Book: Edith Head

I was very lucky to receive this book from The Boyfriend for my birthday this year. I didn’t even know I wanted it until I got it. He had to pop to work for a couple of hours in the morning on my birthday so I spent a happy hour or so looking through this delectable book!

Edith Head was an American costume designer who won 8 (8!) Academy Awards for her work. She designed for so many famous films, including Sweet Charity, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Vertigo, To Catch and Thief, White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard, and countless others – just look at her page on IMDB! One of the things I really love about this book is how we see the sketches for the clothes and the actual clothes. I wish I could sketch like that!

Edith Head’s iconic image includes these dark glasses – apparently they were so she could tell what the fabrics would look like in black and white.

I love this photo of Edith as a young girl – shes’s on the far right. It shows clearly the fact that she was born in 1897! Amazing considering how many iconic films she costumed throughout the 20th century.

She was clearly a fan of the bob throughout her life – and why not!? If you find a style you like, you may as well stick to it!


She designed quite a lot of costumes for Mae West, and I had to share this quote.

Here is Veronica Lake in a dress that was originally designed for Kay Linaker – Edith would recycle and reuse looks from other films for publicity stills. I can’t imagine this happening now! Apparently Veronica Lake said “excuse me while I put on my other head”. 😀

A very young Bette Davis here, in Beyond the Forest, after she parted ways with Orry-Kelly and Edith started designing for her.

One of my favourite facts from this book is that Head would mock up her costumes on dolls before she would make them full size.

Edith Head designed the iconic brown gown that Bette Davis wears in All About Eve. You can see from the sketch that it was meant to have a square neckline, but I read somewhere online that due to a measuring issue, it ended up being off the shoulder instead.

Although Head was so known so wearing plain clothes, at home she wore loads of bright colours, and she had this amazing house – Casa Ladera.

Edith sort of designed clothes for Audrey Hepburn, though of course a lot of her film (and I think real life) wardrobe was made by Givenchy. It seems like Head would design for the whole film, but then not make the clothes for Hepburn?

I love how this book puts colour sketched next to black and white stills, so you can see what colour the actual clothes are!

Ah Grace Kelly. So beautiful. There’s a great story where Kelly and Head conspired to trick Hitchcock into thinking Kelly was wearing padding in her bra because he didn’t think her boobs were big enough I guess (gross), but Head pretended she’d added padding, while Kelly just stood up as straight as she could and they successfully tricked him! Excellent!

Ah, these sketches are so amazing!

Slightly later in her career Edith designed the costumes for Butch Cassidy – I’ve mostly included this photos because Paul Newman.

One of her biggest hits of the late 60s was Sweet Charity, which is a great musical, featuring the song Hey Big Spender.

The Sting was one of the latest films she ‘designed’ the costumes for, though looking at the quote from Bob Mackie, it seems like it was controversial for her to take credit for it.

I definitely have a bit of a crush on young Robert Redford. And I like how Edith designed clothes for men as well as women.

Katharine Hepburn brought fabric swatches with her to the consultation with Head about her costumes for Rooster Cogburn.

Obviously there are loads and loads more photos in this book – it has 400 pages so I can’t share them all! But I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to want this book for yourself.

I find since I’ve been sewing more and looking at more things that inspire me, the more I look at costumes in films and TV and think how good they are generally. I would be interested in retraining to become a costume designer, but I can’t afford to do another degree – do you have any tips for how to get into it?

 

 

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