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The difference between runway and ready-to-wear

Pr?t-a-porter versus runway collections- what does it all mean?

The clothing that graces runways is entirely different to what you see in stores. This article explains the meanings of terminology used for different types of clothing.

What is a ready-to-wear collection?

Ready-to-wear, also known by the French pr?t-a-porter, refers to mass produced clothing. While available in a number of different sizes, it is not altered for the wearer?s dimensions. The clothes you find in stores, from high-end designer to bargain basement, all fall within the definition of ready-to-wear. The term does not in any way imply low-end goods. Most people will only ever purchase ready-to-wear clothes, and occasionally get alterations on certain pre-made garments such as suits.

What is a runway collection?

Ready-to-wear clothes are contrasted with runway collections. As the name suggests, runway clothes are those that appear in fashion shows. They tend to be bold and take trends to their extreme; while the ready-to-wear collection by the same designer will incorporate elements of their runway looks but in a muted form.

Can you buy clothes off the runway?

In general, clothes that are displayed in fashion shows in the four big fashion weeks (New York, London, Paris, and Milan) are not available for purchase. It takes about six months between a look debuting on the runway, and derivations of it being made available for purchase by the designer. Even then, not all garments will make it to market.

Some brands do make runway clothes available, but this is a novelty. Nautica, Burberry, and Tom Ford all released a selection of runway pieces online immediately after their runway show at New York Fashion Week earlier this year.

To buy clothes displayed on a runway, you usually have to place a pre-order, and hope that the piece eventually gets made. Depending on how the brand sells their clothing, you will either be able to pre-order directly from the designer, or you can pre-order from a retail stockist of that brand. Keep in mind that the final product may be significantly different than what was displayed in their fashion show.

What is made-to-order?

Made-to-order is another term you will see contrasting with ready-to-wear. Also known as bespoke, made-to-order clothes are commissioned from a skilled tailor. This is not your regular tailor who takes your suit pants in- the tailor will design your garment for you, all from scratch.

What is made-to-measure?

Made-to-measure clothing sits between made-to-order and ready-to-wear. The garment is based on a standard pattern, but is constructed based on your measurements. You can also customise other elements such as which fabric to use. Made-to-measure is the best choice for important wardrobe investments, such as a suit. Fit is king when it comes to clothing, and a made-to-measure suit is designed to fit you perfectly. The price is more than a ready-to-wear suit (even once alterations are taken into account), but is far less than a made-to-order suit. There is no reason to get made-to-order unless you are a true fashion aficionado with too much money to burn.


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About Natasha Abrahams Natasha Abrahams is a writer and journalism student from Melbourne, Australia. When she is not busy with being a principal writer on Weekendnotes or skipping lectures, she can be found emptying her wallet at the nearest shopping centre. You can read more from Natasha at:

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