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Sewing with Threads Podcast

The Vocabulary of Couture, with Susan Khalje | Episode 77

Video: Threads Magazine

What is couture and haute couture in sewing? Susan Khalje, who lives and breathes couture, explains these terms, why they are so important to the French, and how home sewers can practice this level of sewing. She also details the five elements of a couture garment, in this episode of Sewing with Threads.


The longtime Threads contributing editor and author of Bridal Couture (Krause Publications, 1997) currently teaches couture sewing, runs an online sewing club, and leads couture-focused tours to Paris and London. You can find out more about her work at SusanKhalje.com.

Terms Defined

At its most basic, couture is “sewing that you take care to do,” Susan tells episode host and Threads Editor Carol J. Fresia. Haute couture is sewing on the highest level and “is its own special universe.”

Making high-quality garments is not a practice to be rushed, she notes, but is different from the slow-sewing movement.

Elements of Couture

Susan walks through the five elements of a couture piece and why they matter:

  1. beautiful fabric or combination of fabrics
  2. amazing garment design
  3. spot-on fit and proportion
  4. garment engineering
  5. construction, which must serve all the other elements

Attainable Quality

There is a clear starting point to making a couture garment, and Susan discusses it. This construction expert also acknowledges the challenge of fitting while offering possible solutions for those without a professional staff.

“I don’t think these are wildly difficult things to do,” she says of the sewing techniques involved. Finely sewn garments are within reach for nearly everyone willing to devote the time and effort.

Hand overcasting on an armhole seam of a couture boucle jacket
Susan Khalje took the time to do simple hand overcasting to help control raveling without adding bulk to a couture jacket’s armhole seam allowances. Photo: Sloan Howard.

Listen in for more information from Susan Khalje on the importance of hand sewing and about sewing at a high level.

See Threads magazine articles by Susan Khalje here, and for one of Susan’s latest finely designed and sewn creations, see “Reimagining a Couture Look by Galliano” from Threads #226, Spring 2024. 

This episode’s sponsor:

Threads Tours 2024 logo with an old-world, urban river scene in the background

We must tell everyone about the trip we are planning and inviting you, our Threads audience, to take with us October 5 through 14, 2024. We’ve put together an exclusive tour to the Netherlands to visit textile ateliers, museums, and fabric shops. As the main event, we’ve arranged a three-day workshop with Saskia ter Welle of the Dutch Couture Academy. She’ll give Threads travelers in-depth instruction in draping on a half-scale form, along with couture embellishment techniques. The trip is packed with activities that are sure to inspire you.
Click to find out more about the Travel with Threads Netherlands Tour. The group is limited to 20 participants, so reserve your space now.


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  1. twiggles | | #1

    I found it very hard to understand the audio on this podcast. It sounds like Carol, and especially Susan, are talking under water. I listen to the podcasts each month - look forward to them! This is not your usual quality audio.

    1. carolfresia | | #2

      Hi, Twiggles,

      We apologize for any lack of clarity in the audio. Sometimes there is interference in the airwaves as we are recording and we have no control over it. Our editor does her best to remove any distracting noises she can (in this case, there was a landscaping crew outside my window making a huge racket!), but occasionally the audio quality just doesn't come through our recording software perfectly.
      Best regards,
      Carol Fresia, Editor, Threads

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