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  • Writer's pictureSiiri

Design Studies: Final Thesis Part 2 – Research 1

Dearest reader,

I have now reached the research part of my thesis project (the designing of an Haute Couture bag collection utilising bofily knowlegde Prima Ballerina -shoe collection as a starting point) which I am presenting to you in two parts. This first part will include my research on Haute Couture and 18th century bags which I will use as a starting point when defining the target group for my bag collection. Moreover, this part requires me to observe haute couture bags in order for me to gain a better idea on what is the current state of the market. Also note that the goal of this post is to present my research fairly briefly just so you get an idea what I am doing. If you want to know more about each topic I have left links and literature under each section so you can study them further, if you wish.



Part 1 of


Haute Couture

Haute couture, a French phrase meaning ”high sewing”, is often regarded as the highest form of (almost artistic) fashion produced from the finest materials by hand for private clients. Couture’s roots go as far as to the 17th and 18th century when Marie Antoinette’s dressmaker Rose Bertin became famous through the Queen’s opulent dresses. However, an Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth is known as the founding father of Haute Couture, and rightly so, for he revolutionized fashion after establishing his couture house in 1858, in Paris.

Thanks to Worth’s legacy and fashion loving Europeans and Americans alike, the first half of the 20th century saw the rise of iconic couture houses: Chanel, Dior, Schiaparelli, Lavin, Poiret, Balmain and Balenciaga to name a few. Nowadays, Haute Couture is still part of luxurious Parissian fashion but ever since the 1960s due to the popularity of ready-made garments its survival has been continuously questioned decade after decade.

The question remains, will couture see a new dawn in the coming years or will it eventually fade away? Do our lifestyles need couture creations anymore or will couture rise again due to the deman of sustainable, unique fashion that allows better individual expression compared to trends and mass fashion?

Haute Couture Literature And Sources

Business of Fashion. (2022). Haute Couture.

Croll, J. (n.d.). Fashion That Changed the World. Prestel.

Koda, H & Martin, R. (2004). Haute Couture: In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saillard, O & Zazzo, A. (2012). Paris Haute Couture. Flammarion.

Seeling, C. (1999). Muoti: Suunnittelijoiden vuosisata 1900-1999. Könemann.


18th Century Bags

Types Of 18th Century Bags
  • Small bags and purses made of leather, silk or other fabrics. Often embroidered and used for personal items, flower petals, perfumed powder or as gaming bags.

  • Letter cases and purses for carring letters and money. Often given as souvenirs.

  • Chatelaine, a silver or metallic hook with chains where the carrier could, for example, hang sewing materials or perfume bottles or other personal items depending on the time period.

  • Framed bags made of silver frame and fashionable fabrics of the time.

  • Tie pockets were tied under the skirt and used for carring personal items such as keys or handkerchiefs.

18 Century Bags Literature And Sources

Tassenmuseum Hendrikje. (2004). Bags. The Pepin Press.


A rebellious, extremenly ornamental style of dressing, decor, art, architecture and garden design developed in France in the early 1700s. Typical for rococo style are rounded, asymmetric shapes, flower and foliage ornaments, pastel colours, opulent gilting, eroticism, sensuality and dreaminess. In rococo clothing and accessories ruffles, embroidery and flower and choiserie motifs were used regularly. Moreover, rococo was the style of the nobles and, therefore, its flirtatious attitude was seen as frivolosity after serious and flamboyant baroque.

Rococo Literature And Sources

Victoria & Albert Museum. (n.d.). The Rococo Style – an introduction.

Majer, M. (2021). Fashion History Timeline: 1740-1749. Fashionhistory.

Laine, T. (2012). HI8 Taidehistoria: 9 Rokokoo. Uusi opetuksen blogit


Bag Observation

After learning about my topics it was time for me to get an idea of what kind of haute houture bags are currently in the market, what features they have, what materials they posses, what similarities they possibly carry and where their inspiration comes from. It was also important to see the price point these types of bags would fall in. Mostly, I observed bags via internet since I don't live in an area where you could easily access even a brief sight of haute couture bags not to mention their owners.

What you see below is my reports on different haute couture bags and brands, however, they are in Finnish so I will briefly explain my discoveries next, in case you are not familiar with the perculiarities of Finnish language.

So, during my observations I noticed that in general haute couture bags differ from "the everyday bag" in terms of their material, decoration, price, design or practicality. Of course, haute couture bags are expensive (ranging from 400 to 10 000 €) which is due to their design and brand but also luxurious materials used which in many bags seemed to be leather or exotic leather. It was also fairly common that the bag had metallic, brass parts plain or decorated with jewels or enamel. What is more, quite a few bags had some kind of intricate embroidery on them either in pearls, glass beads or thread. The size of the bags varies from mini party bags to bigger tote bags but, in general, I would say that haute couture bags tend to be either mini or medium sized, at least at the time I was observing them. Futhermore, the style of the bags varies from brand to brand but what was common was that each brand had their signature bag shape elevated in one way or another. A lot of the brands also talked about quality, craftsmanship, timelessness and elegance when describing their creations and inspirations, althought varied, were often historically based. What surprised me was how little I saw anything super, super, super extravagant.

View on Judith Leiber here.

View on Schiaparelli here.

View on Bvlgari website here.

View on Dior here. (I couldn't find the original page for some reason but this is the same bag in a smaller size.)

View on Mae Cassidy here.

View here.

View here.


Target Group

The target group of my haute couture bag collection was easier to define after studing the world of haute couture and observing its creations. I was a little nervious wheter or not I was able to form a realistic picture of my target group but, hopefully, I managed to capture the essence of, at least, some section of the people who potentially buy couture.

According to my research the target group of haute couture bags hold these features and qualities:

  • Their values match with haute couture.

  • They appreciate dressing and style as well as want to develop their personal style.

  • They follow fashion and have their favorite designers to which they stay loyal towards.

  • They may be collectors of certain bags or brands.

  • They see couture as art and investment, therefore, their budjet is large.

  • They have an excellent financial situation or are in a position to be able to save large sums.

  • Their work, career or lifestyle requiers regular social outings and culture happenings such as operas, theatre, fashion shows, dinners, galas etc. where dressing up is expected and practicality is not a requirement.

  • They hold positions in places where representing company/brand is important.

  • In one way or another they are educated, succesful and earn well above the average wage.

  • Most likely, they are women from 30 to 70 years of age.


Are you familiar with haute couture?

Does the target group describtion seem realistic to you?

Do you agree with me on the differences between everyday bags and couture bags?


Yours truly,



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