Author: Paul Gallico
Publication Date: 1958
Page Length: Approximately 256 pages
Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, written by Paul Gallico and published in 1958, is a captivating work of fiction that takes readers on a journey through the life of a humble cleaning lady turned determined fashion aficionado. The novel explores the themes of ambition, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams, while shedding light on the stark contrast between the glamourous world of high fashion and the ordinary lives of working-class individuals.
The story begins in early 1950s London, where we are introduced to Mrs. Ada Harris, or Mrs. ‘Arris as she is affectionately called. Widowed and working as a charwoman, Mrs. ‘Arris is content with her simple life until she glimpses a beautiful Dior gown in one of her client's wardrobes. This encounter sets in motion her fervent desire to own such a dress and leads her to embark on a journey to Paris, the fashion capital of the world.
After saving every penny she can, Mrs. ‘Arris, together with her dear friend Mrs. Butterfield, finally boards a train to Paris. Once there, a series of fortunate events brings her to the attention of an influential dowager, Lady Dant, who introduces her to various fashion designers. Mrs. ‘Arris interacts with several key characters, including the charming André Fauvel, a painter and couturier Bernard Bedoux, both of whom play instrumental roles in shaping her journey.
As Mrs. ‘Arris immerses herself in the world of haute couture, she gradually gains the respect and admiration of the fashion community. They see in her not just a cleaning woman with a dream, but a woman of substance and unwavering determination. Mrs. Harris' infectious passion and warm heart endear her to many, creating lasting friendships and alliances in unexpected places.
Amidst her encounters with renowned designers and affluent socialites, Mrs. ‘Arris remains true to herself, never losing sight of her goal to own a Dior gown. However, as she becomes entangled in the complexities of the industry, she starts to question what truly matters. The novel explores the divide between wealth and poverty and the emotional conflicts that arise as Mrs. ‘Arris navigates these differences.
Throughout the storyline, Gallico highlights the stark contrasts between Mrs. ‘Arris' humble background and the opulent world of high fashion, emphasizing the power of determination and the resilience of the human spirit. The novel is framed by the differences in lifestyle and values, illustrating the importance of authenticity and finding one's place in the world, regardless of social status.
As the story reaches its climax, Mrs. ‘Arris secures the prized Dior gown, fulfilling her dream and finding contentment. However, Gallico does not present the acquisition of the dress as the ultimate goal but rather as a symbol of personal triumph and self-discovery. Mrs. ‘Arris' transformation from a modest charwoman into a confident woman who has learned the true meaning of friendship and personal fulfillment is the heart of the novel.
Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris serves as a poignant reminder that no dream is too big or unattainable. It encourages readers to embrace their passions and to remain true to their identity, even in the face of obstacles and societal expectations. This enduring classic offers a charming escape into a world of glamour, where ordinary individuals can find extraordinary meaning in unexpected places.