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Is Ecole Holt Couture the right school for me?

Is Ecole Holt Couture School of Couture Sewing and Design for you? I’ve been there, you know that point where you are frustrated because there is some piece of information you are missing, some skill that isn’t up to the standard you want it to be. You’ve got the ideas, the creativity, but you don’t have everything in place to make that idea come to life, from start to finish. I know, totally disheartening right!?! My story, how the program blew my mind and profoundly changed me…

If you enjoyed the blog or video please subscribe to the blog and hit the subscribe button on our YouTube channel! Thank you, cheers!

Watch this video I share a little bit about what I learned and how I came to be an instructor at Ecole Holt Couture.


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Did you Know? at Ecole Holt Couture…

Graduates at EHC receive their final awards for attending and completing 600 hours of instruction and 1800 [2400hrs] hours of practical [projects] lab-work for each of the Dressmaking and Couturier/Tailoring awards.

EHC awards are printed with the graduate’s name, two official signatures, an EHC embossed seal, the date of issue, and possesses a unique serial number registered with the school. You can check the authenticity of our awards if you see one, and want to make sure it is real!

The award costs $40 for paper and graphic work, but is worth more than $60,000 and its value is truly priceless for the recipient. Most importantly, the recipient has the skills to work as a professional dressmaker, couturier and tailor!

The knowledge and curriculum are not copied or borrowed from any other institution, and is original to EHC. We have retained all of the original hard copies of work notes, sketches, and documentation, by the Founder from its inception, and development, to now, and and all of it is copyright protected.

We still create original patterns drafted by hand using 60+ measurements taken from each individual client.

That it took 16 years to develop the innovative curriculum based on the Founder’s 60 years of professional experience in couture and tailoring. It all added up to a life time achievement award and recognition by the Universal Womens Network in 2019 for Elfriede Holtkamp [who now is retired but is still available for sage advice].

These skills are as much an Art as a Craft, and impossible to exactly duplicate the work from one artisan to another. Experienced crafts-person or artisan’s work is unique and cannot be convincingly reproduced, which is awesome!

We continue to be committed to preserving authentic couture sewing and tailoring skills by sharing, teaching, and mentoring. And we really do connect with and love our students!

New* – EHC is developing online instruction to reach further reaching geographic locations, for those who it is impossible to attend in person. We are continuing on-campus workshops and masterclasses launching in the fall of 2021. Who knows, we may even do traveling workshops in the future!

Please subscribe to EHC’s Youtube channel, Facebook page, and follow our WordPress blog for up-to-date information:

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EHC – 8 part Project Video Series – Inside the Studio

As we are making preparations to resume on-campus classes the beginning of September 2020, we wonder how it will all work out in the midst of physical distancing precautions, extra sanitising, and how to minimise time wearing a mandatory face mask during this Pandemic. We admit we don’t have it all figured out, and in one month, circumstances could yet again change, but all of us will be doing our best to make sure everyone is safe and has the best experience possible.

Normally during summer breaks we take advantage of our empty studio to host workshops, and take on a few projects that we otherwise would not have time or available space for. This summer one such project came in that we could accommodate was a prêt-a-porter wedding gown alteration. We usually do not take on alteration projects unless they are particularly complex or noteworthy for our students.

Our client granted us permission to share these videos with you > sewing practitioners, ensuing couturiers and tailors, and future brides. Some insight to what a professional alteration outcome should be, and look like, may help shape your expectations or gain some freedom of choice as to whether to consider ‘alterations’ as a sewing career option/add on. And for the bride-to-be, whether to go for couture made or buy a ready-made wedding gown realising that some altering may be a highly-likely extra cost.

The question often arises: why do alterations cost what they do when they appear to be very straight forward nip-and-tuck changes?  This video series attempts to clarify why experienced dressmaking skills are required to do alterations of some complexity, and why the amount of time is necessary to accomplish the adjustments.

This project is divided into 8 separate video segments according to the various tasks following the initial fitting, to the final fitting, and delivery. They are titled and numbered 1/8 to 8/8 to make it easy for you to refer back to if you happen to have interest in one segment over the other. Together it is about 1 hour and 20 minutes in length, and we recommend that it first be viewed in its entirety putting everything in sequential context.

We hope you find the series informative, useful, and enjoyable and thank you for taking the time to visit with us inside the studio!  

