Edith Head – Incredible designersJanuary 13, 2015
Edith Head: Picture a stern looking woman with a severe bob and matching fringe, ebony black hair that’s cut into perfect shape, with not a single hair out of place. A pair of glasses that adds to the seriousness of her face, and you could have a teacher, a governess, or a piano teacher staring back at you.
Hollywood Costume designer
But you’d be wrong, for this was Edith Head, one of the most successful costume designers in Hollywood and the only woman to have been nominated for a staggering 35 Oscars. She won 8 out of those 35 and she deserved every single one.
Edith Head – Early beginnings
Edith Head got a job working at Paramount at 18 working as a costume sketch artist, and from here she would work her way up to Head of Department, a rarity for a woman, at this time in Hollywood.
As well as designing costumes, Head also created outfits to be worn for award ceremonies which created every bit as much envy and adulation as her film costumes did.
Edith Head – Award Ceremonies
Grace Kelly’s dress worn to the 1954 Oscars cost $4,000, which was unheard of back then, but was a great success. Hepburn’s dress for Roman Holiday, designed by Edith Head, was adapted for the ceremony by Hepburn’s own favourite designer Hubert De Givenchy.
In 1938 Edith Head was rewarded for her hard work when she was made head of the design department with the title Head of Costume. This was a rare achievement for a women in Hollywood, but Head had worked hard for this and well deserved the promotion.
Hitchcock and Head
Alfred Hitchcock the auteur of cinema, was at the height of his fame when Edith Head worked with him, and she would provide costumes for 11 of his films over the period they worked together. Hitchcock’s blondes never looked so mysterious and provocative than when Head had dressed them.
Elizabeth Taylor and that dress
One dress designed by Edith Head would create the greatest stir, and that was the chiffon dress designed for Elizabeth Taylor for the film A Place in the Sun. The dress came with straps, chiffon and a wide skirt. It would be so popular with audiences that it would be copied several times by designers all over the world and in America, it became the staple prom dress for high schools all over the country. Unsurprisingly she won an Oscar for this film.
Edith Head – Final Oscar for The Sting
Edith Head’s final Oscar would be for The Sting in 1974 which would star Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Following her success at Paramount, Head went to work with Universal and stayed there until her death in 1981, dressing for TV as well as for film. She designed a breath-taking 444 costumes during her career, between the mid-twenties and up until the early eighties.
Look at any film from the 40s and 50s and see if you can spot her name in the credits, you may already have recognized the name, but not realized, or cared who she was. With this blog in mind, keep an eye out for her name now, and just think about the amazing contribution she made to film.