A Closer Look at Ms. Harris’ Suits Goes to Paris

I want to talk about the costume inspiration for some of the individual characters. Let’s start with Ms. Harris. Her look contrasts with the glamorous universe of Dior. Did you watch a lot of what housekeepers wore at that time?

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

Her flowered hat is another signature. Where does this come from?

The hat is mentioned in the short story, I think. To be honest, what I do with hats, because they’re so particular to people…I think we had a wonderful fitting where we had Lesley’s wig on so we could try on different hats, and we had to make some of them. I don’t remember why. Was it something we had to double? And again, it was hard to do things at that time, so I was rummaging through all the boxes of fake flowers. It was a hat that had just walked on Lesley and it was the kind of hat you would have the best and could cut back, like the ladies in Jane Austen who always cut their beanies. With the floral stuff, I do it instinctively if that’s what the character likes.


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