How Rarefied Is Haute Couture, Anyway?

Cate Blanchett, 2007. Photo: Matthias Vriens

Haute couture is beautiful, technically dazzling, and accessible to only a very few. Prêt-à-porter, or ready-to-wear, is arguably more democratic, though runway pieces can often seem just as removed from everyday life. In the book Haute-à-Porter, out June 30 from Lannoo, author Filep Motwary examines the relationship between the two seemingly distinct pillars of the fashion industry.

Haute-à-Porter takes into consideration specific pieces like the corset and the crinoline, examining their roles in couture and ready-made fashion. It traces the history and influence of techniques like embellishment, draping, and creating volume. And it explores more general themes, like the idea of a “classic” piece of clothing.

Featuring interviews with the likes of Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood, the book accompanies an exhibition (curated by the author) at the Modemuseum Hasselt in Belgium, on view until November 9.

Click ahead for images of both haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces highlighting the best assets of each realm: models in checkerboard gowns, gauzy starfish-embellished skirts on the sand, and a red-lipped Cate Blanchett veiled behind a fishnet mask.