I mentioned that I was lucky enough at Christmas time to receive a copy of Edith Head: The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer. I had read the book cover-to-cover by New Years Eve and now I dip in an out of it occasionally and most particularly when I'm watching an Edith Head credited film.
The book provides a fascinating insight into a truly accomplished woman and the photos and illustrations are to die for. I love old movies (well, the good ones), and as well as a snapshot of fashion history there is loads of Hollywood gossip and movie trivia contained within the glossy pages.
Edith started out at Paramount in the 20s when women rarely received a credit on any film unless they were starring in it. After assisting designers like Travis Banton and Howard Greer, it was Edith's costumes for Mae West in the early 30s really took her career to the next level, and she went on to mould the look of many famous stars including Dorothy Lamour, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Natalie Wood. In those days, before personal stylists and fast fashion, Hollywood stars often turned to studio costumiers for their civilian wardrobes too.
Edith hit her peak in the 1950s when some of Paramount's most successful films were made and she soon become a household name. She gave regular fashion advice on TV and in print and even, for a while, had a touring show so that movie fans could see some of her most famous frocks up close and personal. The shot above is from one of those shows.
Edith become close with many of the actresses she dressed (she was quoted saying that Grace Kelly was her favourite ever and they were friends) but like most she had a dark side too. Although she was much lauded and won 8 Academy Awards during her career there were, according to author Jay Jorgensen, a number of instances where she took credit for other designers works. Clearly she was fiercely ambitious.
As Edith become more and more successful she did less sketching of her designs herself but these old fashion illustrations were just so divinely pretty, I couldn't not include them. Here are some of Edith's recognisable designs from All About Eve, Harlow, The Great Race, To Catch a Thief and Vertigo.
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