See Amazing Archival Dior, Chanel, and Balenciaga from New Paris Haute Couture Exhibit

Haute couture literally translates to "high sewing," but what does the term really mean? When ready-to-wear dresses and coats can cost upwards of $4,000, what are the real indicators that a piece is truly couture? A new exhibit opening at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris this week should clear those questions up.
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Haute couture literally translates to "high sewing," but what does the term really mean? When ready-to-wear dresses and coats can cost upwards of $4,000, what are the real indicators that a piece is truly couture? A new exhibit opening at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris this week should clear those questions up.
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Haute couture literally translates to "high sewing," but what does the term really mean? When ready-to-wear dresses and coats can cost upwards of $4,000, what are the real indicators that a piece is truly couture?

A new exhibit opening at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris this week should clear those questions up. Sponsored by Swarovski (whose crystals have adorned couture since its inception), "Paris Haute Couture" is currently on display at the Hôtel de Ville, and runs until July 6, 2013.

Along with approximately 100 couture dresses—from Worth to Christian Dior to Maison Martin Margiela—the exhibit features photos and videos that track the creation of a couture piece from "conception to completion."

Planning to visit Paris over the next few months? The exhibit is certainly worth stopping by. For one, you get to peek inside the Hôtel de Ville, a major venue for Paris Fashion Week and the center of the city's government (just be prepared for heightened security). And of course, there are the dresses. A darling pink taffeta dress from Yves Saint Laurent's short tenure at Dior is there, alongside the work of the house's namesake and its last designer, John Galliano. And it's interesting to compare the Chanel skirt suits—one by Coco Chanel, the other by Karl Lagerfeld—next to each other. There are plenty of gowns from lesser-known designers as well, offering a bit of surprise alongside the standards.

Can't make it to Paris? We've got you covered. Click through for a preview as well as a video breakdown of couture's greatest hits from the 1900s to today.

Photos from Swarovski/Billy Farrell Agency

Click here to see photos of the exhibit, or click through the pages to watch the videos.

An Overview of the Exhibit

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Click through to see images from the show.