Daily Archives: February 9, 2014


I have spent much time this weekend looking at Rosa Couture. Snowy white fabric stretching down for miles, crisp like crepe or soft like chiffon, smooth or rough, curves gentle or hard, borders of blue stripes, seams, various accoutrements – clothing sometimes skin-tight, sometimes loose. Always breathtaking, and it must be suffered for.

Oh, couture, such a word of culture: the great heights of haut couture, the champagne and real pain, the catwalks, the tour, the lights, the breathtaking cost. It cuts both ways, and can be quite a cult. But it can be such an art to say it with fashion.

Of course there is everyday couture too. I would be remiss if I did not address it. When you dress in a dress of whatever cut, you are in couture. Cut the pieces, trim them, stitch them together, add the label or not, and you have a dress, so you have couture. Just like making a word.

Consider how this word couture is made. It has a nice balance in the middle, utu, with asymmetry at the sides. It is made of bits that bring to mind so many other things. Is it out sewn into cure? Perhaps it is the cabbage of choucroute cut down and folded? What it brings to the etymological mind may be couteau, French for ‘knife’ (and thus cutting), and coûter, French for ‘cost’, and of course culture. But the great talent of a dressmaker or wordmaker is to take one thing and make it look like another. And what we have here, trimmed and sewn together, is a noun that the French made of Latin consutus, past participle of consuere, ‘sew together’. The same root as suture. But the n is gone, the vowels changed a little, a suffix added. And voilà, you have this marvellous confection that fits its surroundings just right and has looks of so many other things, in spite of what it is really made of.

But then there is Rosa Couture. That is where you really see what they’re made of. Out into the bright white, across the catwalk, through the gate and down, down, down the fabric of white, to make the raciest possible thing, leaving them breathless at the end, collapsed and gasping, waiting for their perfect number. Sometimes there are disasters. I can tell you I watched some noteworthy runs being stitched together.

Yes, I was watching downhill ski racing, moguls, and slopestyle snowboarding from the Olympics. They’re held at the moutain resort Rosa Khutor (Ро́за Ху́тор). Or, as some of the broadcasters keep pronouncing it, “Rosa Couture.” Well, that’s one fashion of saying it, I guess…