Prêt-à-porter refers to high-quality in-fashion clothes that are affordable, designed by individual fashion designers or clothing labels but factory-made, the kind you can go into a shop, see, fall in love and buy in different sizes depending on your body. They are just there for anyone going inside a shop to wear and be ready. It is the opposite of couture fashion or made-to-measure fashion, though it is not mass-produced like your every day clothes like t-shirts and jeans. Another name for Pret-a-porter is ‘Ready to wear’.
Pret-a-porter clothes are sold in standardized sizes so that they are ready to be worn without significant alteration. Usage of standard patterns, and factory line production with cost-effective and fast construction methods make the ready to wear clothes inexpensive and affordable to most of us who cannot afford couture garments.
Pret-a-porter collections are brought out as a second tier collection other than their haute couture collection by most fashion designers.
As with most fashion, this term also has its origin in Paris. In Europe, for a long time only the rich could afford fashion and they had to rely on couturiers to make their elaborate gowns – it took a lot of time and the clothing was very costly. After the World Wars I & II even the rich could not afford these costly clothes. And there was a need for clothes that people could actually buy. Something that is fashionable and current but affordable.
The Italian-born French fashion designer Pierre Cardin is said to be the one who first came up with the idea of a ready to wear collection. In 1952 the French fashion designer Gaby Aghion, founder of Chloé brand came up with a line called Luxury Pret-a-porter – she is said to have coined the term Pret-a-porter. Yves Saint Laurent opened his Pret-a-porter boutique in Paris in 1966. Famous fashion designers like Givenchy, Coco Chanel followed with their own collections. Customers could walk into a shop and buy the clothes they liked then and there.
Today Pret-a-porter fashion is everywhere. There are fashion styles presented on the runways of fashion capitals of the world like Paris, London and New York.
There is a high-end ready-to-wear market catering to the common man who desires good clothing, which is still inexpensive – for them there are Pret-a-porter collections of famous fashion designers. These are intended as a marketing tool by the designer – it boosts the image of the designer or the label among the masses.
“They said pret-a-porter will kill your name, and it saved me“, said the designer Pierre Cardin, who brought about the term Pret-a-porter in the fashion world.
Today most world-famous designers have their own Pret-a-porter lines and usually present their collections twice at international fashion shows – February and September of each year as Autumn/winter collections and Spring/Summer collections.
Then there is every day ready-to-wear – the kind of quality clothes you and I want to wear for everyday life that are designed by famous designers and labels. These are all easy to wear clothes available at affordable prices for fashion-conscious people who still appreciate quality clothing construction.