It's Couture Darling

I believe a Bespoke Couturier should be able to consult with the person and advise according to body shape, design and colour and then be able to construct the gown from the initial stage, as in all the fittings, to the final stage.

Josephine Romeo Bastone

Couture is a term that most of you who read fashion magazines will have heard of, but what is it really? And what’s involved with getting a couture gown made especially for you for your wedding day? Kate Burbury, Wedding and Bride Magazine, talks to a Bespoke Bridal Couturier to find out more.

“A couturier must be: an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for colour, a musician for harmony and a philosopher for temperance.” – Cristobel Balenciaga

Couture is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as “the occupation of a couturier; dressmaking and designing considered together.” And a couturier as a “someone who designs, makes, and sells fashionable clothes for women.” While this goes some way to introducing the art of couture, there is a lot more to true couture than this definition implies. Couture is best known in terms of haute couture; high fashion that is made to order for individual customers, creating a perfect fi t and design for them. High quality fabrics are used, and these are cut and sewn with great expertise and attention to detail. A lot of the work is done by hand by very skilled technicians.

The fit of the garment is a very important aspect of couture. The designer will take the client through a series of fittings to ensure the absolute correct measurements of the finished garment. Innovative designs and refined construction techniques are also major features of couture.

The Couturier Charles Frederick Worth is widely considered to be the father of Haute Couture as it is known today. While he created one-of-a-kind designs to please some of his wealthier customers, he is best known for creating a collection of garments that were shown on live models at the House of Worth. Clients selected one design, specified colours and fabrics, and had a duplicate garment tailor-made for them.

In France, the term Haute Couture is protected by law. Only select fashion houses are entitled to label themselves as Haute Couture, and to be able to do so they must follow these rules (set down by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing union for haute couture):

• Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
• Have a workshop in Paris that employs at least 15 people full-time.
• Present a collection to the Paris press twice a year, comprising of at least 35 runs with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

While there are set rules for Haute Couture, the concept of Couture itself is more general, but still follows the same philosophy when it comes to design, quality and fit. Unfortunately, Couture has come to be a term that is bandied about a lot, especially in the bridal industry, but Bespoke Bridal Couturier Josephine Romeo Bastone, of the renowned label Romeo Bastone Couture, defines real couture as working one-on-one with a customer to create the perfect gown for them.

“I believe a Bespoke Couturier should be able to consult with the person and advise according to body shape, design and colour and then be able to construct the gown from the initial stage, as in all the fittings, to the final stage.

“One does not have to make up the entire gown, although in my case I do everything up to the lining stage, so basically I do all the patternmaking/cutting for the fittings and follow through with all the relevant stages.

“A Couturier in the 50s actually cut straight onto fabric as opposed to making patterns. So over the years people have called themselves Couturiers, but I would classify them as dressmakers.

“There is a true difference between a person who has been taught to cut straight onto fabric, and to drape onto the body, as opposed to cutting from a pattern and making a calico.

“A true Bespoke Couturier should be able to start from scratch, as far as consulting with the customer for body shape, design, then colour, and finally be able to transform the ideas from fabric to the body.

“I don’t believe in calicos, the fabric simply does not drape. I work straight onto the first stage which is the foundation fitting, then onto the second stage which is the shape fitting, followed by the third stage which is the detail fitting, and then the final product. But there are very few left in this industry who work in such a manner.”

Josephine learnt the 'Art of Couture' predominantly from her mother Teresa Treccasi Romeo, whom the label is also named after. “My mother taught me to cut straight onto the fabric and instilled the technique; and my skills have developed over the years. I attended formal training at RMIT and attained my Bachelor of Arts in Fashion. However, I consider myself to be fortunate to have been taught from the best of the best in the field and to have been able to perfect my skills throughout the years. My philosophy is that permanent practice gets you the best results to achieve perfection for the final creation.

Having a Couture gown made is quite an involved process, and a time consuming one. Josephine starts her process by having clients come in and try on different gowns from her stock. She asks them to try on the gowns that they like, and then if they haven’t chosen dresses that suit their shape she will step in and advise them on a better choice.

Josephine allows for one fitting to work out gown design to suit a client, and upon ordering fittings are scheduled. These appointments are to go through and check the progress of foundation, shape, detail and final gown.

The length of time the gown takes to make depends on the individual design. The preference is six to eight months to work on and perfect the gown. However, if the wedding is scheduled at such short notice, my team and I are able to accomodate at short notice. "We don't work mass here, we work quality,” she says.

Most of her designs are inspired by the customers themselves. “I may have customers that has combined a few of my designs and realise that would suit quite a few body shapes, so I go ahead and make it as a sample and name the gown after whom it was inspired. I suppose if I have to draw inspiration I will always go back to the 40's and 50's timeless classics of Balenciaga, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. All were just out of this world and way ahead in fashion sense and attitude.”

Romeo Bastone Couture designs tend to be more classical and timeless, with added touches of modernism. “What I find is that ladies are focusing on classical designs with elongated bodices, whether it be on a slimmer line skirt or on a fuller skirt, and to a lesser degree with detailing on the skirt itself, just on the bodice. My clients prefer very classical, timeless lines, giving them a great shape around the waistline and midriff and that’s why I concentrate on the bodice element.”

The label is a multi Award winner of the Australian Bridal Industry Academy (ABIA) - Designer/Couture Gown Award and has recently achieved acclaim to being amongst Australia's top Couturiers, awarded the title 'Designer of Dreams.' Josephine Romeo Bastone was inducted into the prestigious ABIA Hall of Fame at the 2009 Awards and attributes her success to her passion and the rapport she builds with her clients. “I love my work. I have passion and that is what has made me succeed. I have won many Industry Awards because I work one on one with my clients to achieve exact requirements and clients wish to have this experience for their special day. I receive many photos and notes/reviews from my clients as a token of appreciation of the work completed after their events, which is truly gratifying."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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