Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design between 1949 and 1973.
Born and raised in California, Head started her career as a Spanish teacher, but was interested in design. After studying at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles, Head was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures in 1923. She won acclaim for her design of Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong in the 1936 film The Jungle Princess, and became a household name after the Academy Award for Best Costume Design was created in 1948. Head was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively; these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.
In 1924, despite lacking art, design, and costume design experience, the 26-year-old Head was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures. Later she admitted to “borrowing” other students’ sketches for her job interview. She began designing costumes for silent films, commencing with The Wanderer in 1925 and, by the 1930s, had established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading costume designers. She worked at Paramount for 43 years until she went to Universal Pictures on March 27, 1967, possibly prompted by her extensive work for director Alfred Hitchcock, who had moved to Universal in 1960.
Head worked at Paramount for 44 years. In 1967, the company declined to renew her contract, and she was invited by Alfred Hitchcock to join Universal Pictures. There she earned her eighth and final Academy Award for her work on The Sting in 1973.
A winner of eight Academy Awards for Costume Design, Edith Head helped define the style of classic Hollywood with her striking work at Paramount and Universal. Some of the movie stars she dressed included Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Lana Turner, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and many more. She also became a recognizable personality in her own right thanks to her distinctive personal style including her signature glasses and forthright personality, which inspired the character of Edna Mode in The Incredibles. Surprisingly, she only liked to wear four colors herself: black, white, beige and brown.
This gown, made for Lillian Gish in 1946 for her role in Miss Susie Slagle’s, features elaborate soutache embroidery, popular in Edwardian times, and also making a comeback in the 1940s.
(Advance for use with Bob Thomas Column in PMS of Wednesday, April 13)
(LA1 – April 12) Hollywood, April 13 – No Idle Life for Lillian Gish – Actress Lillian Gish, right, who made her movie debut in 1912, goes over the wardrobe plans with fashion designer Edith Head at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where Miss Gish will star with David Janssen in “Warning Shot.” She flew to Hollywood from an Italian vacation to appear in the picture. During her Hollywood stay, Miss Gish plans to visit some friends and co-workers, and if there’s any time left over, she may do some work on the memoir she is writing about D.W. Griffith. (APWire Photo)(mw30300stu) 1966
Edith Head Costume Sketch for Miss Susie Slagle