This photo shoot image was taken by Calgary photographer Aaron McCullough for our 2015 annual fashion event. All the garments you see on the model, draped over the sewing machine, and hung on the rack are created by Elfriede vintage couture except for one. I’ll leave you guessing which one for the moment.
Our philosophy at Ecole Holt Couture follows the founder’s principles of creating couture that is lasting. This means more than one wearing, more than on season, more than one year, and likely to last for several to many years. The way to do that is to put the best quality workmanship into it, using the best available quality natural fibre fabrics, and not least applying designs that last. We call this ‘classic’ design style.
How do you achieve this? The founder’s professional career in the fashion industry has lasted for over 60 years and what Elfriede noted were the styles that kept reoccurring in everyday fashion over several decades, or repeated over many decades since 1900, that included aesthetic appeal and functionality. Although slight differences in detail, material, and uses have changed, the basic garment remained authentic in design.
Elfriede used those historic, vintage, and trendy fashion garment commonalities to demonstrate and teach applied sewing methods and techniques from the simple to the highly complex in Ecole Holt Couture’s Dressmaking, Couture and Tailoring programs. Students learn how to apply design elements, how to incorporate functionality, suitability and personal style, for each prescribed project employing relevant work sketches, appropriate fabrics and materials, custom measurement taking, original pattern drafting, cutting, assembling, fitting, appropriate construction, pressing methods, sewing, and detailing. That is a lot of information applied to each project.
Even though the way we live today and fashion is different than even 20 years ago, the same principles still apply, and perhaps even more so, to garments as we go forward and return to more sustainable fashion in 2020’s.
Have you decided which garment you think is the most recent one in the photo? The green linen safari style dress on the rack is the newest created by one of our students during their time at Ecole Holt Couture as one of the 50 garments created during four years of full-time instruction. And yes, the safari style is just one which has come in and out of fashion since around 1910 morphing from sport hunting jackets to casual dresses to men’s shirts to quite formal ladies suits. The details identify the general style, the designer or client [ultimate consumer] defines the current colour and occasion, but the creator ensures the appropriate fabric, the most functional with the best fit, and the appropriate sewing construction methods that make it come to life.
As we ended our full-time on-campus instruction and slowly transition to home-study and guided study-at-your-own-pace online instruction, combined with on-site workshops, Ecole Holt Couture’s original teaching methods endure. We will post some free introductory videos to our YouTube channel so you can get an insight to our teaching methods and decide whether you’d like to take up this craft as a career or as a valuable life skill-set.
It seems like a long time ago, and yet just like yesterday, since Ecole Holt Couture hosted its first fashion event ‘ONE’, that so many wonderful creatives contributed to making it a success. We’ve hosted many fashion events over the years, with all our treasured volunteers and creative experts, whom without the events would never have even lifted off the ground. We have journeyed together and come a long way with our many students and graduates, and event volunteers we are continuing to evolve.
If you are new to EHC, this is what we do and what we don’t do. We can teach you ‘how to’ from visualizing and refining your ideas, all the in-between bits, and take you all the way to making your ideas a reality using your own hands.
Learning these skills and gaining relevant experience doesn’t happen overnight and make years to learn. We can take the mystery out of what it takes to become competent and proficient to work at this professionally and teach you the component parts of the art and craft of dressmaking, couture, and tailoring. We don’t teach how to become a fashion designer; you already know that you’ve got great taste and ideas. We can’t teach that; you’ve either got that gift or not.
We can tell you what we’ve done to create a sustainable business, as Elfriede the Founder created an entire 65 year career on dressmaking, couture and tailoring, what worked and what didn’t work. What we can’t do is tell you how to run your own business. That depends on your lifestyle goals, your market, your vision, your resources, and your location, etc. There are so many excellent business coaches and business training options today, it really is an asset to be able to choose what suits you best.
