Edith Head

BY: Eugenia PUBLISHED ON: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 IN: Iconic Fashion Designers Talking Fashion

Edith Head

What do the following memorable Alfred Hitchcock films, Notorious, Read Window, To Catch A Thief, Vertigo, Marnie, and The Birds’  have in common?  Edith Head an accomplished costume designer for over 400 classic motion pictures.
Edith Head

Wearing: Frank Lyman Knit Split-Sleeve Knit Bolero Sweater, Gardy Knit Top, Morrissey Y? Wide-leg Pleated Crop Pant, Nine West 'Levona Suede Peep Toe Bootie and Fashionphile Vintage Louis Vuitton Damier Mosaic Enveloppe.

Wearing: Frank Lyman Knit Split-Sleeve Knit Bolero Sweater, Gardy Knit Top, Morrissey Y? Wide-leg Pleated Crop Pant, Nine West ‘Levona Suede Peep Toe Bootie and Fashionphile Vintage Louis Vuitton Damier Mosaic Enveloppe.

In 2014, my hubby and I celebrated a milestone anniversary when we vacationed in Napa Valley.  While there we ventured north to a small town called Bodega Bay,  the filming location of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.’
Bodega Bay Country Store

It was as if we stepped back in time when we entered the Bodega Bay Country Store.  Not only could visitors buy groceries, enjoy a light snack, beer or wine but peruse the “Hitchcock Collection.”  Anything and everything Alfred Hitchcock collectibles and memorabilia.  The Birds star Tippy Hedren makes an annual visit every year Labor Day weekend.

My copy of Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer.

My copy of Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer.

It was in the Bodega Bay Country Store that I connected with Edith Head.  It was the huge coffee table book “Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood Greatest Costume Designer”  that drew me in closer.  The book was slightly damaged but worth the purchase (especially since I got a discount).

In case you don’t know, one of my passions is watching and re-watching black and white pictures. My daughter says I age myself when I call movies, pictures.  I watch, not just for the storyline but for the days when elegance and sophistication ruled in Hollywood.

Edith Head (1897 - 1981), Hollywood's best known and most successful costume designer. She won eight Academy Awards and numerous Oscar nominations. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Edith Head (1897 – 1981), Hollywood’s best known and most successful costume designer. She won eight Academy Awards and numerous Oscar nominations. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Edith Head was a towering figure in Hollywood even though her she stood only 5′ 1½ feet tall.   Edith Claire Posner was born on October 28, 1897, in San Bernardino, California.  She attended U.C Berkley and went on to get her Master’s Degree in Romance Languages from Stanford University.

Edith Head

Edith paid her vocational dues before becoming the head costume designer at Paramount Studios. She taught French at the Hollywood School for Girls.  The school needed an art teacher.  Edith secretly took night classes at the Otis Art Institute, and then at Chouinard Art College in Los Angeles.  She supplemented her income by teaching art classes at the Hollywood school.

The soon to be former French and Art teacher applied for a job as a sketch artist in the costume department at the Famous Players-Lasky Studios (later Paramount Pictures).
Edith Head

The rest, as it is said, is history.  Edith remained with Paramount for more than forty years. In 1967, at the age of 70, she left Paramount Pictures and joined Universal Pictures, where she remained until her death in 1981.

According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), Her trademark sunglasses were not “sunglasses” but rather blue lensed glasses.  Looking through a blue glass was a common trick to costumers in the days of Black and White film to get a sense of how a color would photograph.

Now, let’s get to my favorite Academy Awarding-winning costumes Edith designed:

All About Eve, 1951

The off-the-shoulder hostess gown Bette Davis wore in All About Eve.

The off-the-shoulder hostess gown Bette Davis wore in All About Eve, 1951.  Academy Award won for this film.

A Place in the Sun, 1954

A Place in the Sun 1951Elizabeth TaylorCredit: Paramount/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

A Place in the Sun, 1951 Elizabeth Taylor Credit: Paramount/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Rear Window, 1954

Grace Kelly as model Lisa Freemont in Rear Window, 1954.

Grace Kelly as model Lisa Freemont in Rear Window, 1954.

Roman Holiday, 1954

Edith Head designed Audrey Hepburn's dress for her Oscar win for Roman Holiday.

Edith Head designed Audrey Hepburn’s dress for her Oscar win for Roman Holiday. Academy Award Win for Audrey Hepburn and Edith Head.

The other Hollywood studios routinely loaned out Edith’s services, per requests of their big stars. Her client list included Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Veronica Lake, Mae West, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, and Jean Harlow.

Achievements:

When asked about the most important men in her life, Head would always reply:  “There were eight of them – they were all named Oscar.”