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Part 3 –

Part 4 –

Part 5 –

Part 6 –

Part 7 –

Part 8 –

Cheers! J

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Posted by on August 11, 2020 in Uncategorized


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2019 Ecole Holt Couture Showcase Event!

Sunday November 3rd is showtime! Every year Ecole Holt Couture supports and promotes is students by hosting a fashion event that includes a Student Exhibit with Reception and a Runway Show all within the price of the ticket.

All this so that students can invite their family and friends to view and participate in their achievments. The showcase event is open to the public as well! Would be couture and tailoring students want to see what the school is all about and what the students have created. 

EHC also opens its doors once or twice each year, so that those interested in enroling have the opportunity to visit the school. Information seminars are designed to answer the miriad of questions that future applicants have about what they can expect from the program and what is expected of them.

The showcase this year is at cSpace King Edward, a collaborative creative space for all types of artisans. The venue is a sandstone building that was once a school, now completely preserved with a ultra modern theatre space added to the west end of the structure.

Our event features live music by local artists, Joshua Sung Park Trio. Who will play and perform through the afternoon.  We offer great tasting treats by Cornerstone Cafe – another unique Calgary eatery that combines good food, good company with live music, and music lessons, during the reception and while guests chat with the students at the exhibit.

Later guests make themselves comfortable in all-front-row seating for the runway show part of the event. Everyone gets a good view and nice long look at the models with commentary by the owner and instructor of the school.

If you are in the Calgary area on November 3rd, come and join us! Tickets are available through Eventbrite: look for 2019 Ecole Holt Couture Student Showcase .



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Who is top couturier / tailor / designer today?

Today our class reviewed the numerous talented individuals who brought dressmaking and sewing to a new and exclusive level labelled ‘haute couture’. From Charles Frederick Worth, who is noted to be the father of haute couture, and many other designer couturiers that have followed in the 100 years leading up to 2000 including Poiret and Doucet, Fortuny, Chanel, Vionnet, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Quant, Pucci, Valentino, Lauren, Prada, and Versace to mention only a few. Generally, before 1900 garments were created by unknown specialist and novelist sewers. That is not to say, they were unremarkable, only unrecognized.

Looking back over unique styles which relate to these designers, and notably have stuck around in some form since 1900, we generally attribute timelines to those trends that caught on in western society. It was true to say that if you weren’t dressed in the fashion of the day you were considered to be operating on the fringes of society, somehow unaware and out of step with the modern world and good taste.

Since around the year 2000 however, that has changed and it would be very difficult to attribute any single fashion with any designer or single style followed by the western world. An explosion of designers and acceptable style possibilities has eased the pressure on everyone to conform to prescribed fashion trends.  But this has made fashion trend prediction much more complex. At the same time, it ironically seems easier to see huge design gaps in the fashion market.

One such gap is what we consider ethnically diverse style representation. What I mean is, fashion designed and created by individuals in cultures previously ignored, or even suppressed, by western society has only recently captured popular fashion media attention. Also, we have recognized it as unconscionable, and no longer the prerogative of western entitlement, to copy designs from another’s ethnicity or cultural icons. This really is progress to our own understanding and shouldn’t be viewed as hinderance to creativity or inspiration rather an opportunity for growth.

Another glaring gap is the unfulfilled need for atypical size men’s and women’s fashion, which represents a growing percentage of the population. I’m not just refering to larger size or particularly curvy individuals. It’s not so unusual these days for anyone to outgrow garments just by becoming more fit. Biceps and thighs are becoming larger, but garments are still made with standard size sleeves and trouser legs leaving them looking like they’ve been squeezed into sausage casings. I don’t believe this is the chicest look to show off muscular bodies.

Another gap is in regional requirements for warm and stylish winter wear here in our northerly climate. Sportswear and active wear seem to be reasonably well serviced today with outerwear for every conceivable sport. But what is clearly lacking is fashionable, functional and stylish outer wear for women and men in suits, dresses and evening wear. The key combination which is missing is ‘functional and stylish’ outerwear during the winter months that can last up to 6 months every year. Overcoats are never designed or made with enough wind-break, flexibility or ease to cover the entire body fully clothed in several layers already, nor made to cover, provide adequate warmth, and protect longer hemlines in evening gowns.