For years we have trained and mentored students to do develop their skills, knowledge, and passion for sewing in creating high quality professional level garments. We’ve witnessed the progress, the elation when the proverbial ‘lightbulb’ comes on, and the results that the right training can achieve. We’ve also seen how hard students have worked and the dedication they put into their learning, and the sacrifices they’ve made to achieve those results. Today it is no different, but the circumstances of life have changed today.
We have also taken note of and recognized the challenges and barriers that many students today face. Whether it be with limiting finances, with family and employment commitments, and the time-limits many would-be learners must commit to full-time learning. We have responded to all these factors by changing the way we deliver will our programs.
Starting 2021 EHC have ceased to offer full-time on-site classes for Dressmaking or Couture & Tailoring, but instead will be offering our curriculum in shorter more manageable progressive modules that offers more flexibility for today’s realities.
We are developing learning space options for our students with time and financial constraints. With the advantage of using the amazing potential that online learning provides, we will offer home-study videos and online consultations, using a secure and private members platform bringing together a whole community of current and past students and graduates. And in combination with on-site workshops and events will continue to provide guidance, tuition, and support for our learners.
We say ‘learners’ because learning and sharing ideas never stops with certification awards. This art and craft always offers something new far beyond the programs. These skills and knowledge combined with new design ideas always presents new opportunities for growth and earning potential.
With this new delivery method and our new business operating model we will still provide the same comprehensive training that we have always delivered, however at a pace that is more aligned with your own pace of learning and with multiple progressive learning modules. Still project-based learning, the cumulative result of achieving all relevant module level certifications, will offer our official dressmaking certificate and couture & tailoring diploma following successful the outcome of each respective final exam.
Another major advantage is that the cost for the training can be broken down into more manageable segments when paid for each consecutive learning module as you go, rather than paying for the full two-year program up front, as it had been mandated by the governing authority over our previous business operating model.
Although, a lump sum of several thousand dollars is a huge investment, few would-be students had that amount tucked away, and naturally needed extra student loans to access this education opportunity. In offering ongoing, and/or lifetime memberships to our learning platform will give everyone the opportunity and the time to raise funds for their education investment without being burdened with student loans afterwards that may take years to repay.
You make the choice of how to raise funds sourced from your savings, through the support of your family, or you can continue your current employment, you could fund-raise through your community for your education using GoFundMe.com, community grants, or other crowdfunding methods. There are many ways to afford training if you’re willing to look for them. We’ve kept our modules very affordable for the type of master level training you are receiving.
Don’t worry if you are not quite sure this is the right fit for you. You don’t have to commit to joining our membership program right away. It won’t even be launched for several months, and in the meantime, we are uploading a load of free beginner videos on our YouTube channel so that you can dip your toes and test the waters first, to find out if our style of teaching appeals to you and if it works for you. It won’t work for everyone, and that’s OK too. We have a tried and tested method of teaching that we are very good at, but it’s not good for everyone. Education is and should be viewed as an investment, and no one should invest in something they don’t trust, or think will provide a good return.
Looking to the future, we are very excited and encourage you to watch this space for details and updates in 2021.
There are several ways to follow EHC: our website at http://www.ecoleholtcouture.com [which still needs major updates BTW], our FB page and Twitter which are current, our Blogsite, our YouTube channel all accessed from our website, and our Newsletter that you can sign up for by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to you for following us so far! Please feel free to share this with your friends and family.
Hi everyone! Hope you are all doing well in this almost ‘post’ pandemic period. I say almost, because with all my fingers crossed we won’t be experiencing a fourth wave of Covid19 or its variants. Please do take any precautions you feel comfortable with wherever you go!
Looking at this lovely sampler, embroidered on quite possibly hand-woven linen, you can see the care and precision of the work that has been put into these buttonholes with the finely stitched decoration surrounding the hole. This embroidery was created to enhance a purely functional detail such as a buttonhole.
As with all hand stitching, it requires experience to be done well. Not only that, but it also creates a signature upon the project being done. Let me refer you to the practice used in Men’s tailoring.
