Metropolitan county (pop., 2001: 1,075,979), northeastern England. It was named for its two main rivers, the Tyne and the Wear. Settled since prehistoric times, the area was occupied by the Romans, who built Hadrian's Wall. Saxon, then Norman settlement followed. From the 13th century to recent times, the economy was based on local coal reserves and on such coal-dependent industries as glass, pottery, and chemicals. The main industries now include shipbuilding and heavy electrical engineering.
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Ready-to-wear or prêt-à-porter (off the rack or "off-the-peg" in casual use) is the term for factory made clothing, sold in finished condition, in standardized sizes. The antithesis of ready-to-wear is different depending on whether it concerns women's or men's fashion. In women's fashion high end clothing made partly incorporating features requested by the client and to her exact measurements is called haute couture. In menswear, it is usually called bespoke. In menswear, one further distinguishes between made-to-measure (or 'semi-bespoke'), in which a standard pattern is adapted to the customer's measurements, and (full) bespoke, in which a new design is created from scratch for each customer. Savile Row is a famous district in London legendary for its bespoke tailoring. Charvet in Paris is an example of a famous men's bespoke shirtmaker which offers both a high-end ready-to-wear as well as a bespoke service. Ready-to-wear has rather different connotations in the spheres of fashion and classic clothing. In the fashion industry, designers produce ready-to-wear clothing intended to be worn without significant alteration, because it is by far the most economical, efficient, and profitable way to produce garments. They use standard patterns, factory equipment, and faster construction techniques to keep costs low, compared to a custom-sewn version of the same item. Some fashion houses or fashion designers create ready-to-wear lines that are mass-produced and industrially manufactured, while others offer lines that are very exclusive and produced only in limited numbers for a limited time. Whatever the quantity produced, these garments are never one-of-a-kind.
On the other hand, the top tailors of traditional clothing, such as traditional Savile Row establishments, do not generally diversify in this way, although a few have; in this case, the ready-to-wear clothing is not actually made 'in house', but is a re-branded garment. An example of a firm that has done this is Gieves and Hawkes. Many of the larger establishments, such as Anderson & Sheppard, Henry Poole, or Huntsman will not produce ready-to-wear clothing, and, at much cheaper rates than the female haute couture houses, are able to attract enough buyers to remain profitable on bespoke clothing alone. A large factor in this decision is a fear of alienating traditional customers, who might see ready-to-wear as tarnishing the reputation of the establishment. Such perceptions are based on issues caused by the lower price, and include problems such as a worse fit, lower quality construction (for example fused canvasing which shortens the garment's life), and using lower quality fabric. In actual fact, keen to avoid such criticisms, houses like Gieves and Hawkes have been careful to sell clothes with traditional cloth and construction wherever possible. In the shoe industry, most bespoke manufacturers do sell ready-to-wear items, but again they are usually not produced by the actual firm, being bought in from the exclusively ready-to-wear manufacturers and rebranded.
Fashion houses that produce a women's haute couture line, such as Chanel, Dior, and Lacroix or Torrente by Julien Fournié, also produce a ready-to-wear line, which returns a greater profit due to the higher volume turnover of garments and greater availability of the clothing. Relative to couture, ready-to-wear clothing is often more practical and informal, though this may not always be the case. The construction of ready-to-wear clothing is also held to different standard than that of haute couture due to its industrial nature. High-end ready-to-wear lines are sometimes based upon a famous gown or pattern that is then duplicated and advertised to raise the visibility of the designer.
Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashionable couture houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week. This takes place on a city-wide basis (London, New York, Paris, Milan, Los Angelos) and occurs twice a year. Collections for autumn/winter are shown early in the year, usually around February, and spring/summer collections are shown around September. Ready-to-wear fashion weeks occur separately and earlier than those of haute couture. Ready-to-wear shows do not always feature the actual garments to be sold later in the year. The key word wearability is used in the press and industry to describe how different the designs featured in a show will be from the garments sold in stores.