That’s Fashion, Sweetie: My love letter to ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’


A letter addressed to the movie "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" with lipstick kisses.
(Megan Dang | Daily Trojan)

This summer, I was browsing the AMC website to see what movies were playing. I missed going to the movie theater, only having gone maybe thrice at my rural high school, and I was excited to munch on popcorn and see my favorite ad starring Nicole Kidman.

One poster I kept skipping over was for “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (2022), a baby pink one with Mary Poppins-like figures floating. It looked like a bad movie for kids; the title seemed like it told the whole story and to say the least, I was uninterested.

But while in the middle of summer school browsing on VogueI saw an interview with Isabelle Huppert about the film and its political subtext. Of course, as a fashion fiend, I immediately clicked and was surprised to learn the movie was about a widowed cleaning lady in Britain who decided to save money to buy herself a couture dress from Maison Christian Dior.

So, I bought a ticket for a late-night screening with my dad and entered the theater with no expectations. To say I loved the movie with all my heart and soul would be a wild understatement.

I had a lump in my throat four times, shed tears twice and giggled uncontrollably. The movie was about so much more than the enjoyment of vacationing to Paris and splurging on a dress; it commented on social class, economic and political tension, the tropes of mean wives to corrupt husbands and models who wants to be more than a pretty face, the pursuit of passion and, of course, the truest, purest and most traditional form of haute couture.

It also spoke on being a kind person. Especially growing up in Asia where I was taught to respect those older than me, I was also taught by my teachers throughout middle school and my community in high school to always be kind — not just nice, but deeply and truly kind, just like Ana de Armas’s pure honesty in “Knives Out” (2019).

But the scenes where Mrs. Harris sees Dior gowns, accompanied by the widening camera zoom-outs, felt incredibly intimate, and I must admit, one of the scenes where I shed some tears was when she finally got to wear her finished couture gown.

To see the intense love for the dress and the way it made her feel also made me pity myself, as I realized I hadn’t ever had that moment in my life. Yes, I’ve felt moments of utter joy and internal reassurance of fate, such as when I found ‘70s printed Prada pants in my size at over 70% discount, but not like Mrs. Harris. I have not felt like I was the shining light in the universe and the most beautiful girl to have ever walked the earth.

It made me re-appreciate the care and dedication of the seamstresses in Maison’s and when I went home, I immediately returned to Alexa Chung’s YouTube series when she went behind the scenes of Dior’s Maison in Paris and rewatched “Dior and I” (2014), the documentary on Raf Simon’s first collection there as creative director with Pieter Mulier.

However, what made me most sad about the film was that I knew it was never going to be appreciated the way it should be. It will never be as iconic and nostalgic as “13 Going On 30” (2004) or “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), but instead will remain underappreciated and hidden from the world of fashion lovers.

Maybe it was the marketing, as I had never even seen an ad or trailer for it, or maybe the Coronavirus killed their campaign plans, but even when asking my fashion community, I have yet to meet another person who has watched it.

So, I began to think, why not? What makes this movie so different from Andy Sachs or Jenna Rink? Well firstly, Mrs. Harris is not a New York “it girl” on the rise getting ready to jet set into a life of Miu Miu and Balenciaga. Secondly, she doesn’t have endless resources or parties for networking. Instead, she takes the bus with her friend, mends clothes at the pub with her slow-burn crush, Archie (Jason Isaacs), and drinks a cup of tea with a photo of her late husband at night. Thirdly, Mrs. Harris sets out on her adventure on a whim and on luck alone; she sees signs under her late husband, Eddy’s spirit through the lottery, dog racing and late widower payments from the military.

While Sachs’s struggle is being an outsider in the fashion world and her internal struggle with pre-Runway Andy, Mrs. Harris tackles snobby Parisians, an ultimately disappointing man and learning to stand up for herself after being too kind again and again.

Still, while I loved how deeply personal the movie felt, it’s disappointing knowing that I won’t see edits all over TikTok and Mrs. Harris will never become a sexy, cheesy Halloween costume. I still wish I could gush about the movie with friends over brunch and a weekend of thrifting.

But maybe that was one of the lessons I was supposed to learn: to savor what I have and have experienced regardless of if others can indulge as well. The fact that you, dear reader, may not have watched it shouldn’t be a reason to not bring it up at all.

Regardless, I also believe that my deep love for this movie comes from my desire to see a new film about fashion that had the depth, feeling and roundness of a documentary, without bringing me down by reminding of the harsh reality of fashion or painting an unrealistic world of perfect endings. The movie felt like a bedtime story I could paint with my six-year-old imagination — full of new color and completely pursuable.

And it delivered — it truly was a completely different fashion film. Instead of being about ogling dresses and daydreaming of attending Met Balls, it was the story of a journey to a dress and the growth of a person represented by a materialized identity.

So, for that, I thank that Vogue article, Mrs. Harris and all her adventures for coming into my life.

To anyone needing a break during finals and who wants to both laugh and cry over a beautiful story, I highly recommend this film. Officially giving it six out of five stars, I sign off on my last article of the semester.

Hadyn Phillips is a sophomore writing about fashion in the 21st century, specifically spotlighting new trends and popular controversy. Her column, “That’s Fashion, Sweetie,” runs every Thursday.





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