In Men’s tailoring there are divisions of labour in the making of bespoke items or suit of items. One person will be the cutter, another will work on jackets [coats], another the trousers, and another will be creating the vests and another the shirts. The detailing work is also divided into another division of labour where one crafts-person will do nothing else but hand-stitch buttonholes. One can see that each crafts-person will have a particular style which you can visually recognize. This means that even though there may be many people creating buttonholes, there will never be two project pieces that are ‘identical. They will be ‘identifiable’, in effect, creating that crafts-person’s signature. So, when inspecting a piece that has been handmade in the past, you can identify, whether more than one person has been working on the same piece.
It is the same with all handwork, and in the piece pictured below. Even if two highly skilled people were to embroider the same pattern, they would not look exactly the same. They would be identifiably different.
In couture and tailoring, this is also true. Even though, two or more people will have been trained by one master, all work that is created will be identifiably different. This means, that although one designer may try to copy someone else’s garment, it will never be exactly the same. However, at Ecole Holt Couture we teach our students to never copy any garment. Each garment in couture [and bespoke tailoring] must be one of a kind. In effect, just creating a piece by single maker makes it unique because no one can exactly copy your exact methodology or your exact techniques. This is encouraging because it is tangible proof of your own unique work, if any doubts should arise.
This buttonhole sampler was made many years ago, but today our clothing is much simpler in style, and much less detailed. However even on simple clothing or a simple design, one can still add some detailing method either on the surface or on the inside of the garment which creates a signature or a style either of the creator, or the wearer, or both. This will identify a garment as uniquely yours.
At Ecole Holt Couture we emphasize the unique nature of ‘hand-made’ or creating things by hand. Beginning with the thought process that goes into creating a garment which is unique to each individual. From the intake of information, the planning, sketching, the drafting of a new pattern, the creation of a toile for the first fitting, the unique layout of the pattern pieces on the final fabric, each construction stage, to the finishing and the detailing will all be unique to the creator. And each designer/creator will in fact, be leaving their signature upon each garment. This is one of the most exciting aspects of couture and tailoring. Each and every piece is unique, not only in style but in its execution.
We’ve reached the end of term, as well as the end of the 2019-2021 Certificate Program. Sort of.
Because of the accumulation of Covid19 restrictions during the last 18 months, putting us a little behind schedule, we haven’t actually completed the term. So we will continue our classes for another couple of months with a flexible schedule so that all current students receive all the instruction and input that had been our method for the last 13 years.
When that has been accomplished we will plan the celebrations that the graduates are so looking forward to. We are very impressed with their commitment and talent, and anticipate a very interesting result!
Stay safe, enjoy the summer… will keep you informed!
My sincere apology for dropping the ball and not posting any new videos for the last 2 months! As life would have it sometimes curve balls get thrown at you that need your full attention. So that’s the reason. But also, we are committed to completing our full-time studies program with our amazing students. They’ll be graduating this spring, and with the pandemic restrictions we are about 2 months behind and catching up slowly. We will run overtime for a few weeks in the best case scenario, but we want to make sure every student receives the program full instruction.
Thank you so much for continuing to follow us, we appreciate every one of you and hope to get on with our new delivery system soon, albeit a little later than what we had hoped.
Probably better to watch the video, it has more information than me rambling on here…but in summary:
Pattern Drafting is a skill in huge demand in the fashion industry, and Ecole Holt Couture teaches pattern drafting in the traditional ‘hand drawn’ way as distinct from CAD, computer assisted drafting.
We also teach draping and modelling as an aid to pattern drafting. EHC teaches pattern drafting as an integrated part of the whole curriculum for Dressmaking, Couture and Tailoring.
We believe that pattern drafting cannot be separated from the designing, construction methods or detailing of any garment, and especially for custom or bespoke garments. A practitioner who doesn’t fully understand pattern drafting doesn’t fully appreciate the interconnections between the design, the numerous construction methods, sewing techniques, or even the chain of processes involved in professional dressmaking, couture and tailoring.