These are only three areas of immense opportunity for good creative design in fashion in our time. What I haven’t mentioned in this blog, but no less important, is the necessity to make and create with better materials, with better longer lasting methods. The whole purpose of our being in couture and tailoring is to promote quality in materials and craftsmanship to satisfy personal taste and style in garments that will stand the test of time physically and aesthetically.

2018 ehc showcase


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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Uncategorized


Couture and Watermelon salad…

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One of the greatest pleasures at Ecole Holt Couture is celebrating well deserved credit for the tremendous effort and progress that EHC students have made since beginning in September 2017. This year we are between Graduation goal posts, so we decided that a class luncheon date would be very welcome.

Bonterra Trattoria in Calgary’s belt line district was the restaurant of choice on this sunny Friday afternoon. Of particular enjoyment for me, as lead instructor of this class, was the luxury of just hanging out with 6 amazing talented individuals whom I normally don’t have the opportunity to relax and chat with.

Our teaching intern, an EHC Diploma graduate, is an invaluable asset to the group contributing many hours of advice and support to each of the students. Having plans to travel the world in the future, will do very well combining her couture training and experience, cultural background plus a university education under her belt. We are very glad to have her on staff while we can!

We are interested in our students beyond their training and performance at Ecole Holt Couture. Their range of ambitions is wide and far reaching from further developing a career in Indigenous Fashion [see also ], or taking control of unique design ideas by introducing them fully developed to the market, and transitioning from or combining Eco rehabilitation with fashion, or offering truly appealing and well fitting fashion for the not-so-common shape or size, to a career based on theatrical fashion culture.

Whatever, their plans and aspirations are, the students will acquire the tools and skills to begin traveling upon their life-long creative journey which will certainly evolve from one form to the next, and I’m enthusiastic for each one of them.

In the meantime, required term projects must be completed and submitted and another school year will commence after a well-deserved summer break – or is it a longed-for period of uninterrupted sewing time! (Hm-mm, perhaps that may be my own aspiration for this summer).

Cheers! J


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Couture Lives Here: École Holt Couture to Host Annual Showcase Nov 12th

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working with École Holt Couture (EHC), school of couture sewing and fashion design. Not just an exceptional client, EHC is doing some exceptional things for fashion in Calgary. As far as the local “scene” goes, the school has undeniably made its mark. And yet, it remains one of our cities best-kept secrets – something I’d like to see change.
Not known as a fashion capital exactly, C-town’s industry is most definitely growing. In 2016, I was part of the launch of the Canadian International Fashion Film Festival that chose Calgary as its home. More recently, I was introduced to The Field Group, the city’s first designer coworking studio housed within The Bridge Cowork space downtown (a cool story in and of itself). This, of course, is in addition to everything else “fashion” that has been emerging in our city as of late.
Perhaps this is one happy consequence of the local economic downturn, which seems to be galvanizing people to pursue their passions. Or, maybe it’s just indicative of a city that’s reinventing itself, shedding old definitions and claiming its cosmopolitan status. In any case, it’s a shift that I, like many others, am happy to welcome.
École Holt Couture launched in 2007. Put simply, it teaches its apprentices the craft of authentic haute couture sewing – the same used by those in the great fashion houses of Europe. It’s the real deal and there’s nothing quite like it in the country. The school’s curriculum, which took 10 years to complete, was created by founder and distinguished couturier Elfriedé Holtkamp and combines her 60 years of experience with classic techniques.
A fifth-generation Calgarian, I’m fascinated by how others end up residing here. I’m particularly curious about Elfriedé who is as bona fide a local as I, but who is Romanian born and trained in Europe.
I’m not asking questions though; I’m just reveling_DSC5115a in the fact that we’re home to someone and something so unique. Although not an aftereffect of the downturn – École Holt Couture’s story originating long ago – I do believe, as our attentions gravitate to new opportunities, it is the school’s time to shine.
Not only that, the industry seems right for custom apparel with a market leaning more towards individuality over name brands. Oft associated with the intangible designs donning the high fashion runways of New York and Paris, couture is not as exclusive as many have come to believe. EHC’s couturiers are here and they’re making beautiful, custom garments as we speak.
I’m talking about this now because, on November 12th, École Holt Couture will be hosting their annual exhibit and runway event. EHC Showcase 2017 will highlight designs by the school’s graduating couturiers and feature a vintage collection by Elfriedé Holtcamp. This year’s theme is winter-inspired which is appropriate as the season officially turns.
I’m as excited about EHC’s upcoming Showcase as I am about the future of school and its role at the forefront, not just of couture, but also of fashion in general in Calgary. For tickets or more info, visit
As always, much love and respect.
~ evie
Evie Eshpeter | Director & Founder, Jelle
403.918.4292 |
Instagram: @ Jellepublicrelations


Conservation of Royal Wedding Dress

We were privileged to take part in this conservation project – thank you !

