Hollywood’s greatest costume designer and record-breaking Oscar winner, Edith Head remains one of the most emblematic fashion icon of the 20th century. She has won more little gold men than any other women in Hollywood history – nominated for 35 Academy Awards for Best Costume Design and won eight of them – and is still remembered for her great collaborations with legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock. This self-made woman, who created clothes for more than 1,100 films, dressed the most famous actresses and made glamour her distinctiveness. Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, to name but a few, crossed her road and wore her designs for the most memorable looks the silver screen has ever known.
Edith Head was born on October 28, 1897 in San Bernardino, California. It was while working as a language teacher at the Hollywood School for Girls in 1924, after gaining a BA from Berkeley and a MA from Stanford, that Head applied for a job at Paramount Pictures in the costume department. Despite having taken night classes to learn drawing, her artistic skills were still at this point rudimentary. Indeed, later she admits having borrowed a classmate’s portfolio from her drawing lesson to present the sketches at her job interview. Nevertheless, Head was named chief designer in 1938 and remained at Paramount Pictures for 43 years before moving to Universal Pictures in March of 1967, possibly due to Hitchcock’s move to Universal in 1960.
Miss Head first acquired notability with the sarong dress she designed for Dorothy Lamour in the 1937 film “The Hurricane”. Few years later she received her first Academy Award in 1949 for ”The Heiress “, which was followed with awards for films that have become a part of Hollywood legend: Samson and Delilah (1950), All About Eve (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Facts of Life (1960) and finally for The Sting (1973).
Style icon in her own right, known for her tailored suits, dark glasses and blunt bangs, Head was appreciate for her low-key working style and, unlike many of her male contemporaries, usually consulted extensively with the female stars with whom she worked. As a result, she was a favorite among many of the leading female stars of the 1940s and ‘50s, and was therefore frequently “loaned out” by Paramount to other studios at the request of their famous actresses.
Beside her work, Edith Head published two books, ”The Dress Doctor’‘ (1959) and ”How to Dress for Success”(1967).
Always a devoted worker, Head passed away in October 1981, four days before her 84th birthday and two weeks after finishing her last film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. She left a legacy as dressing more Hollywood legends than any costume designer in history.