The House of Eliott at last!
Jack and Tilly arrive at the premises of Bea and Evie’s flat/atelier and Jack’s studio, to see a swarm of movers and builders bringing up furniture and furnishings, fixing the brass plate announcing the House of Eliott to the front of the building, and otherwise making a nuisance. We also hear our first mention of interior decorator Hugo, who has charmed Tilly. Upstairs, Bea and Evie navigate the hustle and bustle as they contribute to it with their own suggestions and items. Hugo, a dashing looking dark-haired young man who seems a trifle temperamental and exacting, is shown going over some of the mistakes–in his mind–made by the builders. As the workers begin to stagger out of the building, we see a pert blonde striding up to the doorstep to the appreciative whistles of the men loitering outside. She’s cheeky and bold, and enters the atelier with little hesitation as Hugo approaches Bea to suggest more decor–Bea introduces her as Madge Howard, their new head seamstress. Madge introduces herself to Tilly, who is trying to sort out the beading and tassels, and takes charge of her new place of employment.
The sun is setting when more workers leave the building, and the pouring of champagne (by Madge) in a room filled with neatly-dressed ladies and gentleman signifies the transformation of the Eliott flat into a fashion house is complete! The decor is bright and white, with the tiniest hint of Art Deco. Evie and Hugo’s conversation is interrupted by a drab and slightly dour looking Penelope, whose opening salvo when Evie introduces her to Hugo, is to castigate the appalling waste of money spent on fixing the flat up. Hugo’s response is the typical “we’re giving employment to people,” which Penelope has no doubt heard time and time again, judging by her expression–she is less than impressed. Penelope is also dismissing of Evie’s desire to introduce her to Sir Desmond. Hugo decamps to find more champagne and behind him slides Aunt Lydia, who is first glimpsed by Sir Desmond. Sir Desmond greets Lydia warmly after eighteen years’ silence, but a slightly humbled Lydia mentioned that hardly anyone is speaking to her. Slightly is the key word. Lydia remains imperious and waspish with Bea, who breaks away from Jack to greet her, and with Sir Desmond, who attempts to renew their acquaintance.
The party is briefly interrupted by Penelope rushing out of the flat. Evie runs after her to find Penelope almost collapsed on the stairs, but she refuses to share the source of her troubles and walks away. Later that night, as Bea is greasing her face in the mirror, Evie is stymied about Penelope’s reaction to their success. Bea is perceptive: Penelope has nothing but causes and oppressed people to worry over, not nothing to truly care for or feel fulfilled by. They then giggle over the prospect of Lydia and Sir Desmond, with Evie noting that her godfather can take care of himself. Jack and Hugo are chatting at a bar, where Jack expresses his fatigue with photographing dowagers in comparison with the excitement of film making and actresses. Hugo, however, is flippant and callous, obviously not understanding Jack’s inability to just keep things going the way they always have gone (makes me ponder Jack’s previous flippancy–hanging around with old comrades who want to live on champagne and velvet doesn’t go with his growing seriousness).
Penelope visits a prison, where she listens to an inmate recite a soliloquy. This seems to be another one of Penelope’s “projects”. To her surprise, the inmate, Mr. Fox, reveals he was put in gaol because of Sir Desmond’s perfidy. Penelope gets Mr. Fox to share his story, and apparently, Sir Desmond stole his ideas, forcing him to resort to crime to scrabble back to the top. The source of the story–Sir Desmond–is dining in private with Lydia, an event an edgy Lydia pushes at to discover whether their privacy is the result of his embarrassment to be see with her in public. She obviously cannot give anyone an inch because if the shoe was on the other foot, she would be unmerciful and cutting. Lydia perks up when Sir Desmond asks about Arthur, but is quick to let him know she would not give Society the satisfaction of fleeing London for backwards Boston as Arthur wishes. The old Lydia emerges when Sir Desmond offers a toast to the House of Eliott–she cannot take Evie and Bea’s couture house seriously (jealous of their ability and freedom to not care about Society!).
Hugo and Evie are in an art studio, where Hugo is exclaiming over the designs of his friend Miss Farrow. Hugo presses for Evie’s opinion, but when she does so, he belittles her misunderstanding of its destination (like she knew!). Hugo cannot understand why Evie is upset with his behavior, but feels he is pushing her to embrace her status as an artist. Evie, aware of her lack of education and her status as just a dressmaker, is skeptical, but Hugo’s impassioned support of her artistic endeavors gives her pause. Jack is moving towards his quest to get into the cinema industry by arranging a studio session with Francine Bailey, a languid, kohl-eyed actress, who takes Jack’s interest in her as personal as opposed to professional, and cuts off his awkward attempts to pump her for interest in his desire to direct movies. Jack’s usual suavity is gone, but the actress sets him back on his feet by giving him permission to flirt with her.
As Bea goes over the figures for the day, Evie pokes her head into the bedroom to share that Sebastian has rung her up. Bea is horrified at the thought of Evie going out alone with him, which gets Evie’s back up about Bea’s bossiness and lack of trust. Bea relents in the face of Evie’s determined brattiness, and the following day, Evie is out on the airfield with Sebastian, who wants to take her up in the biplane. They seem to have switched from brother/sister to potential lovers rather quickly! This is the beginning of Evie’s penchant for dangerous relationships at the expense of nice, safer men. Sebastian straps her in and takes the plane off for a flight. They soar over green pastures, much to Evie’s delight, but when they come back to the airfield, Sebastian’s employer is furious. Sebastian ignores him and strolls off with a beaming Evie. Bea enters Jack’s studio as he’s retouching Francine’s portraits, and he muses over not finding Francine attractive, but Bea is less concerned with that than with the trickle of clients streaming into The House of Eliott. Jack urges Bea to advertise the couture house rather than rely on word of mouth…as an aside, he also mentioned Penelope’s gaolbird and his vague accusations against Sir Desmond. Bea has other things on her mind, but is grateful to Jack for listening.
