famous costume designer

The Incomparable Edith Head

“A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, but loose enough to show you’re a lady”

Wise words from Edith Head, the most prolific costume designer of the 20th century, and the creator of the tight but loose dress I sketched for my Miss Pin Up New Zealand 2017 talent. Edith’s costumes fueled my early love affair with the transformative power of fashion. Elegant, luxurious and crisply tailored her signature style was the epitome of vintage glamour and everything I wanted to be in life.

 

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

Ginger Roger’s Wearing an Edith Head costume in ‘Lady in the Dark’.

“A designer is only as good as the star who wears her clothes.”

Involved in over 1100 movies Edith helped define silver screen style. She worked closely with Hollywood actresses designing costumes that they actually loved, believing that you can lead a horse to water and you can even make it drink, but you can’t make actresses wear what they don’t want to wear. This close working relationship made her a favourite of actresses in the 1940’s and 1950’s, who would demand that studios rent Edith from Paramount for their films.
Edith created iconic costumes for screen legends like Audrey Hepburn, popularised the sarong dress with Dorothy L’Amour and delivered fierce glamour in films like Sunset Boulevard. Grace Kelly was a favourite client and wore Edith’s designs in the classic film Rear Window.

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

Edith Head with Gloria Swanson who she dressed in the fabulous film Sunset Boulevard

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

“Building a proper wardrobe is like building a home. Indeed, you should think of it like a home, because it is something you’re going to live in. It must be comfortable and suit all your needs.”

Film costuming didn’t command all of Edith’s time however. With no nonsense approach she designed everything from full wardrobes to uniforms for the United States Coastguard. I adore her power dressing philosophy, which encapsulates her opinion that fashion changes not only our physical proportions, but how we feel and what we can achieve. Daily style didn’t require money, it required thought, practicality and imagination. Edith advocated dressing for the life you want rather than the life you have.

 

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

 

In 1967 Edith’s style book “How to Dress for Success” was released. Containing this gem which is possibly even more relevant today!

‘No matter in which direction your strivings for success are pointed, what you wear and how you look can make the difference between moving steadily toward your goal or just rocking back and forth in the same spot. In these days of mass-marketing techniques, you know that when a product lacks eye-appeal it gathers dust on the shelf. So at the very outset, we say, “Think of yourself as a product.” In order to achieve success you have to sell that product, so start right now thinking of how you can improve it.’

 

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

 

Edith may have created glamour, but she didn’t embody it herself. Known for her diplomatic skill with tempestuous actresses Edith dressed to blend in, not to stand out. Edith preferred conservative skirt suits in neutral tones, with a wardrobe that reflected her low key personality.

“I always wear beige, black or white. For one thing I look good in them. For another, when I’m beside a star at a fitting, and she looks into the mirror, I don’t want to be competing in any way.”

Even her distinct blue tinted glasses weren’t the bold fashion choice they appeared. The blue lenses muted colours, helping Edith see how costumes would appear on black and white film.
But Edith wasn’t without scandal. She scammed her way into her first Hollywood job using sketches that weren’t even hers! Her talent was undeniable though, and she went on to win 8 Oscars, becoming the most awarded WOMAN AND COSTUME DESIGNER ever in the Academy’s history! ( Can you tell I’m excited about that? )

 

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

Costume Designer Edith Head helped define old Hollywood Style and paved the way for women being recognised in the male dominated film industry.

 

Today Edith’s legend lives on in popular culture. Pixar‘s The Incredibles character Edna Mode is based on Edith. She’s adorned a postage stamp, a google doodle, and will forever be imprinted on our idea of classic pinup glamour. Above all, Edith was a role model, proving that women could excel in the male dominated Hollywood industry.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from my design idol;

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”

With Style & Sass,

     Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in FASHION STORIES, 1 comment