At EHC we use different means to help students learn pattern drafting, and we strive to make sure all students fully comprehend all the curriculum by the time they have achieved their Certificate and Diploma awards.
If pattern drafting were an easy skill to learn, then many more designers, dressmakers, couturiers and tailors would be doing it than actually are able to. To be clear, pattern drafting is a highly specialized skill that commands high rewards.
Ecole Holt Couture (EHC) teaches couture sewing skills and methods for application to career Dressmakers, Couturiers and Tailors. We also teach these same skills and methods for those who love to sew who just have a love and appreciation for high quality craftsmanship in the art of couture. Creating is exciting, Mastering is satisfying. How do you start? At the beginning.
We already have a handful of very basic videos free to view, but we are working on more critical fundamental instruction videos if you are interested in knowing a little more.
Ecole Holt Couture is gearing up to soon post our Free ‘introduction to couture sewing’ course on our YouTube Channel. It would be good to know what basic tools and equipment will be needed for couture sewing! Here is a list of tools, equipment and materials you’ll need to get started. This by far is not the entire list, but most of these listed are good for a lifetime of use!
We will be posting a separate video for each one explaining the features, and what to look for when you search them out (refer to our playlists). And, maybe you already own some of these or have a special someone in your life that would love to hand them on to you!
We won’t have any sources linked to the items because we are not affiliated or sponsored by any company or supplier; the choice is yours and the internet has so many resources to choose from, that you would be better able to source them from your particular locale and situation. We do recommend to use key words and phrases in your browsers search bar to to your research. [Ecole Holt Couture does have its preferred suppliers, but those will be specifically shared with students in our program].
Being an ardent admirer of authentic haute couture and while you attend vintage haute couture exhibits, the displays make your mouth water and your heart leap to just witness the artform with its high level of craftsmanship, ‘they look so perfect, no one can do that anymore!’ You crave everything about haute couture garments and are drawn to their glamour, elegance and fine craftsmanship.
As a devoted fan of high-end designer work; in awe you wonder who makes up their amazing clothes! You wish you knew how to do that too. Disappointingly, you are not aware of any master couturiers taking on new apprentices in your locale. ‘Are apprentices even a thing anymore? Who teaches sewing at that level anyway?’
Determined to make-up that design idea you’ve played with in your head for months now, maybe years. In fact, you have a load of great ideas pinned to your peg board or sketched in your journal. You want to create them, and you know you could do it, if only you had the right skills. But you are stuck. ‘They all said it is easy, anyone can do it. So, why can I not do it! And, I have watched hundreds of how-to videos! What are they not telling me?’
Searching everywhere for a commercial sewing pattern that closely resembles what you have in mind, you finally found one, looked at it again but saw some issues that you cannot resolve. Confused now, ‘what point are all those bits and pieces, how to they attach and where do they go, and why are they that odd shape? I could do better starting from scratch!’
Seriously, you would be happy to just sew everyday clothes that you love wearing. Like at least one decent winter coat that really would keep you warm and the wind out, has right size pockets in the right places, and looks like it literally leapt right off a fashion runway stage. To sew a pair of comfortable trousers that fit properly making you look a bit taller, thighs smaller, making your booty look totally awesome, but at the same time obscures your slightly embarrassing love handles. Or a jacket, with sleeves that reach right down to your wrists even when you bend your arms, and buttons-up easily over around your bust-line. ‘These are not unrealistic fairy-tale expectations, they really aren’t! Why can’t I get it to fit right?’
What materials should I use? I don’t even know what it’s called but, ‘it is really soft and feels like’… ‘But I’m afraid to mess it up, and I really don’t want to waste more fabric and money, again. What does ‘good quality’ fabric mean anyway, and how much in reality would it cost to make? What is the problem with cheap fabric anyway?’ Now your conscience bites; ‘what about all the mountains of tossed garments that will never decay’ (and you’re already feeling rotten about the environmental burden). ‘How can anyone justify having anything new at all! What about re purposing stuff in my wardrobe, how do I do that? I just want something new that will last for a long time!’
