In the touching new comedy Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, with Leslie Manville, a sweet and modest British housekeeper falls madly and inexplicably in love with a Dior dress. So much so that she saves all the money she can and she goes to Paris to get a couture package. It was previously adapted for the screen from Paul Gallico’s original 1958 novel, but writer and director Anthony Fabian, along with costume designer Jenny Beavan, production designer Luciana Arrighi and production designer Nora Talmaier, have gone to great lengths to create a Breathtaking fashion show atmosphere where Ms. Harris of Manville falls madly in love with a dress called Temptation.
“I have a confession,” Fabian said in an interview earlier this week. “I have never in my life had a desire for a Dior dress.”
However, Fabian’s film encapsulates the irrational and magical attraction that fashion exerts on the imagination and how we might behave ridiculously in search of a fantastic dress. More fascinatingly, this is not a story of consumerist shame, but of sweetness and desire, which is what led Fabian to the source material to begin with: “There is a kind of wonderful karmic message at the center of the film that has me. really attracted, “he said,” which is that if you are kind, that kindness will come back to you somehow. ” It’s not a message we hear a lot in fashion, which makes it even more enjoyable.
The fashion show scene, which showcases a 10th anniversary collection from which Ms. Harris chooses the dress of her dreams, is the film’s most breathtaking creation. While much of the fashion is about fantasy, of course, Fabian’s team was obsessed with historical accuracy, right down to the flowers that appear in the film, which, Talmaier said, “were popular and available by time and season.” In large part, the film owes its mid-century sense of authenticity to production designer Luciana Arrighi, who in fact modeled for Yves Saint Laurent and visited the Dior atelier. “As I had been for Dior in the past, it was nice to remember,” Arrighi wrote in a handwritten note, her script perfectly looped and glorious. She also showed the modeling actors how to walk: “We moved smoothly on the floor and in the center showing the clothes. But also get in touch with the public. All of this meant that we showed love for creation and devotion that made our clothes beautiful ”.
The current Dior team was also very helpful, helping Arrighi develop designs for the salon and providing some props, as well as giving Fabian and Beavans access to their archives and lending some garments, such as the famous Bar Corolle jacket and skirt, famously considered “The New Look” by then Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow, who opens the show. “We wanted to show a range of dresses from around the world [Christian Dior’s] output as well as to create the natural dramatic arc of a fashion show as they did then, “explained Fabian.” So, starting with day wear, cocktail dresses and prom dresses, there’s a kind of natural construction of the drama. “
Some of these looks were remakes made by the house in the 1980s or 1990s, Beavan explained, while costume designer John Bright was able to unearth a truly original, black and white spotted dress called The Costa. Rica, in the back of his archives. “I asked Dior and they said, well, it was actually a very popular dress. Many have been made. So if someone showed up in the back of a costume house, it was likely that. “That dress didn’t have its” insides, “as Beaven put it, or the undergarment that shaped the dress and made the dress move. fabric, although she and her team were able to recreate one.
In fact, many of the other looks were invented by Beavan to look like Dior-esque and executed by Bright and Jane Lauren. “There was a need for fabric with a sense of sculpture and something with a little strength,” she explained, but the couple also understood how Dior cut and how those “interiors” were made. When asked what she had learned by closely examining the original Dior clothes, Beavan said, “I think it was how ordinary they were,” she said. They were “well made”, of course, but what was clear from the examination of the clothes was how much she was thinking about the client, the woman. The dress became something extraordinary when the person it was created for wore it.
But it’s not simply the clothes that seduce Mrs. Harris and the audience that goes to the movies. Fabian wanted to reconstruct “the entire interior of Dior in a studio, so that everything is in the right relationship with everything else. The audience climbs the grand staircase, arrives in an antechamber, then there is the hall where the show takes place. Through a corridor, you have the dressing room where the models do their makeup and dress and walk through that corridor, enter the salon or take a walk through the salon, over the stairs and back into the dressing room. They conducted the show as a real fashion show, calling the numbers in sequence and transforming themselves into new looks in the dressing room.
As Talmaier said, the purpose of the haute couture salon was “to show how exclusive Dior was,” a reality Ms. Harris faces when the house’s sales manager, played by Isabelle Huppert, attempts to have her removed from the salon in front of a kind patron invites the hope of fashion into the show as his guest. “We had tons of rolls of really unique fabrics [and] accessories, from feathers, lace, thread, [and] pearls to the mannequins you can see ”, continues Talmaier. The mannequins were provided by Dior, as well as some furnishings. From the largest furniture to the smallest pieces of decoration, everything was custom made or original by an antique shop.
From mannequins to lighting fixtures, there is a sense of devoted elegance. Each lighting fixture, from the round lights in the dressing room to the crystal chandelier in the lounge in front of the client, was chosen taking into account a historical reference and an idea of how the then customers of the house would have felt. “It was important to show that every beautiful dress was handcrafted,” said Talmaier, and that “every customer was treated like a queen during the entire process of giving birth to a dress or suit.
This comes not only from the objects, of course, but also from the colors and tones. The team has developed “a dream white”, as Arrighi said, which the team called “Dior gray”. The curtains are Dior gray, as are the walls. Arrighi did a series of tests on the walls of the set to see which particular whitish gray would be best scanned on film and, as Talmaier said, “for the world of Dior at the same time”.
The casting was also true to Dior’s story: Christian Dior used models from all over the world, including a black woman from America, Dorothea Towles Church and Alla Ilchun, from Kazakhstan, which Fabian mirrored in his own mass. on stage of the show.
“Lesley Manville’s elegant and rich environment with 100% lovability is the key to balance,” says Talmaier. “Even though Ms. Harris isn’t rich, she’s a fantastic, lovely, neat woman. Her pure kindness shines ”.
But of course, the very purpose of a fashion show also helped the team. “The function of a real salon is, I believe, the theatrical staging and therefore the exhibition of the models to fulfill the dreamlike wishes of the customers”, wrote Arrighi.
The lighting of the film was essential to the atmosphere, especially “the sense of dream and fantasy,” explained Arrighi. When Ms. Harris sees Temptation, a burst of sunlight hits her face and she lunges forward, practically floating in joy. “Every time I’ve fallen in love,” Fabian mused, “I have this feeling of falling into a vortex, of the whole world receding and disappearing around me and literally falling into this vortex. This was the feeling I wanted to create. “
This is a feeling that Dior probably shared. “You must understand”, Arrighi wrote, “that Dior and even later YSL loved their creations and their devoted workers”.
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