Ready to Wear Gets Couture Edge, Price Tag to Match

mary katrantzou outfit
Photo: Imaxtree
Couture-worthy? An extremely intricate dress on Mary Katrantzou's Fall 2011 runway.

Fashion purists will tell you that the word couture is to be used only in very specific instances, as outlined by the Chambre Snydicale de la Haute Couture. (Apologies to JWoww and the now-defunct Filthy Couture collection.)

But when articles of ready-to-wear clothing take hundreds of hours of work to produce and boast five-figure price tags, the lines are definitely blurring.

Case in point: A Mary Katrantzou dress from her Fall 2011 collection in floral velvet and crinoline with crystals and enameled roses, which the Wall Street Journal reports takes 150 hours to create and costs $14,200. Katrantzou sold 18 of the dresses.

Other examples of this not-quite-couture, not-quite-RTW trend include a gold embroidered houndstooth coat by Jason Wu, $15,000; a hand-painted lace gown from Valentino, $18,000; and a hand-painted organza and braided chiffon dress by Prabal Gurung, $15,000.

"There's a customer who wants this stuff, but it's like one in each city," Gurung told the Journal. "You hope to sell a lot, but five total is great." (For those not so mathematically inclined: that’s $75,000.)

Don’t expect the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to change its rules anytime soon—but this ever-increasing level of luxury in ready to wear doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

"Between all the designer collaborations and everything that's going on, we need to give people a reason to buy," said Wu (who, incidentally, has a line for Target bowing in February). "There are some things that just can't be done for cheaper."

In related news, check out the five ready-to-wear designers that we'd love to see create couture collections.