Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Serves the Couture

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Need some happy eye-candy? Of course you do. Then find yourself a way to watch Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) — I first saw it on a plane, and it’s available for rent many places (google it). The movie won’t change your life or teach you anything new, but it will put a smile on your face, and what more do you want for $5.99?

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

No, I don’t know how it compares to the 1992 version starring the late, great Angela Lansbury. Haven’t seen it that I recall. Don’t @ me. This flick stands on its own as a pretty little thing, frothy, fun, simple as can be. The barest scrap of a plot is that a British cleaning lady goes to Paris to buy a dress from the House of Dior. It’s really just an excuse for Lesley Manville to be charming as all hell and Jenny Beavan to recreate a bunch of fucking gorgeous 1950s Dior gowns. Go with that, and you’ll be satisfied.

In ScreenDaily, the costume designer talked about getting help from her long-time collaborators at Cosprop:

“I wanted to honour Dior so I needed the top makers — namely John Bright at Cosprop and Jane Law. We were making this during lockdown in 2020 so I was terribly reliant on what fabrics John and Jane had in stock, but the gods of costume designers shone on us. …

[Dior] gave me a photocopy of the book of sketches, fabric sample and notes from the ’57 collection, and those were stunning. But John and Jane are experienced makers and understand everything about construction. …

It was nerve-­wracking recreating Dior because I’m not a fashion person, but when John Bright showed me his Diors, I became absolutely fascinated. The joy of this job is that it introduces me to things I don’t think I’m interested in, and then I become very interested.”

While the 1957 fashion show is recreated literally, the three main “Dior” gowns directly involved in the plot were designed by Jenny Beavan. First is the “Ravissante” that Mrs. Harris sees and is inspired to go to Paris. In Who What Wear, the costume designer said of this one:

“That’s a dress we made, and it had to fulfill several story functions. One was that it had to look good on Lady Dant. Now, they went through a lot of different cast possibilities for Lady Dant, and Anna Chancellor is very tall and a really wonderfully statuesque woman, very beautiful, but not everything would suit her, so we just had to make sure it was a dress that, when she picks it up and holds it against her, it looks absolutely possible that it would look fantastic on her. And I think it does. The floral aspect was also important because of Mrs. Harris’s love of flowers, and that would be something that she would react to in a very positive way. … It had to be something that Mrs. Harris would love and that would look great on Anna Chancellor.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

Next is the “Temptation,” which Beavan found inspiration in Dior’s “Diablotine” gown in their archives and added a bolero. She described this one in ScreenDaily:

“The colour was so good for an older woman, but it had to sparkle, and it also had to work on Alba Baptista [who plays Dior model Natasha]. The fabric came from a warehouse in Manchester. You wouldn’t believe the endless Googling and samples we sent off for. It has a gauze under it, which made it glow under the cameras in the right way.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

Finally is the “Venus,” and this gown suffered some abuse in the film. Beavan said:

“I wanted a colour that [Mrs. Harris] would really love, and we tried a lot of different greens before we got the right one. It also needed to burn and I expected the tulle waterfall panel would burn easily but it just wouldn’t so we had to burn the silk.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

For her research, Jenny Beavan leaned heavily on Dior. In late 2019, she visited the couture house, as she describes in an WWD interview:

“I did go and look in the archives and had a wonderful afternoon in Paris in the archives, being led through the whole Dior story and seeing Mr. Dior’s things, beautifully kept and curated by Madame Soizic Pfaff, who is a tremendous woman in keeping Dior. But interestingly, there isn’t a lot there because they didn’t realize the importance of keeping pieces in the ’50s. They made the show, the clientele bought it, and they moved on. And actually, no one would be allowed to wear it anyhow, because of its historic reference now.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

For the 1957 Dior fashion show that is the film’s highlight, Beavan borrowed five mostly black-and-white outfits from Dior’s Heritage collection. These are items made in the 1980s-90s to recreate some of the New Look styles, including the famous “Bar Suit.” But she also lucked into finding another Dior dress closer to home, as she told WWD:

“We found one at Cosprop, it’s navy with the white spot on it. And when I asked Dior about it, they said, ‘Well, it was a very popular dress.’ It was relatively affordable, it’s a day dress. Absolutely lovely dress. Alba [Baptista] wears it in the film. And it wasn’t so surprising that there was a replica because it was popular and quite a lot were made. But I mean, we just found it by chance on the rack at Cosprop.”