You’ve collected a lot of ‘time saving’ sewing gadgets you realize haven’t lived up to their claims, but they look pretty neat on the shelf. You loaded your credit card up again by purchasing that dream sewing machine [yup, another one that you don’t have room for] that promises to do everything you fantasized about. And you will use them all some day once you figured out how they work. ‘Does everyone have trouble getting the stitches to look straight? Aren’t sewing machines supposed to miraculously sew things together at lightening speed? Why would anyone sew anything by hand anymore? But then, why can’t we sew and put together things by hand? I’m not sure I could do that, it seems complicated.’
You never have owned an iron and are ‘darned proud of it!’ You are not going to slave over anything that needs pressing. Ever. That was over decades ago. Although, you do admire how well clothes stand out when they are brand new. You recognize some clothing seems to stay so much neater looking than others, and wonder why some look totally rubbish after they’ve been worn a few times? ‘How did they ever manage to keep clothing wearable for so long years ago? Why don’t mine look smart and stay like that?’
Miserable and defeated, your hands up, incapable of instantaneously turning out a decent garment like the neighbourhood seamstress who claims to sew up a suit in a few days! Or maybe, you have misunderstood, convinced that is the amount of time it should take, shouldn’t it? In any case, ‘I wish some one would actually say the words – it doesn’t magically happen at the snap of your fingers!’
Discouraged with the results that you are getting, nothing looks perfectly right, and some things are most definitely ‘off’ about your creation. You followed all the instructions condensed and distilled from the mountain of ‘how to’ sewing guides. You are continually frustrated because there is no one that has the knowledge or experience to guide you along. ‘Why can’t I just find an expert to ask and show me how! Where is everyone!?!’
The sting is real! We get it.
That overwhelming extremely frustrating feeling, of resignation that it might be too late, my expectations are too high and unachievable, and that I will never get there.
But, what if the solution to relieve those feelings of frustration, helplessness and creative despair was available.
What if your skills deficit was fill-able and your knowledge barrier were removed?
What if it became possible and accessible to you?
What if, you had found an experienced guide who would [take you by the hand figuratively speaking] lead you through the wilderness of information, clear cutting a path of learning for you.
If at the end of your journey [by the way this is not just a casual stroll] the result would be a transformation from ‘unknowing’ to ‘confidence’ in your skills and knowledge that would enable you to become the master of your creations.
And you could also then visualize many more routes of opportunity that you never knew existed before.
This is who we are and what we do.
Ecole Holt Couture was designed to be that kind of professional guide.
To help you prepare for the hike (up the learning curve), first we begin by assuming that you are a complete novice.
With simple explanations and demonstrations, we teach you the basics that you can learn and practice on your own before you commit to the amazing journey of transformation ahead.
We will have our foundation instruction videos posted on our YouTube channel. You can follow and practice the basic modules in the privacy of your own internet space for free. No one ever needs to know that you didn’t know how to accomplish them all along.
After you have completed the basic modules, perhaps you discovered that you hate sewing by hand, it is a nightmare, and don’t want to do this after all. That is good! Because then you haven’t wasted any money or invested more time than necessary! There will be another way for you to realize your dreams, just need to keep searching.
But on the other hand, if you discover you love how satisfying [and seriously FUN] it is to be able to be a little bit self-sufficient to know how to sew buttons back on, sew up a loose hem, mend a broken seam, feel inspired to sew something completely by hand, then you may have also discovered the key. The relatedness between your eyes, hands, mind and your soul.
If you discover being in your own head-space alone with your thoughts is enjoyable and stimulating (and a little piece of heaven) then read on.
And along the way, you’ll have discovered a way that you can be instrumental in keeping our precious earth safer from suffocating under the ever-increasing mountains of tossed clothing, just by fixing [aka recycling, up-cycling, re-purposing] clothing up again!
This is how we can help you!
