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High Fashion and Haute Couture in the Windy City

We all aspire to sew couture-quality garments, and in Chicago last weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the annual fashion show for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago. The Club is an association of women from all walks of life who love fine sewing and fashion, and this is the meeting where they get to “strut their stuff” on a catwalk to an appreciative audience. The theme of this year’s fashion show was “Hooray for Hollywood”.  Members were challenged to create garments inspired by Hollywood hits. It was divided up into 12 segments, each providing a point of inspiration for members. And what inspiration!

Check out some of the garments:

There were lots of animal prints on display in the “Out of Africa” segment.

One segment featured business attire, some of which was really creative. The workmanship on all the garments was superb. Look at that beautiful lining.

This gray faux Persian lamb coat and hat look as stylish now as they did when the wearer made them 30 years ago!

One segment included a single-pattern theme, with many members using the same jacket pattern. It’s amazing what effect different fabrics have on the same pattern, isn’t it? In this picture, you can see three variations.

In many cases, the members manipulated the fabrics, like this glen plaid with a floral overlay.

The skirt of this outfit is made from woven ribbon!

An entire segment was devoted to the little black dress.

And finally, the Red Carpet segment showcased a breathtaking array of evening wear, with gowns that drew ahhhs and applause from the audience.

While the fashion show is fun for members, models and attendees, it serves a deeper purpose. The Haute Couture Club of Chicago is sponsor of the Fashion Group International Chicago tailored garment scholarship. All proceeds from the fashion show go to fund that scholarship. 2010’s recipient was Katarzyna Grzesik. They had a number of her garments on display, and she modeled a showstopping gown on the runway.

About the Haute Couture Club of Chicago

The Haute Couture Club of Chicago had its genesis in a class on the English method of tailoring, taught by Helen Barker at the Central YMCA Community College. The women who took the class enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to form a club so they could continue to sew together. In a way, it was the precursor to today’s stitch lounges! Several of those original members are still in the Haute Couture Club to this day. The membership has expanded and grown over the years. Today there are over 100 active members. While there are several professionals in the club, as well as some fashion design students, most club members are serious sewing hobbyists from all walks of life. Their passion for fashion sewing brings them together.

The Club holds monthly meetings on all topics couture.  In addition to the meetings, the Club issues a monthly newsletter covering a wide range of topics. The Club is open to all sewing enthusiasts. Dues are $20 per year. If you are in the Chicago area and love to sew fashion garments, the Haute Couture Club of Chicago is well worth it!


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  1. User avater
    Mahogany_Stylist | | #1

    Wonderful. It was a great show.

  2. Patti | | #2

    Great pictures--thanks, Ann. One of the members of the show has had her garments featured in Threads numerous times: Eve Kovacs. Other members have written article for Threads--most recently Rhonda Buss--she of the woven ribbon skirt. Attending the monthly meetings is truly inspiring!

  3. User avater
    YarnUiPhoneApp | | #3

    I'm a lifelong Chicagoan...and to think I've only learned about this club from someone who lives on the East Coast is beyond me. It's unfortunate that this group doesn't get more publicity...but Chicago is under the radar when it comes to fashion and sewing, unfortunately. Maybe I'll come next year, the designs look inspiring!

  4. LaurieDiane | | #4

    Very interesting. I love this concept and think they need a sister group in Minneapolis. There are beautiful garments here. Perhaps I can look this up when I am in Chicago for the Pattern Review Meet up in May.

  5. TrophyWife | | #5

    I'd LOVE to have more information about this wonderful club. I live in Kansas City but, I'm thinking it would be worth the trip to join.

  6. sewfashion | | #6

    As a Chicagoan, I've gotten several emails about this so I'm going to clarify a bit. This group is not a true couture group and they would tell you that. It is really an ASG kind of club but with the emphasis on sewing clothing with women not just from the city but also the far suburbs.

    I've attended their fashion show and while some of the garments (and members are women I know with very good sewing skills) are well done as those shown here, many are mediocre/intermediate skill levels and trying. One year, for example, a woman showed a white coat that hadn't been pressed very well and had black scotty dogs appliqued along the hem with a matching beret. You could tell the seamstress had really tried to design something unique, so the range of skill is as widely varied as the taste which makes it appealing to a varied and broad age range of women. Couture is a little misleading in that I think most of us think of it as a great deal of hand sewing and skillful work so if you're worried you wouldn't be up to the skill level, you'd be mistaken as it's mostly about wanting to sew clothing well. It's a vastly different group than when Helen created it and juried garments that were in the fashion show. According to some long time members, that judging was a very tough hurdle for admittance to show.

    The group is not a part of Fashion Group International--they just chose that charity as in the past they've chosen different charities to support. Their show is very large and draws lots of family and friends to support their creative work. Just don't assume that they require a high skill level to get involved. If you would want to be in touch with a member to join, I'd be happy to pass along emails for more information as a past president or two are good friends. [email protected]

  7. Patti | | #7

    If one wants information on the club the leadership can be contacted directly:

    [email protected]

    The current members/officers will be more than happy to share the history, philosophy and mission of the organization. If you are in the Chicago area I urge you to attend a meeting to see if the club serves your sewing goals and meets your expecttions.

  8. Patti | | #8

    I do know how to spell expectations!

  9. Patti | | #9

    Grounded in the past; active in the present; planning for the future:

    At one time full membership in the Haute Couture Club of Chicago was restricted to those whose work demonstrated rigorous standards of excellence. The standards were set by Helen Barker, whose students were the charter members of the club. Today there is no such requirement for membership--no one has to present a tailored jacket for judgment. Each year the club sponsors workshops that employ some of the finest sewing teachers in the country. For example, one of the programs for the 2010-11 year was a 2-day workshop on the sheath dress taught by Helen Haughey.

    The leadership of the Haute Couture club recognizes that there is a hunger among many sewists to reach the highest levels of sewing artistry. To this end, the club is in the process of developing a rigorous certification program. Those who obtain the cetification will have produced a garment that would pass muster under the critical eyes of Helen Barker herself.

    Just to clarify--I am a member of the Club, and leave every meeting inspired. I was pleased to invite several sewing friends from around the country (and Canada!) to be my guests at the fashion show, knowing full well that the garments that graced the runway met very high standards.

  10. GorgeousThings | | #10

    One of the best things about the fashion show, and the Haute Couture Club of Chicago in general, is the warm reception each and every piece received from the audience. The members of the club aim to increase their knowledge and skills, and they are wonderfully supportive of their fellow members. As an instructor, I found it particularly heartening to see how enthusiastic everyone was about sewing, and how willing they all are to share their experience and knowledge. The group is really a treasure, and I would love to see groups like it in other cities.

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