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What is Ready-to-Wear? Everything You Need to Know

What is Ready-to-wear?

Ready-to-wear (Pret-a-Porter in French) refers to clothing and accessories made en-mass by machines in standard sizes and available for purchase as they are, without the need for custom tailoring.

Intended for the mass market, Ready-to-wear clothing, footwear, and accessories are functional, affordable, and easy to procure.

However, despite being mass-produced in factories, there are Ready-to-wear garments with a level of detail that rivals custom-made and bespoke fashion creations.

A Brief History of Ready-to-Wear

Ready-to-wear in fashion manufacturing emerged during the 19th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

During that time, fashion factories with sewing machines and mass production methods became the norm, taking over local artisans and handcrafted apparel.

The ‘machine-made’ approach democratised the fashion industry, making clothing, footwear, and accessories accessible to consumers worldwide at meagre costs. [1]

Democratisation of Luxury

After the global expansion of the luxury goods market in the 80s, in a process called “democratising the concept of luxury,” high-end designers and luxury houses started to create diffusion lines to reach a wider audience.

The diffusion lines are Ready-to-wear copies inspired by high-end brands and their exquisite collections but machine-made from cheaper materials. [2]

The Advent of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is a streamlined and more automatised version of the Ready-to-wear business model called ‘quick response.’

The fast fashion business model of manufacturing and retailing clothing emerged in the US in the late 1990s and early 21st century.

To date, fast fashion remains one of the most successful and profitable production-consumption models in the fashion industry. [3]

Ready-to-wear Examples

Example 1: The Trench Coat

Burberry’s trench coat is a classic example of an early timeless creation that, under technological advancements and global demand, has become a machine-made Ready-to-wear piece. [4]

Example 3: Denim Jeans

Levi’s denim jeans are another excellent example of a functional garment that has evolved to Ready-to-wear status under global market demand as a modern and stylish dressing option. [5]

Who Designs Ready-to-wear?

Designers in the Ready-to-wear sector range from well-known fashion houses like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana to mainstream retail brands like Zara and H&M.

Even high-end designer brands like Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Versace straddle high-end and affordable Ready-to-wear markets. [6]

The Benefits of The Ready-to-wear Model

1. Versatile and Affordable

Ready-to-wear clothes, footwear, and accessories cater to various consumer bodies with unique tastes and lifestyles.

Whether work attire, sportswear, or casual clothing, Ready-to-wear fashion is inclusive, diverse, and affordable for everyone. [7]

2. Profitable

Compared to custom-made fashion – a costly approach to fashion creation – Ready-to-wear is a revenue-generating machine.

The global Ready-to-wear market was valued at approximately $1.3 trillion in 2020 and continues to grow steadily. [8]

3. Fast Manufacturing

The Ready-to-wear model of manufacturing affordable and trendy clothes, footwear, and accessories at breakneck speeds has been adopted and perfected by fashion giants like Zara and H&M.

However, the Ready-to-wear system is also at the core of the fast-fashion manufacturing approach and growing concerns about sustainability and ethical practices. [9]

4. Standard Sizing

Unlike bespoke garments tailored to client’s needs, specifications, and body types, Ready-to-wear clothes are created in industry-standard sizes.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ standardisation ensures fashion clothes, footwear, and accessories fit several buyers’ segments, thus lowering returns. [10]

Ready-to-wear vs. Haute Couture

There are five main differences between Ready-to-wear (Pret-a-Porter) and Haute Couture, as explained below:

1. Production Method

Ready-to-wear is produced en-mass by machines, while haute couture is handcrafted by expert artisans.

2. Price Point

Haute couture is exceptionally expensive, whereas Ready-to-wear has a broad price range at a much lower price point.

3. Exclusivity

Haute couture creations are highly exclusive, while Ready-to-wear is accessible to the general public.

4. Customisation

Haute couture offers customisation, whereas Ready-to-wear is standardised.

5. Timeframe

Haute couture requires months for a single piece of clothing, while Ready-to-wear clothes are available immediately.

Who Wears Ready-to-wear?

From professionals donning tailored suits to teenagers embracing streetwear, the Ready-to-wear market caters to everyone, irrespective of age, gender, or economic status.

However, while Ready-to-wear encompasses all fashion styles for all demographics, genuine luxury fashion buyers avoid Ready-to-wear products and associated brands. [11]

Top 5 Largest Ready-to-wear Companies

1. Inditex

Inditex is the parent company of fast-fashion giant Zara and the largest Ready-to-wear manufacturer in the fashion industry.


Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy owns several Ready-to-wear brands.

3. Fast Retailing

FR is the corporate umbrella under which Uniqlo operates.

4. H&M Group

Hennes & Mauritz AB is a Ready-to-wear giant that owns fast-fashion brands like H&M, COS, and Monki.

5. Gap Inc.

Gap Inc. encompasses the Gap clothing brand, Old Navy, and Banana Republic.

Key Takeaway

The historical roots of Ready-to-wear and its evolution represent the fashion industry’s response to changing times and shifting paradigms.

At the confluence of art and commerce, modern Ready-to-wear fashion influences stylistic attitudes and creates cultural and societal shifts.

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[1] Entwistle, J., (2023). The fashioned body: Fashion, dress and modern social theory. Cambridge: Polity, p. 46.

[2] Thomas, (2007). Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, p. 141.

[3] Bhardwaj, V., and Fairhurst, A. (2010). Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The international review of retail, distribution and consumer research, 20(1), 165-173.

[4] McDowell, C., (2010). Christopher Bailey: Burberry’s golden boy. The Times.

[5] Sullivan, J., (2007). Jeans: A cultural history of an American icon. New York: Gotham Books, p. 67.

[6] Gross, M., (2018). Genuine authentic: The real life of Ralph Lauren. New York: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, p. 81.

[7] Welters, L. and Lillethun, A., (2022). The fashion reader. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, p. 220.

[8] Statista (2021). Global Apparel Market Report.

[9] Cline, (2013). Overdressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. New York: Penguin Putnam, p. 68.

[10] Ashdown, S.P., (2007). Sizing in clothing: Developing effective sizing systems for ready-to-wear clothing. Cambridge, England: Published by Woodhead Pub. Ltd. in association with the Textile Institute, p. 32.

[11] Crane, D., (2009). Fashion and its social agendas class, gender and identity in clothing. Johanneshov: TPB, p. 94.

With over twenty years of front-row fashion and styling events, collabs with haute-couture houses, and a PhD in Luxury Fashion, Laurenti is an expert in crafting personalized looks that depict old-money sophistication.

With years of expertise in high-end fashion collabs and a PhD in Sustainable Fashion, Ru specializes in curating eco-luxe wardrobes for the modern gentleman seeking understated refinement.

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