percent silk fabrics. How and where the gown is made are also contributing factors. A couture gown is not mass-produced by machines in a large factory. Couture gowns are hand cut and sewn by a seamstress in a designer’s workroom. There are many wonderful gowns made in the U.S. that are made to order as each bride’s order is placed with the designer. Because a bride’s gown is not made until her order is placed, custom changes can be made to the bride’s preference. Couture designers are intimately involved in the construction of their gowns, and brides can feel confident that any changes they request will be done to the exact specifications as ordered. To be called “couture” a gown must be made from the finest fabrics with excellent tailoring and quality of workmanship. These gowns are available in a variety of prices, and the quality of a gown is reflected in the price.
CW: If a bride is to order a couture gown, please describe the process from selection to finish.
GB: When you order a couture gown, your measurements are taken, your color selection is noted, and any custom changes you would like to make are listed and sketched. We then submit your order to the designer and they get to work making your gown. It takes approximately four to six months for your gown to arrive once it is ordered, and once it arrives we start the standard alterations process.
CW: What are couture gown prices like?
GB: Our special-order gowns start at $1,200, and our off-the-rack gowns start at $800. When ordering a gown, you pay a 50 percent deposit to place the order and the remaining 50 percent is due when your gown arrives. When you purchase a gown off-the-rack, you pay in full.
CW: Have either of you ever tried on Junko’s gowns?
GB: Not yet! But one of our consultants tried on a very fitted mermaid style with a low back and dramatic train. She has already decided that it will be her wedding gown. She just has to find the husband to go with it!
Flip Through Our Photo Gallery
See the Junko Yoshioka gown we featured the new winter Charleston Weddings here!