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The Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris Costume Pieces That Helped Its Cast Best Get Into Character

In the whimsical grown-up fairytale Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, part of the story’s emphasis is what one wears to put their best foot forward. That’s a practice that actors are quite used to, but when it comes to co-writer/director Anthony Fabian’s adaptation of the 1958 novel by Paul Gallico, it’s also a major plot point. In a new movie release where a cleaning woman in London aspires to be decked out in haute couture, costuming is absolutely key. 

As everyone has a look that properly fits their characters, you’d be amazed how the smallest details could really make an actor’s performance. To that effect, there were pieces of the costumes that Lesley Manville, Lucas Bravo and Isabelle Huppert wore that they felt really anchored them to their characters. I asked them as much during the press day for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, as the wardrobe of the entire film is nothing short of astonishing.

Ellen Thomas, Lesley Manville, and Lucas Bravo side by side in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

(Image credit: Dávid Lukács/Ada Films Ltd)

We’ll start with Ada Harris herself, Lesley Manville. Running the gamut between Christian Dior dresses to her everyday work outfits, part of Ada’s journey sees her go from drawing rooms to fitting rooms. But the one aspect that really nailed down her Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris protagonist was a simple, heartfelt accent. Here’s the costume piece that Manville told CinemaBlend helped the most: 

Well, I think it’d have to be Ada’s hat, really. Because her hat is a bit of a homemade job, in that she’s added little things to it to perk it up. It’s probably a had she’s had for decades, it’s been through the war, and it’s looking a bit tired. So true to Ada, she kind of rather than throw it away, which she can’t afford to do, apart from anything else, she just gets some little flowers and adds things to it. And makes something of it. And in a way, that’s a good metaphor for what Ada’s like.

Throughout Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, we see Ada Harris wear hats of different sorts. Since she ends up staying in the city of lights longer than anticipated, she kind of has to. Through the kind invitation of André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), an accountant working at the House of Dior, Ada has a place to stay while waiting for her Christian Dior gown to be made. 

As luck would have it, the wardrobe of André’s absent sister Sandrine is open to her clothing needs. Though unfortunately, as Academy Award-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan noted in the production notes for the film, Ada and Sandrine are not the same shoe size. 

Our young accountant is an interesting fashion study himself, and in playing this Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris character, Lucas Bravo got to do something new in terms of costuming. Highlighting one costume in particular, one of the stars from the cast of Netflix’s Emily in Paris admits that going retro really appealed to his character process in the following way:

I would say, I have two costumes in the movie, but I would say the gray one, the gray costume, the accountant costume. It was the first time wearing a period outfit, and it’s the accountant, and the cuts are very fifties, so it really helps project into character. It felt great, I was very comfortable as well. Big pants and tiny shoes. … So chic and comfortable at the same time. I don’t know what happened.

While Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris diversified the source material in certain ways, the costuming was one of the more traditional aspects. Even in that respect, there was still some room for invention. Jenny Beavan, one of 2022’s Oscar winners for her bespoke work with Emma Stone and the cast of Cruella, actually got to create two original gowns, “Temptation” and “Venus,” that are shown among replicas of actual Christian Dior pieces that existed. Though she based those pieces off of other Dior gowns of the time and aesthetic, Beavan got to ride the line between history and fantasy in a gorgeous fashion. 

isabelle Huppert stands at her desk, dressed in black, in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

(Image credit: Dávid Lukács/Ada Films Ltd)

Back in the realm of the conventional, Jenny Beavan’s style sense helped one more actor get into character. In the case of Isabelle Huppert’s Claudine Colbert, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’s costume designer mostly stuck to what she called a marvelous, yet “very very severe” fashion style. Wearing all black for most of her time on screen, Huppert found variety in the designs of her wardrobe, as noted in her own costume commentary: 

There is a kind of harmony between all my costumes. Well, not the last one, of course, but let’s not speak so much about the last one. Not to reveal too much of the story, but Madame Colbert, she’s always dressed in black with different shapes. Each dress is different. I like some more than others, but they’re all very, you know, she has a kind of uniform. Because she has a uniform of the good servant also, but very elegant, because she represents Dior. And she has to look a certain way, of course, because she’s supposed to welcome all the rich and famous. So she has a certain obligation to look a certain way, and a certain pleasure, of course, to look this way.

Conveying an era or mode of style in a certain context is hard enough, and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris sticks the landing rather nicely. With every little touch allowing Lesley Manville, Lucas Bravo, and Isabelle Huppert to ground themselves in character, the performances are as beautiful as the fashion. You could even say that when it comes to this beautifully romantic romp, Jenny Beavan’s work on the costumes counts as the big “special effect” that lands the movie’s spectacle in the right place. 

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is currently showing in theaters and is well worth the time to head to your local multiplex to check out. If you want to know more about the film, you can read CinemaBlend’s official review of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris to get a feel for what to expect. Don’t be intimidated by all of the high fashion on the screen, as unless your theater has a strict dress code, you can still show up in your usual mode of dress. 

Mike Reyes
Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.