DVD review: House of Eliott

House of Eliott: The Complete Series
Starring: Stella Gonet, Louise Lombard, Aden Gillett

Beatrice: Evie, you’re unstoppable.
Evie: I think we both are.

In a beautiful packaged set, now you can have the complete collection of the popular British drama from 1991, House of Eliott. It has series one, two and three in lovely casing that fits the decorative and captivating series about two sisters in 1920s London. From the creators of Upstairs/Downstairs, The House of Eliott manages to examine class differences in London through the inner-workings of a design house. It’s done in a lively, dramatic manner. You become invested in all the characters over the course of the series.

We see the wealthy, attractive Eliott sisters who frequent extravagant parties and have elegant friends and then additionally peek into the lives of those who work for the House of Eliott—the seamstresses who toil and worry about money. Both rich and working class have one thing in common: relationship issues.

The two single sisters find themselves without money after their father’s death. 30-year-old Beatrice basically brought up 18-year-old sister and therefore, sacrificed her own goals and future. Both women are strong, independent and creative. Beatrice [Stella Gonet] is the sensible, conservative sister while Evangeline [CSI’s Louise Lombard] is the spirited, inquisitive and adventurous one. The stisters could not be more different but they have that special sibling bond and both have an interest in creating fashion. This makes them work well together. Evangeline [Evie] is the designer/the creative one and Beatrice has the business sense, the ability to see how to make it work. As one character said in the beginning the two sisters were not paid what they were worth. At first the women design clothes according to the interests of their clients but they decide to challenge themselves and create an original collection. During this time, suitors come in and out of their lives, and the women struggle to reach success in a fickle, competitive industry. The costume design, period sets and characters make House of Eliot a must-see.

At the beginning, the Eliott sisters sell their home and Beatrice considers a position as caretaker of an elderly woman. Evie applies for a dance instructor position after learning all the hot moves from the housekeeper. But the women have big dreams and these positions do not suit them. A chance encounter with Evie and a philanthropist Penelope leads to the introduction of Penelopes’ playboy/photographer brother Jack [Aden Gillett]. He ends up hiring Beatrice to work for him and she keeps him completely organized but knows she and Evie want to be involved in the fashion world. They go to work for a woman in her design house. Instead of learning as apprentices, the woman disapproves when Evie garners more attention and requests for designing than she does. After that a big name designer hires the much sought after sisters and ends up stealing Evie’s designs.

The sisters make the daring decision to go into business for themselves with Jack’s monetary support as well as that of Evie’s godfather. Beatrice is the businesswoman while Evie has the eye and the talent to design. The sisters argue over different concepts and plans for their company. They clash over operational and design matters. Evie dates two very different men and this also causes a rift between the two sisters. Beatrice is at that “spinster” age for most in England at her time and Evie is young, beautiful, and inquisitive and attracts many suitors while her sister focuses on work. Evie is dedicated to design though, especially after a tragic event breaks her heart: she travels to art museums and takes in concerts and immerses herself to other cultural activities to gain new ideas for an original collection.

As with any proper and really worthwhile British series, House of Eliott has its bounty of dramatic moments, cliff-hangers, tragedies, scandals and winning episodes to propel it.

Activist Penelope remains conflicted on her friendship with Evie and her relationship with her brother Jack, who has become a partner in House of Elliott: “It makes me so mad. All this care and attention lavished on so much nonsense.” At a charity ball, she stood on-stage and expressed her distain for all its attendants, admonishing them for all the money they spent on their outfits for the event as well as the wasted money she and her organization used to plan and present it. She said that they all should have donated money directly to the organization. As a sub-plot, Penelope’s story provides a view into the other side of wealth: she selflessly and ardently works to help the unfortunate and puts herself in harm’s way time and time again. At the end of series one, she contemplates traveling to Africa with a missionary. Jack moves away from full-time photography to the film industry. He also grows fonder of Beatrice and their relationship moves from platonic to romantic. They make a wonderful pair—although they have their ups and downs. From the first scene he’s in, actor Aden Gillett commands the screen as Jack; a charming, honest, experienced and it turns out, quite sentimental, gorgeous man.

The Eliot sisters attract upper-crust clientele and the business is going very well. As Beatrice, Gonet shows her sensible side but also exhibits a strong sense of self. She’s gone this long without a man to support her and knows she can do it on her own. She loves Jack but does not need Jack. Lombard shines as Evie, a sprite, eager young woman who cannot wait for her next adventure or challenge. They attend lots of parties. Others do not treat them as fairly as they treat their workers and soon money is swindled, an affair with Evie and a diplomat threatens the reputation of House of Eliott and the sisters must make some difficult decisions. Wanting children and a more domestic home life, Jack suggests a separation to Beatrice. She works so much and is so career-focused and he knows it will not change and he does not want her to give up the business which provides her with such self-identity and pride. He is doing rather well with his film business as this point, but he also wants a family and Beatrice is just too involved with the House of Eliott.

The House of Eliott provides viewers with flair, drama, intrigue and an intricate journey for the sisters Eliott to come into their own. At any age, with enough focus, anyone can do what many view as impossible. Beatrice and Evangeline are dedicated and determined to make their way on their own terms and will let very few obstacles or few people lead them astray from accomplishing their ultimate goal: a successful fashion house.

The first season of House of Eliott begins with the two strong sisters supporting one another and the final series ends the same way. House of Eliott shows two very different yet connected women succeeding in a competitive industry, during a complex time in London.

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