Edith Head

Edith Head with her eight Academy Awards. She had nominations for thirty-five Academy Awards.

She was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite designer and is responsible for creating the image of the “Hitchcock Blonde.”

In 1974 Edith gets a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She also begins creating sewing patterns for Vogue Pattern Company.

Edith Head's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Edith Head’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

 

Posthumous Recognition:

As part of a series of stamps issued by the U. S. Postal Service in February 2003. Titled, “American Filmmaking:  Behind the Scenes” commemorating the behind-the-camera personnel who make movies, Edith Head was featured on one to honor costume design.

As part of a series of stamps issued by the U. S. Postal Service in February 2003. commemorating the behind-the-camera personnel who make movies, Edith Head was featured on one to honor costume design.

“Edna Mode” in the Incredibles was modeled on Edith Head.

Character Edna Mode in Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles

Character Edna Mode in Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles. 2004.

 

“We ask the public to believe that every time they see an actress or actor that they are a different person”.   Edith Head

Google Doodle remembered Edith Head's 116th Birthday on October 28, 2013.

Google Doodle remembered Edith Head’s 116th Birthday on October 28, 2013.

“Always discreet about the size and shape of the stars’ backsides, she knew all about the skeletons in their closets but she was never one to gossip, although she did reveal that full-figured Clara Bow was known as a sausage, that Claudette Colbert was mean-spirited, and that Barbara Stanwyck was frumpy until she took over her designs”.

Edith Head Exhibit at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. May 21 - August 14, 2016

Designing Woman:  Edith Head at Paramount 1924-1967 at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. May 21 – August 14, 2016.

Both Paramount and Universal studios named their wardrobe buildings after her.

Edith Head outside her Universal Studios office in Universal City, CA June 23, 1975; Various Locations; Mark Sullivan 70's Rock Archive; Universal City; CA. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/Contour by Getty Images)

Edith Head outside her Universal Studios office in Universal City, CA June 23, 1975; Various Locations; Mark Sullivan 70’s Rock Archive; Universal City; CA. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/Contour by Getty Images)

Edith did marry twice and divorced both times. She owned a home in the Movie Colony neighborhood of Palm Springs.  She lived comfortably in an updated 1950s Hacienda-style home.

Edith Head's signature.

Edith Head’s signature.

Edith died of myelofibrosis, an incurable bone marrow disease, in 1981.  But her legend lives on, not only in the classic, elegant and sophisticated clothing designs but the character of Edna Mode in The Incredibles.  She was the black-rimmed spectacle sporting eccentric superhero fashion designer.

This quote sums up the costume designer perfectly:  “She managed to make clothes that not only conveyed the moods and ideas behind a screen narrative, but were also beautiful, flattering to the stars, and inspiring to everyday women.”

What are your favorite Edith Head costumes? Please share.

Have a fabulous week!

Siggy

  • To begin with, I love your chic look and that bag……I have a penchant for vintage bags and that one is a gem. So to answer your question, My favorite Head design would be Ingrid Bergman’s wardrobe for Notorious. That movie has always been one of my favorites. But then, Ingrid Bergman has always been one my favorite actors. I had forgotten that Edith Head had designed some patterns for Vogue and that led me to ETSY to find a few and see what the designs were like. And I have always been interested in the Head/Givenchy Sabrina controversy. This post made me do a little research on my own and those kinds of posts I love. Take care, Terri

    • Terri,
      Hi! “Notorious” another classic movie with wonderful designs by Edith Head. I did read about the Head/Givenchy “Sabrina” controversy. It seems Audrey contacted a few designers looking for a fabulous wardrobe in Sabrina. Balenciaga and Givenchy were busy designing collections. Hepburn was able to convince Givenchy to purchase his previous season’s capsule collection. While Edith had to design the rest of Hepburn’s less glamourous outfits.

      As far as the vintage bag, I mostly purchase online. I would love to find a local thrift/vintage store in my small town. I hope to meet up with another blogger soon to go to NYC to visit some vintage stores there.

  • I adore the sophisticated black outfit! Love the unusual bag, and sweater, So much interesting Film facts and photos. I always love to see photos and references to Old Hollywood, Esp. Grace Kelly!
    xx, Elle
    http://www.theellediaries.com/

    • Elle,
      Hi! Thank you for your kind words regarding my black outfit. I actually shopped my closet for this outfit-I wore the sweater over a gown a few years back. I small evening bag; I actually picked up in NYC when Canal Street was a thing. I never liked the faked designer knock-offs but did look to purchase unique evening bags. I just added a LuLu Frost pin on it to make it more Chanel-like. About Grace Kelly, she is the epitome of Old Hollywood elegance.