“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” out July 15, is centered around an experience many can relate to (particularly if one is reading this publication): falling in love with a dress. The film follows Mrs. Harris, played by Lesley Manville, a cleaning lady in ’50s London who, once widowed, journeys to Paris in search of a Dior gown she has fallen for.
The 2022 “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is the third time the 1958 book “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris” has been adapted into a film. For this version, director Anthony Fabian tapped Jenny Beavan to do the costumes. Known for her work in “Cruella,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The King’s Speech,” Beavan knew little about the history of the house of Dior before taking on the role, and was initially drawn to the project because of Manville, and because of the story.
“I really like the story of a woman living her dream, working hard to get it,” Beavan says over Zoom from Australia, where she is at work on the new “Mad Max” movie.
The film features several recreations of ’50s Dior looks, which Beavan worked on with the archives of Dior in Paris.
“I thought I was going to be working with Dior, that they would be doing the Dior part of it — what I hadn’t quite realized was that I would be doing the Dior part,” says Beavan. “There was some misinformation that went on, but obviously, it was fascinating. 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.”
Beavan and her team were lent five pieces from Dior from its Heritage Collection, which are remakes of ’50s classics, including the bar suit.
“We found one at Cosprop [in London], 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,” Beavan says. “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.”
They also opted to make some of the Dior recreations in color rather than the black and white they were shown in at the time, to liven up the film. For the dress that Mrs. Harris fawns over, Beavan knew it had to be a showstopper.
“She would appreciate the others, but she wouldn’t think they were right for her. What would be right for her would be a proper evening dress. A frock,” Beavan says.