Inside the World of Couture
This section focuses on the production of couture. Each house was named after its creator and had a characteristic style. Some lasted for generations; others only as long as their founders were alive.
A leading house such as Dior employed hundreds of people. On the ground floor there was a boutique and upstairs a luxurious grand salon for showing the seasonal collections. A personal saleswoman (vendeuse) attended to each client, while fitters, tailors and seamstresses toiled away behind the scenes.
The London couture trade took Paris as its model. Many British designers trained in Paris, and although London could not compete in terms of output, its fashion and textile industry became increasingly profitable. For France, the couture industry was vital to the economy. In 1949 Dior alone provided 5% of France's national export revenue.
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Photograph of an evening dress by John Cavanagh. London, 1953 spring/summer Coronation collection.
Photograph by John French. V&A: AAD