LV.Greyes Partnership

Pricess Patricia 1919 Princess Patricia married The Honourable Alexander Ramsay on 27 February 1919. One of the first major royal events after WWI, the wedding was the focus of much public attention, and the beginning of a modern trend for royal marriages at Westminster Abbey.

The wedding dress belonging to Princess Patricia (1919) is part of the collection of the Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Museum at The Military Museum in Calgary.

Conservators at the LV.Greyes Partnership in association with EHC school of sewing and design have just completed a major project to conserve Princess Patricia’s historic 1919, royal wedding dress. The work was undertaken by staff and students at EHC under the supervision of LV.Greyes specialist textile conservator and took over 100 hours to complete. The ninety five year old silver embroidered gown, train and lace veil is usually kept in controlled storage conditions, recent funding by Canadian Forces has provided a…

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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Me a model figure? Get real!

Kate Moss

Kate Moss – Super model wearing strapless summer beach frock

Ecole Holt Couture challenges the notion that couture made or tailor made garments should be presented by professional models on its runway.

Each year we hear a few strong opinions following EHC’s annual fashion event on this subject. And they make a valid point. If you want to attract your market sector, sell your designs or collections, you need to appeal to your audience’s strong desire to be this ‘beautiful’, ‘in’, ‘thin’, and ‘fashionable’ etc. so they will buy into your conceptualized vision.

Through all types of media, this is how style and fashion is essentially sold. Sample sized garments for each new collection are created specifically for professional models to display in incredulous theatrical settings.  You only need to open a style magazine or watch a fashion video to understand what I mean.

An advantage to using professional models is that they are well practiced walking the runway with supreme confidence implying that every woman should or will look this way when they wear this garment. Models are a predictable size, usually 5’8” – 6’0” (175 cm) tall, a size 0 – 6, age thirteen to twenty-two, right?

I love theater, and it is most entertaining!  But, as couturiers and tailors we take particular issue with the popular belief that most of us and you:  look all wrong, have the wrong hair, walk all wrong, are the wrong shapes, or are the wrong age, unless you aspire to or do look like the model image. Yes, glamor is still a tantalizing fantasy, but not the reality of most people’s lives.

Please tell me if you really walk the aisles at your office, sit at your computer, take the bus or drive to work, take your children to school, attend a business meeting, arrive at the restaurant or your friend’s wedding ‘strutting your stuff’ like professional models do on the runway? I thought not.

Couture and tailor made (fashion) both exquisite and practical is essentially different. It is the voice and vision of authenticity. Authenticity of your style, shape and personality.  Because, couture is created specifically for you, your vision, your lifestyle needs, and your shape and curves, the best model of course, will be you.

Here is some juicy insider knowledge. Collections shown on the runway or through look-books must ultimately sell themselves in shops. They must have superior ‘hanger appeal’, meaning they must grab your attention whilst hanging on the rail or over the mannequin, and the most effective way to achieve this is to produce styles that have little extra shape or size, and no complications in them.

How is this different from true Couture or tailored garments? It is well known, and most obviously seen when on the hanger, that couture made or tailor made garments truly have the worst hanger appeal! Why so? Garments fitting your shape and around your curves, and sometimes complex in construction, absolutely need to be filled-out by your body to show at their best.

At Ecole Holt Couture’s fashion event each year the students model garments they’ve made purposely for themselves or for their client model, to fit their own unique shape and not a typical model ‘size’.

The deliberate aim of using non-professional models is to affirm that couture made and tailor made is intended as exclusively for ‘you’. No matter what your unique shape, age, and lifestyle, you always look your best when the fashion you wear fits you well, suiting your personal style and makes you feel comfortable within your own skin. This in turn produces genuine self-confidence, helps you stand apart from the crowd reflecting your wonderful and beautiful true self – a concept everyone can relate to.

