A Closer Look at the Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Costumes

I want to talk about the costume inspiration for some of the individual characters. Let’s start with Mrs. Harris. Her look is a stark contrast to the glamorous world of Dior. Did you look a lot at what charwomen wore during that time?

Well, she’s a cleaner, and she doesn’t have much money, but she has this hope that her Eddie will come home [from the war], so she would keep herself nice. People did then. They looked after their clothes. They didn’t have a lot. I loved doing the double-floral thing, and those are both vintage, the apron and the dress. They are just real. So that first look when she’s holding the dress and she’s all in floral became her signature look, and everything else branched out from there. When she goes to Paris, she borrows [André’s] sister’s clothes. Sandrine we called the sister. We decided to invent a whole character who was this woman who is the sister of André, who worked at Dior and was slightly boring but studious. I mean boring in that his job as an accountant but obviously much more interesting in his existentialist times. It’s always the thing of trying to make sure the story holds true. But really, what’s interesting is if we put Lesley Manville in the clothes top to bottom, she’d look like Sandrine. If we kept Lesley’s shoes and stockings, then she looked like Mrs. Harris dressed up in Sandrine’s clothes, and that was terribly important to me, and I still like that moment. 

Her floral hat is another signature. Where did that come from? 

The hat is mentioned in the novella, I think. To be honest, what I do with hats, because they are so individual to people… I think we had a wonderful fitting where we had Lesley’s wig so we could actually try different hats, and we had to make two of them. I can’t remember why. Was it something that we had to double? And again, getting stuff to do that was tricky at that time, so I was digging through all the boxes of fake flowers. It was a hat that just worked on Lesley and was the sort of hat you would have as your best and can retrim, like the ladies in Jane Austen who were always trimming their bonnets. With the floral thing, I do it instinctively if that’s what the character likes.

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