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Beavan’s team made 16 recreated Dior outfits including the wedding gown for the fashion show’s finale. Oh, and all of this perfection was created during the height of COVID lockdowns during 2020, with much of the fittings done by mail and Zoom. Imagine, couture-level fashion created during a global pandemic — once again proving there’s nothing that Jenny Beavan (and John Bright) can’t do!

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

 

 

Go watch Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it!

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

11 Responses

  1. Charity

    I thought the costumes in this were GORGEOUS, but the movie overall kind of left me feeling “okay.” I didn’t LOVE it, and I didn’t dislike it. That being said, SPOILER: it was a stretch for me to believe that a dress specifically made for the tiny, willowy-thin Mrs. Harris would fit on the ultra-curvy, broad-shouldered girl who later wore it. That’s just not remotely possible.

    Reply
    • Northcountry girl

      When I look at how beautiful and elegant couture fashion was in the year I was born and compare it to what we see on the runways now – it sometimes seems like I’m viewing a lost civilization. I know that ordinary fashions were not Christian Dior, but when I look at pictures of my own lovely mother in 1950s clothes that aspired to that kind of elegance- oh well! Whathca gonna do! :)

      Reply
      • 992234177

        Having seen the big Dior exhibition when it was in London at the V&A what was interesting was how so many of the early clothes were just beautiful well made clothes but not especially spectacular. It’s only later that you get themes and deliberate extravagance. Everybody had to have have their clothes made, some hand made them at home, and some went to Paris.

        Reply
  2. Marion Aliñarte

    Oooh let me tell you I love the 1992 version
    (Though for some reason when they showed the Dior fashion show, I cannot put my finger on it I think one of the gowns/ensembles shown looked very 1990s. Well at least to me).

    And your description of this version is perfect for the 1992 version as well, a pretty little thing, frothy, fun, and simple as can be.

    (Here is the link, since you can even watch it right on Youtube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYa2AJEr5mg )

    Watching the 1992 version, actually made me read the novel and the rest of the series
    ( Yes, the novel this is based on is the 1st in a series of novels all about the adventures of Mrs. Harris. One of which was she going to Russia, I am assuming it was set in the same the novel was released so in the 1970s Russia specifically and you can imagine the adventure 🤣🤣 )

    Now ofcourse that does mean I can’t help but compare the two movies, but like you said this version can perfectly stand on its own

    What is interesting both versions deviate from the novel in their own way.

    Though for the 2022 version, their are 3 things that made me think at least in the way the handle the story compared to the 1990s version.

    The 1st is the one regarding Mrs. Harris’s relationship with the Marquis. In the book, it was pretty clear that it is more of a friendship than a romance.

    It was stated that one of the reasons was that Mrs. Harris reminded Marquis of the cleaning lady he met when he was a boy studying in London ( he gave her the nickname Mrs.Mops).

    1992 does sometimes try to make it a bit romantic, but he also mentions how she reminded him of Mrs.Mops. Yet in 2022, I have this feeling that they were making it look like Mrs.Harris was starting to have romantic feelings for the Marquis and they move the scene of him saying how she reminded him of Mrs.Mops and made it some sort of tragedy in that he does not have the same romantic feelings for her. Then (SPOILER FOR THE 2022 VERSIONS) later on introducing a new supposed love interest.

    The 2nd one I guess is making Madame Colbert, the sort of villain. I am not sure of the reasoning behind making her the snobbish villain by replacing Monsieur Armand with her. When both the novel and 1992 made her a sort of ally to Mrs.Harris.

    Though maybe it was for the best. I can acknowledge that, it’s just something that makes me think 🤔

    The final one is a SPOILER FOR THE NOVEL AND THE 2022 FILM, but I guess the fact that they had kept the same ending in this one as in the novel.

    Mostly because Mrs.Harris was so precious and after all the bullsh*t to get that fu**ing gown. All to let that aspiring actress to ruin it, I am not sure whether to cry or go out and slap that actress 🤣🥲 🥺

    Actually, when I think about this and the 1st thing/thought I mentioned, I guess what links both of them is that they both made me sad that it caused Mrs.Harris some sort of pain or distress unnecessarily.

