Haute couture refers to the designing, creating, and selling exclusive custom-made, high fashion women's clothes.

The term "haute couture" comes from the French language. Haute means "high" or "elegant", Couture means "sewing" or "dressmaking".

A business must be a member of the Syndical Chamber for Haute Couture in Paris, which is regulated by the French Department of Industry, in order to be called a haute couture house.

To become a member a company must employ at least 15 people and present their collections twice a year. Each presentation must include at least 35 separate outfits for day and evening wear.

Each year, in January and July, Paris hosts about 30 shows during the haute couture and 30 men’s wear fashion shows and again in March and October over a hundred women’s ready-to-wear fashion shows.

Since 1982, the Federation has been using prestigious places located in the very heart of Paris to present the shows: the Cour Carrée and Cour Napoléon in the Louvre, then the Jardin des Tuileries and later the restored Cour Carrée.

In early 2007, there are ten official haute couture member houses. Some of the most famous are Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Givenchy.

Haute couture clothing usually takes from 100 to 400 hours to make one dress, costing from $26,000 to over $100,000. A tailored suit starts at $16,000, an evening gown at $60,000.

Today only 2,000 women in the world buy couture clothes; 60% are American. Only 200 are regular customers. Often, designers will loan clothes to movie stars or other public figures for publicity.

Originally referred to French fashion and in France, now the term Haute Couture is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing.