One place you can always count on for period pieces and beautifully constructed costumes is the Masterpiece Theater on PBS, and The Paradise is no exception. Set in an 1870s shopping Mecca, this series is a veritable parade of inspiration for Steampunk fashion. The hats alone already have my mind whirring! And as the visionary store owner, John Moray says “how can such beautiful women ever have enough beautiful things?”
Before the Victorian era, all clothing was sewed by hand. The industrialization of the garment industry led to a growing collection of “ready-made” dresses, but the upper class ladies were slow to move away from their couture gowns. This is one of the hurtles that the staff of The Paradise must overcome, and fast-thinking shopgirl Denise is able to make the “hard sell” from the very beginning.
“This isn’t a shop. This is a kind of heaven!” cries one of their customers. Keep in mind there was no such thing as Harrod’s or Macy’s in the form we know it today until the 1890s, so the convention of a store that caters specifically to women and their buying power was all but untapped of at this time.
You can see full episodes on PBS’s website by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page for Episode 1.