Whenever you are ready to take the next step, we will guide you through the secret world of couture sewing. We will help you understand the connections and relationship between unique body measurements, shapes and postures, and your design, to be able to draft your own original patterns – drawn by hand.
We will unravel the mystery about fibres and materials, and why they do what they do best. You will discover that you can do most everything you need to without a sewing machine, and when you do use one, it doesn’t need to be of the spacecraft variety.
Pressing irons are just tools, just like any other tool. Once you know how, you will be astonished at the professional looking results that are achieved by pressing properly. And perish the thought that it will end your reputation as an ‘iron free’ independent human being with rights, who protested and fought for women’s liberty and equality in the home.
Many myths will be exposed. Yup, they lied to us. Turning out top end couture and tailoring does take more time, more attention to detail, lots of patience, and happens with purposeful intensity that turns into a project into a masterpiece. This is not training for speed sewing!
We will unearth the beauty of clothing that fits you well, and what that will become to mean for you (another thing that standardized sizing lied about). Once you have worn a couture garment made just for you with its corresponding virtues, you will understand why the challenges of mass producing ‘ready-made’ garments can never be overcome.
Inspired to refine your design ideas, you will begin balancing designs with functionality, using appropriate materials and construction methods, achieving a more perfect fit, adding interesting details, all with synchronous harmony for aesthetically satisfying results.
The best part is that in time you will gain the confidence to try things you’ve never attempted before with a reasonable but predictable expectation of success by applying what you now know and pushing beyond those limits (we call this calculated risk).
Great couture, like great Art, can be achieved in a few days or weeks, but only after years of previous practice and experimentation.
There is always a next idea to try out, to explore without having to relearn the skills to reinvent yourself as a creator. It never gets dull!
Like you, we count ourselves among the few who still believe in the importance of nurturing this artform and high level of sewing skills that fills our need to create from the soul as well as our minds.
To not only move towards a future by just clothing our own bodies, but to support a more sustainable fashion industry that puts an end to needless waste and reliance on the exploitation of industry workers. Together we can support our local economies.
But we need to make it more accessible to those who share our vision and are working on it now. For more information and updates on our courses please visit:
But is has also become a marketing lure directed at label conscious or size snob buyers. For example, a size 0 suggests that it is made for slim top model types. Whereas for size 4 individuals, it perhaps suggests ‘beyond the scope of being considered’ for a magazine cover, but in fact they could be the very same body shape.
If you suddenly find that you’ve jumped from a size 10 to a size 14, you may wonder where all of a sudden you’ve gained all that extra weight, but it may just be two different brand’s set of sizing. It has become ‘all about the implications of size. In any case, it causes unnecessary stress.
However, ‘Couture made’ or ‘Bespoke’ has very little in common with size standards, or sizing units, and is uniquely assigned to one, or each individual. If we all had a choice, we too would choose couture made!
Far too many girls, boys, young women and young men, indeed even mature women and men have been stressed out and victimized by this notion of attaining a perfect size. It is an impossible war to win.
Why are people constantly on reducing diets, driven to physical exhaustion in fitness training, and stressing out about their size. This is not about good health.
Magazines, television and social media posts of beautiful models in perfect fitness are front and centre of our faces constantly. Giving the impression that we should all be that way, to be anything at all of any note. And we buy into it.
All photos and images are touched up or photo shopped and do not portray accurately what even the models in the images are really like! You’ve heard this all before right? Why then do we still strive to attain the unrealistic?
We are all born with a unique set of measurements, and proportions – which is perfect for us. What isn’t perfect, or all encompassing, is manufactured clothing. It is made for a huge collective number of end buyers that will to a lessor or greater degree fit into a brand’s sizing or product. It is the only way to mass produce and sell ready made clothing.
Ready made clothing needs to be offered in various different sizes to accommodate a collective number of humans in a target market. That is it. No mystery here.
Couture is not like that. Couture (or Tailoring) is made specifically for YOU. Your individual and unique set of measurements, plus your particular asks, or requirements. To your STYLE. How cool is that!