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Haute in here

A shoe hat? Students explain high fashion

By Paul Coover

Haute couture is high fashion design. It's known for being expensive and impractical for day-to-day wear.\nStill, couture clothing -- the designs worn by runway models in the most exclusive fashion shows in the world -- influences fashion even on the IU campus and Bloomington streets, say some at IU. \n"Each season something gets picked up (from haute couture lines) and seems to be appropriate to come down the fashion chain until it gets down to the kind of clothing you could wear in Bloomington," said Kathleen Rowold, a professor in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design.\nHaute couture literally refers only to custom clothing that comes out of a few design houses in Paris, but it is more often used to refer to any made-to-order outfit that's worn on the runway or red carpet or similarly exclusive setting, Rowold said. \nHaute couture, though, is slowly coming into the public eye at IU. For one, this year marks the first year that the Department of Apparel Merchandising is offering a certificate in fashion design, said Rowold. Then there's the recent success of Bravo's "Project Runway," where haute couture is often on display. All of a sudden, everyone's talking about fashion design.\nRowold said Americans' desire to look good is creating this buzz.\n"I think that right now in the culture in the United States, we are more than typically attuned to people's appearances," she said. "The people who are producing entertainment are really kind of cashing in on our desire to be beautiful, and I think that's where the whole fashion thing is happening."\nFreshman Alexandra Alvis came to IU specifically because it offered her a chance to major in fashion design through the Individualized Major Program. She said haute couture is significant for college students because it often inspires what they wear, even if students are unaware of styles' origins. \n"It's a huge impact," Alvis said. "You say, 'Chanel,' and everybody's like, 'Oooh!' Or '(Christian) Dior.' In pop culture, you see the girls with Dior purses and things."\nRowold agrees.\nShe said Burberry plaid is an example of this. Until recently, Burberry was considered conservative high design, said Rowold. In the last few years, it has been marketed as edgy, and now it's being worn by students on campus. \nEven if wearing couture-inspired clothing seems like a stretch, haute couture design is increasingly being seen as an art form, where creativity itself is worth something.\nBailey Redick, a senior majoring in fashion design, said she likes couture in part because of that artistic element.\n"You shouldn't have to follow any form or any sort of template," she said of designing clothes. "The couture designers get away from (that template) a little bit. ... It's another 3-D form of art."\nHaute couture can be seen as design that inspires fashion on the street, or it can be an artform itself. Ryan Gordon, a junior minoring in apparel merchandising, said it can also simply be a framework for students' own styles.\n"People should look to couture if they want to create their own fresh, individual style," he said. \nIf haute couture's popularity continues to rise, more students may be doing just that.

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