Although the projects shown on EHC’s runway are firmly part of the learning program in the curriculum, each student’s creations are completely unique in their presentation. The garments reflect students own personal style. We encourage you to follow the students’ progress through EHC training, pay attention to their developing skills and creativity. They will one day be the ‘designer makers’ helping you to create your own unique look. True couture and bespoke tailoring is not just for the rich and famous, it is for you!

Kelsey in Dress Code

Dress Code – Kelsey showing one first year robe project: brief – must be quality 100% cotton flannel, capped seaming, perfectly pattern matched, gladiator style shoulders, custom quilted shawl collar and cuffs, patch pockets, self twisted thread detailing, etc.

Ecole Holt Couture 'Dress Code' fashion event

Ecole Holt Couture ‘Dress Code’ fashion event


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Choosing your Couturier or Tailor


Does this sound like you? You fear not getting what you imagined, fear not knowing what to expect, fear not being able to communicate your ideas adequately, and fear hidden agendas. Probably the most common hurdle that new clients face is fear!

Choosing a couturier or tailor is normally very intimidating for those ‘testing the waters’ and can be disheartening to those of you who have gone through an unhappy incident. It is after all, a very personal experience, and should be positive and satisfying at every level.

Whether you haven’t been to a couturier before or have been disappointed, it is understandably daunting.  My advice would be not to take a giant leap of faith, but purposefully take the time to get to know a couturier (or tailor). Explore if it may be a good fit working together. This is most often done during a consultation, but not always. It may begin with a referral, or research into social media or Google, email, or simply a phone call.

Professional couturiers and tailors will have developed their businesses based on their training and experience. It also follows, statistically speaking, that craftspeople, artisans, and creative types build businesses according to their personal set of values.  That’s to say, how they want to live and work and how they view their world. Also, don’t just assess their design sketches.  Look deeper into the quality of materials they use, the ‘fit’ they view as ideally suited for their clients, and their finishing standards outside and inside garments.

Great customer service may certainly be important to everyone, but we all define it quite differently. Whatever the terms may be, it should be mutually satisfactory. Established clients will, of course, be well aware of their couturier or tailors’ open hours, time preference for taking phone calls, business terms and conditions. But, it won’t be obvious to you as a new comer. Therefore you should request this information.

Seasoned professionals will have started out many years ago; likely they will have relied upon traditional methods for marketing themselves. These ateliers will have quite literally developed by word of mouth. As a result, there was no need to put much thought into a flashy website, if they have one at all.

However, the younger generation of couturiers and tailors almost certainly have a better handle on marketing and social media, and most will have considerable information for you. This though in itself, does not at all equate to quality – nor guarantee – the results of their craftsmanship in any way.

It is extremely beneficial that you book a one on one consultation. Plus, view some of the couturier or tailor’s actual finished work to fill in the bigger picture. It is perfectly reasonable to discuss your expectations about what you want, but don’t expect a finished design sketch and cost estimate during the consultation.

Be open about what hope for, your reservations, and honest about what you can afford. Couturiers and tailors need to be convinced that they will be able to fulfill what you expect. That achieved, they’ll become quite willing and happy to take you step by step through the entire process, and keep you informed at every stage.

Consultations are charged for. Be conscious of the fact, as professionals they cannot afford to give time away for free, but they may charge a consultation fee which is later credited toward an actual commission from you. The more research you can do ahead of time will save you money on these consultations. A word of caution, free consultations will provide you with little of any value. In fact you may find a hidden agenda or come away from it feeling frustrated rather than satisfied.

Couturiers and tailors will only give you a cost estimate when they recognize you are serious about commissioning work from them, because everything they do is custom. There is no standard item to charge for, and so projects must be calculated individually, which takes time – valuable time. Often working on their own without the aid of assistants or receptionists, puts this time at a cost to themselves, for which they reasonably expect a return on.

Ultimately, it is still more productive and less stressful for everyone, if after meeting with or consulting a couturier or tailor, you decide he or she may not be the best match for you. Don’t give up; eventually you will connect with the right one. However it does take some time, but will be well worth the effort!

What exactly can you expect a couturier and tailor to do for you, and about trust, in another blog…


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