Whereas Absolutely Fabulous was also set in the 1990’s, The House of Eliott was set in the 1920’s.
The Eliott’s being sisters Beatrice and Evangeline. Bea, the older sister, played by Stella Gonet, who runs the business with occasional forays into dress-design – whereas younger sister Evie, played by Louise Lombard, designs most of the clothes. Bea is the more conservative of the two Evie the more radical – this leads to occasional tensions in their work together and their designs.
The show follows the death of the sisters’ doctor father who leaves them without a penny, due to speculative stock purchases on the markets, this being before the crash of 1929, he also leaves them an illegitimate son, a brother they were unaware of.
Bea lands a job to a society photographer who later helps the sisters to fund their fashion house.
Their fashion house being established in a still predominantly male-run environment – they also have to overcome class prejudices – both sisters being from mere middle class backgrounds whereas business was still seen as both an upper class and male domain.
The series was written by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins who also had come up with the brief for the original Upstairs, Downstairs from the 1970’s.
There was more to the show than haute couture – the social and political backgrounds of the time were explored – women’s suffrage, the life of the working and non-working poor. It was well written but perhaps its pace a bit sedate for today’s tastes. But even if you did not care too much for the characters and the plot if you loved fashion and had an interest in its history this show was a must-see.
I myself enjoyed its portrayal of British fashion in the 1920’s – the design process, fashion media, fashion shows – the latter being in dining salons where the fashion press ate and drank as the models moved about the tables – a preferable practice perhaps to the current runway set up!
The first season focussed on their work and run up to their first fashion show, and its critical reception and commercial consequences. Most of their fashion pieces did not come on full display until seasons two and three.
- Those Marvelous British TV Period Dramas . (eclectic24.wordpress.com)
- Back on the A-List: New ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ Episodes Are Coming (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)