Born on this day – Edith Head

Edith Head – Costumer Designer Extraordinaire

The blogosphere will be popping with plenty of tributes to the Divine Miss H. She worked on almost 500 films and dressed the biggest stars in Hollywood.  For me it would be impossible to pick a favorite dress or movie.   Here is my small tribute with a few favorite sketches, quotes and a bibliography where you can slowly drink up all the talent, controversy and inspiration that is Edith Head.

Words to live by

What, only 8?

Sketch for Dorothy Lamour and Road to Bali

Sketches of Edith Head’s designs

Grace Kelly dress for To Catch a Thief

To all the youngsters out there

Sketch for Sabrina – Audrey Hepburn

Working her magic


Books by Edith Head

How to Dress for Success

Publisher’s  description 

“You can do anything you want in life if you dress for it,” says Edith Head in How to Dress for Success. Would you like to look younger, prettier, slimmer? Would you like to attract a new man and hold on to the current one? Would you like to get a better job and earn more money? Then this is your book. Edith Head (1897-1981) dressed stars from Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor to Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn. This reprint of Head’s 1967 tome serves as a timeless reference to looking your best. Head offers no-nonsense, and often hilarious, fashion advice. Illustrated with Head’s original black-and-white line drawings and packaged with a chic cloth cover, this pocket-size guide is packed with smart tips on how to accessorize, dress for all occasions, and develop your own personal style.

The Dress Doctor 

Publisher’s  description  

Long before celebrity stylists became as renowned as the Oscar-winning film stars they advise, the legendary costume designer Edith Head was dressing Hollywood’s most fashionable women and men on screen and off—and lending her sartorial wisdom to women across the country on radio and television. In 1959, she published a best-selling memoir and style guide, The Dress Doctor, in which she shared tips on style and dozens of entertaining anecdotes on Hollywood’s A-list with her fans. Now, The Dress Doctor has returned in this special edition of the original volume, an alphabetical romp through the art of getting dressed and dressing Hollywood, with specially commissioned illustrations and the best advice and stories culled word for word from the original book.

From Audrey Hepburn to Zooture, The Dress Doctor is filled with Head’s timeless tips: her expertise on developing a personal style, dressing to flatter one’s figure, building a wardrobe, and judging quality. Her prescriptions for dressing properly for various activities from archery to house cleaning to roller skating are a charming mix of perennially chic and, now, with the passing of time, tongue in chic. Fashion illustrator Bil Donovan’s stunning re-creations of Head’s most famous gowns, along with illustrations of myriad other stylish ensembles, bring the designer’s work vividly to life again, along with Hollywood icons Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Cary Grant, and many others.

Edith Head’s Hollywood 

Great look into bygone Hollywood and Edith herself.  Written by her and Paddy Calistro with a great forward by Bette Davis


Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costumer Designer

Publisher’s  description  

All About Eve. Funny Face. Sunset Blvd. Rear Window. Sabrina. A Place in the Sun. The Ten Commandments. Scores of iconic films of the last century had one thing in common: costume designer Edith Head (1897–1981). She racked up an unprecedented 35 Oscar nods and 400 film credits over the course of a fifty-year career.

Never before has the account of Hollywood’s most influential designer been so thoroughly revealed—because never before have the Edith Head Archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences been tapped. This unprecedented access allows this book to be a one-of-a-kind survey, bringing together a spectacular collection of rare and never-before-seen sketches, costume test shots, behind-the- scenes photos, and ephemera.

Edith Head is widely considered the most important figure in the history of Hollywood costume design. The glamour and style of her creations continue to inspire generations of designers. Her career spanned nearly half a century and included such classic films as Rear Window and Sunset Boulevard. Her private life and professional achievements, however, have been the subject of speculation since she rose to the top of her field in the late 1940s. Ruthlessly competitive and intensely secretive, Head had few close friends and many detractors. In his unprecedented biography, David Chierichetti offers a privileged glimpse into the personality and emotions behind the famously impenetrable “schoolmarm” façade, as well as a comprehensive account of her creative process.

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer

From Publishers Weekly

Film historian Chierichetti pays tribute to the grit behind one woman’s glamorous career. Head spent more than 40 years at Paramount, won eight Oscars and became as famous as the stars she dressed. Her longevity came thanks to diplomacy and manipulation, and Chierichetti meticulously details her love affairs, touted designs and public appeal. From 1925 until her death in 1981, Head was a byword in Hollywood and an American fashion icon. She endured long hours, modest pay and studio machinations, yet never lost her cool. And she dressed everyone, from Barbara Stanwyck and Grace Kelly to Paul Newman. Draped in dark glasses and severe suits, Head was a master at playing politics and keeping competitors at bay. She was also an accomplished liar, which haunted her throughout her life. Head accepted the Oscar for Sabrina, though the gowns were designed by Givenchy. She gambled that the unknown Frenchman would remain silent-and he did. Not that the impenetrable Head wasn’t a talent in her own right. Her ability to stay within budget and placate divas-“I might have to dress her again”-was as legendary as her fashion virtuosity. Olivia de Havilland dubbed her “a marvel.” Yet the twice-married designer was also insecure and aloof; keeping secrets kept her in the game. Few, save Chierichetti, ever penetrated her inner core. He paints an absorbing sketch of an ambitious woman whose career defined Hollywood’s golden years. Fashion lovers will enjoy his homage, and his devotion to movie magic. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

14 thoughts on “Born on this day – Edith Head

  1. Pingback: I’d Like to Thank the Academy… | The Inbox Jaunt

  2. I would have a hard time picking one too. I love what she did in the early years with Mae West. Here is a list of those she won. I love All About Eve, but To Catch a Thief and Grace Kelly and those gowns? I didn’t realize she did The Sting.

    1950 – The Heiress
    1951 – Samson and Delilah
    1951 – All About Eve
    1952 – A Place in the Sun
    1954 – Roman Holiday
    1955 – Sabrina
    1961 – The Facts of Life
    1974 – The Sting

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