    ESPECIALLY WHEN IT WAS NOT EVEN IN THE NOVEL… sorry I am good now and after letting all that out 😤😤😫😂😂

    Thank you for reading this and getting this far 😁😁😊😊

    Reply
  3. Marion Aliñarte

    Oooh let me tell you I love the 1992 version
    (Though for some reason when they showed the Dior fashion show, I cannot put my finger on it I think one of the gowns/ensembles shown looked very 1990s. Well at least to me).

    And your description of this version is perfect for the 1992 version as well, a pretty little thing, frothy, fun, and simple as can be.

    I think you can even still watch a full movie on Youtube

    Watching the 1992 version, actually made me read the novel and the rest of the series
    ( Yes, the novel this is based on is the 1st in a series of novels all about the adventures of Mrs. Harris. One of which was she going to Russia, I am assuming it was set in the same the novel was released so in the 1970s Russia specifically and you can imagine the adventure 🤣🤣 )

    Now ofcourse that does mean I can’t help but compare the two movies, but like you said this version can perfectly stand on its own

    What is interesting both versions deviate from the novel in their own way.

    Though for the 2022 version, their are 3 things that made me think at least in the way the handle the story compared to the 1990s version.

    The 1st is the one regarding Mrs. Harris’s relationship with the Marquis. In the book, it was pretty clear that it is more of a friendship than a romance.

    It was stated that one of the reasons was that Mrs. Harris reminded Marquis of the cleaning lady he met when he was a boy studying in London ( he gave her the nickname Mrs.Mops).

    1992 does sometimes try to make it a bit romantic, but he also mentions how she reminded him of Mrs.Mops. Yet in 2022, I have this feeling that they were making it look like Mrs.Harris was starting to have romantic feelings for the Marquis and they move the scene of him saying how she reminded him of Mrs.Mops and made it some sort of tragedy in that he does not have the same romantic feelings for her. Then (SPOILER FOR THE 2022 VERSIONS) later on introducing a new supposed love interest.

    The 2nd one I guess is making Madame Colbert, the sort of villain. I am not sure of the reasoning behind making her the snobbish villain by replacing Monsieur Armand with her. When both the novel and 1992 made her a sort of ally to Mrs.Harris.

    Though maybe it was for the best. I can acknowledge that, it’s just something that makes me think 🤔

    The final one is a SPOILER FOR THE NOVEL AND THE 2022 FILM, but I guess the fact that they had kept the same ending in this one as in the novel.

    Mostly because Mrs.Harris was so precious and after all the bullsh*t to get that fu**ing gown. All to let that aspiring actress to ruin it, I am not sure whether to cry or go out and slap that actress 🤣🥲 🥺

    Actually, when I think about this and the 1st thing/thought I mentioned, I guess what links both of them is that they both made me sad that it caused Mrs.Harris some sort of pain or distress unnecessarily.

    ESPECIALLY WHEN IT WAS NOT EVEN IN THE NOVEL… sorry I am good now and after letting all that out 😤😤😫😂😂

    Thank you for reading this and getting this far 😁😁😊😊

    Reply
  4. hsc

    These costumes are beautiful, and Jenny Beavan always does an excellent job, but I’m rooting for a second win for Ruth E. Carter on Oscar night.

    It’s probably a long shot since Carter is nominated for the sequel to the movie she previously won an Oscar for, but she actually topped herself in this one with an entirely new set of “world-building” costumes.

    The examples of Beavan’s work you show are impressive, but it’s also recreating a well-known established look– and unfortunately, it can’t avoid the question: “How much of our reaction to the costumes is due to Christian Dior?”

    (And yeah, I know– given the plot of the film, that’s a pretty much unavoidable problem.)

    Reply
  5. Kathleen Jowitt

    I’ve never dared to watch the film (either of them) because the end of the book left me so sad for Mrs Harris! But the frocks do look so gorgeous…

    Reply
  6. Adele

    A large portion of comfort food of a movie – one to be consumed on a squashy sofa on a rainy evening, surrounded by cats and chocolate.

    Reply

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