Jack takes the photographs with Francine, who is being fitted in her Egyptian-themed costume, and is out of temper with the whole film making business now that Hollywood is calling. Jack is noticeably enthralled to be on set. The excitement ends when Francine is sacked when the producer’s wife discovers their affair! Francine is more furious about being stripped of her one-of-a-kind wardrobe, and is determined to purchase a whole new set of clothes and swan off to Hollywood. Bea pays a call on Sir Desmond in his office, where he takes command of the conversation. Bea came to discuss the business with Evie’s godfather, but his high-handedness leads her to hold her cards tighter, and her tentatively open expression shuts down as Sir Desmond gives her hinting warnings about living modestly and safely. In the workroom, the seamstresses are fascinated by Tilly’s skill with beading, and Madge expresses her belief that work of that quality should be well compensated. She also reveals her strong will–she left her last place of employment due to a clash of personality…Evie’s date with Hugo feeds her mind, and he pontificates on as they stroll through a museum filled with ancient art. In contrast, her dates with Sebastian, first in an aeroplane, and then in Madame Tussaud’s, is all about fun and carelessness–as evidenced when he suggests flying her to Paris.
Bea continues to disapprove of Evie’s continued rendezvous with Sebastian, and her approval of Hugo is no doubt due to her awareness that Evie has a strong physical attraction to their ex-half-brother. Evie allays Bea’s fears that she would do something rash, like marry, and turns the topic to Bea’s own love life–Bea scoffs at the thought of romance and marriage at her age (33). Evie runs down a list of potential suitors–Jack, whom Bea dismisses for his flippant nature; Piggy, for his bankruptcy and acting fantasy; and Sir Desmond for being their father’s contemporary. Bea changes the subject when Evie strikes a nerve–Bea’s former suitor Phillip White. Evie follows tack and offers encouragement that the House of Eliott will grow and be successful.
Francine is back in Jack’s studio snapping more photographs of her, and she is furious with the London dressmakers, who have refused to accommodate her desire for an entire wardrobe in three weeks. Jack mentions the House of Eliott…where Francine orders an extensive wardrobe that will require extra staff and loads of expense. Bea refuses to budge on the subject of money, and the price quoted obviously impresses Francine Bailey, who declares that she would give them a bonus if they complete the commission on time. She swans out of the atelier with a beaming Jack. Evie and Bea work into the wee hours of the night on designs for Francine’s wardrobe, and their sketches are bright and daring, which meets Francine’s approval. The workroom is buzzing with activity of the new hands hired to take Francine’s work. Francine herself is being fitted by Bea, Evie, and Madge, and her earlier approval has been replaced by a rude, demanding impatience. Madge doesn’t bite her tongue, but Bea dismisses her–money is green! (or, well, the colors of pound notes /sez the American *g*). Bea, however, does not give Madge the sack as Francine would like, and Evie smirks as she cuts open the hem stitches to let down the hem of Francine’s magenta tea gown.
Hugo arrives in evening gown and in his motorcar to take Evie out for the night, but she must turn him down because of their heavy workload. Bea reprimands Madge in the workroom, who apologizes (despite her derision over Francine being a fellow cockney who gives herself airs)–this causes Tilly a momentary discomfort, who is torn between her loyalty to Bea and Evie and her burgeoning friendship with Madge. However, the outspoken Madge lets her know there’s no harm and they have a laugh over her paraphrasing Bea’s order to cease working in half an hour to grab a gin. Penelope visits Mr. Fox in gaol again, and Mr. Fox continues on his tirade against the ruination of his life by Sir Desmond, which appeals to Penelope’s mistrust of wealthy, powerful people who, in her mind, contribute to the suffering of the poor. He stokes the fires of suspicion in Penelope over Sir Desmond’s reach and power now that Mr. Fox is coming out of gaol, and convinces her that he is terrified. She rushes over to the House of Eliott to speak with Evie, but she is much too busy to listen and Penelope storms down to Jack’s studio to share Fox’s fears. Jack is busy as well, and Penelope slams out of the building and rides her bicycle down to Sir Desmond’s office. Sir Desmond’s usual wiliness routs Penelope’s usual bombardment and bullying to share his side of the story: Fox was a lazy manager and embezzled funds from the company Sir Desmond purchased when it was near ruin. Penelope can say nothing, and storms out after a slightly smug Sir Desmond has the last word by offering to help Fox when he is released from gaol.
Francine’s earlier petulance disappears now that her wardrobe is complete, and she primps and preens as Jack takes photographs of her in a new pink robe de style. The entire staff of the House of Eliott cheer over packing the last box of Francine Bailey’s wardrobe…but Bea and Evie’s smiles turn to frowns when, in the ensuing days, they receive no payment for their work! Bea is on the telephone to get to the bottom of this, and goes to see if Jack was gypped. He wasn’t paid either, and he and the Eliott sisters drown their disappointment in champagne (Jack’s special medicine!). To their surprise, Francine’s solicitor arrives with cheques for them both, and Jack immediately sweeps Bea into his arms for a kiss!