Tuesday, February 11, 2014

For The Love Of...The House of Eliott

Remember The House of Eliott? I sure do. Originally released on the BBC in 1991, I imagine it probably screened in Australia a few years later - probably 1993 if memory serves.

As a child, being allowed to watch TV was a rare treat and this Sunday evening program with its jaunty violin theme song and billowing silk across the credits was one of only a few that wasn't a nature documentary. As you can imagine it was the highlight of our viewing week! My mum has even kept a letter my brother wrote to her (delivered by me), pleading he be allowed out to watch it with us even though he had been sent to his room hours earlier!

Centered around the trials and tribulations of sisters Evie and Beatrice Eliott as they establish their London Fashion house in the 1920s, this rather earnest period drama probably kick-started my deep and enduring love for the genre with it's fabulous clothes and strong female characters.
Re-watching it today I am struck by the fact even though the production values aren't as spectacular as its modern counterparts (ahem, Downton Abbey) and there is a rather dangerous propensity for overacting (especially as it draws towards the final season...), the romantic notions of success, love and aspiration are still just as relevant today.

Bea and Evie - silk pyjamas forever!
As a youngster, I had always oscillated between wanting to be Evie and wanting to be Bea. I could understand why everyone gravitated towards Evie; she is so beautiful with her dark bob hair and sparkly blue eyes. And being the younger of the two sisters she always has the most spectacular and daring outfits.

This backless gold number gets worn a number of times throughout the series and is basically sartorial perfection.
Beatrice in comparison always seems a little down in the mouth; life seems to have disappointed her one too many times - but she has that gorgeous finger-wave blonde hair and she manages to snare herself the most handsomest of men in photographer Jack Maddox...
Ah yes, Jack Maddox - society photographer, turned film maker, turned political activist...and all the time with the perfect hair and brilliantly knobbled nose!

Beatrice making eyes at Jack.
Beatrice, Jack and Evie...hard at work...
...their work outfits are absolute perfection!
Watching it again now, I find a new-found respect for Beatrice. She never ever shys away from a difficult conversation - be it in business or love; has a firm belief in her abilities as a business woman, is spectacularly organised and still manages to look glamorous through it all. For a newlywed woman in her mid 30s she makes the rather controversial decision to delay starting a family to focus on her career - a decision which still manages to raise eyebrows almost 100 years later. When it comes down to it, Bea is actually a very modern woman living in an era when the concept of a 'modern woman' was only just percolating.

Beatrice has the most perfect finger-wave blonde hair ever. EVER! Sigh...

Wearing the most perfect knitted black jumper with white bow detail.
And Evie - delightfully perfect Evie! With her backless dresses, billowy sleeved blouses, headscarves and bob hair she truly is a style icon. I have hit the pause button many, many times to marvel at the drapery of her work blouses. What I have really appreciated about her character this time around is how independent she is. Move to Paris at 21 to design for a famous couturier? Sure. Go to all-night bohemian parties without a chaperone? Absolutely. Live on her own? Why not!

Young, single and living the life in Paris!
3am and Evie's glass of wine is still full...
She is a curiously solitary character, who gets wonderfully distracted by small details and seems at peace with herself. All fabulously formative for myself as a young girl I imagine.


That said, by Season 3 she is basically an insufferable wannabe bohemian bore and I find myself averting my eyes every time the camera lingers on her bobbing head thoughtfully considering the melody of some cool jazz tune...and I never could work out - even then - why oh WHY she chooses such boorish, deeply unappealing men.

The series was cancelled before a fourth season began filming - to the evident surprise of the producers and writers who leave season 3 on quite a cliffhanger. Yet given the lapses into hysteria and melodrama that characterise season 3, I would say this is probably for the best!

And so it remains that my favourite thing about the series overall - beyond the gloriousness of the fashion in every single frame, obviously - is that whenever something even slightly good happens, out springs Jack with a chilled bottle of champagne and a selection of crystal flutes!
And I think we can all take something away from that!

Champagne anyone?!
He genuinely does this at every opportunity...
...to the evident delight of all!



  1. I love this post! I'm the owner of the Tumblr (and thank you so much for crediting me, so many haven't and it always makes me warm and fuzzy when I see it!) and a huge HofE geek and there's just not enough love out there for the show, the brilliant but flawed, lovely lovely show.

    Series 3 I agree, is a tad melodramatic at times but oh, Bea! Bea is my heroine in all things.

    1. How wonderful!! I was beyond excited to find your Tumblr - especially as it allowed me to say 'look! LOOK! How have you not seen this show?!! It is clearly the height of fabulous - LOOK!'
      Keep up the fab HofE work!