Haute Couture!

In the movie, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Mrs. Harris is a cleaning woman in 1957 London. She is a widow and in living in sparse conditions and one day she sees a designer dress in one of her client’s closets and falls in love with it. Each day, she admires its beauty and wants one for herself. She starts thinking of ways that she could go to Paris to visit one of the fashion houses.

She and a friend go to the dog races and she bets all of her money on a greyhound called Haute Couture.  He stops mid-race and she is devastated. But then a series of events heave good fortune her way. She receives a surprise military pension back pay from her late husband, the man from the betting booth at the dog race returns her lost money and she receives a reward for returning an expensive piece of jewelry that she found on the street.

She decides to book a flight to Paris and has an abundance of cash on hand. Once there, she finds her way to the House of Christian Dion with the help of some local guys from the station. Of course, she doesn’t fit in with the high-end fashion clientele, but once they discover that she has cash, they are willing to work with her. And, a debonair gentleman asks her to be his guest at the fashion show when he sees that she is being ostracized by the others.

The fashions are breathtakingly beautiful and when she sees the dress she wants, a well-known snob sitting next to her bids on the dress first. She is forced to make another choice, but soon discovers that they make each dress for the buyer. Thus, she needs to stay in Paris for at least another week.

Things work out because one of the young workers has an extra bedroom and she is even allowed to wear his sister’s clothes. She enjoys Paris, is wined and dined and even hits a few hot spots. There are a lot of twists and turns but she makes friends and even encourages the workers to voice their concerns to Mr. Dior. She ultimately leaves with her tailored gown in tow.

Watching this movie reminded me of my own roots with fabric. With two designer sisters who could make coats and wedding gowns without a pattern, many memories flourished as I watched Mrs. Harris tour the fashion house. The cutters, the button sewers, the fitters all made me remember the hours that I painstakingly waited as a child as my mother slowly turned the pages in the huge pattern books at the fabric stores. I was so bored, but quite like osmosis, my first piece of furniture was a Singer sewing machine in a cabinet when I moved into my first apartment.

This movie was a great escape and I am happy that I caught it before it left the big screen. As the credits rolled at the end, they creatively put fashion designs on both sides of the screen. They changed every few seconds quite like a display window. Mrs. Harris ultimately discovered that there is no place like home where she returned to find even greater joy.

In the African American culture, when one visits the Mother Land (Africa), the best gift upon return for a true friend is a piece of fabric. Once that fabric is unrolled, there are so many possibilities.  Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris was another golden nugget in my 2022 summer adventures!

Lynn M.
July 30, 2022

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