Tag Archives: Bette Davis

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?



Fashion History: 1930s

I thought today I would take a closer look as fashion from the 1930s. As I mentioned in my post on my book Vintage Fashion, the 30s was the era of Hollywood glamour. Gowns were elegant and draped and with an elongated silhouette. Women had been liberated from corsets in the 1920s meaning the evening-wear was freer and was cut on the bias to show the natural curves of the body. In terms of undergarments, they favoured separates with few seams so they wouldn’t show through the outerwear. Madeleine Vionnet was the first designed to use the bias to make these kinds of gown.

Madeleine Vionnet gown(image source)

In terms of daywear, the suit was still king. After the waist had completely disappeared in the 1920s, it came back in the 30s. After the Great Depression in 1929, people didn’t have so much money (obvs!) so fashion had to last longer – they mended things rather than buying again. Costume jewellery overtook real jewellery and it and accessories became the way to update a look where they couldn’t afford a new suit. Daywear became more and more practical, too, as women led busier lives.

1930s Suits(image source)

It was lucky timing that synthetic fabrics, like synthetic silk, were being developed during the 30s as it meant clothes were cheaper, so people could actually afford them. Don’t the women above look thrilled to be in their suits! As you can see, berets were a big trend, worn on a jaunty angle.

1935 Sears Fashions(image source)

After the boyish styles of the previous decade, the 30s returned to a feminine, hourglass silhouette. Although the suits weren’t super feminine, there was a big fashion for pussy bows and feminine necklines. Also frills and flounces on the blouses.

Meadowbrook Illustrations 1930s(image source)

Following Chanel’s lead, a  lot of daywear styles were more sporty than they had been before. In 1930 Prunella Stack started the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in Britain.  Their motto was ‘Movement is Life’ – and they acknowledged the importance of a healthy mind and a healthy body.

1930s Fashion Illustration(image source)

And of course fur is always elegant! Though these days I would go to faux rather than the real thing….

1930s Furs(image source)

I thought I’d share a couple of Elsa Schiaparelli’s designs, after discovering her in the Vintage Fashion book. Her label was first popular because of her trompe l’oeil knitwear designs, like these two (the bottom one was on the cover of a book about the history of knitting):

Schiaparelli jumper(image source)

She had no formal pattern-making training, so like her mentor, Paul Poiret, she draped her clothes directly on the body/ dress form. I love, love, love, this coat – I can’t believe she draped it! Want!

Schiaparelli faces gown(image source)

Designers like Schiaparelli and Chanel were, as now, the domain of the wealthy – especially in the shadow of the Depression – so people started to make knock-offs and ready-to-wear versions for the less wealthy to buy. Still the majority of women made their own copies of the latest designed based on what they saw in magazines and in movies. This means there are lots of great sewing patterns from the 30s!

Vogue 1934 Sewing Pattern(image source)

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 2110 1930s(image source)

McCalls Sewing Pattern 8690 1930s(image source)

New York Pattern 137 1930s(image source)

Simplicity Pattern 1860 1930s(image source)

I couldn’t really do a post on the decade of Hollywood glamour without mentioning some of the era’s film stars!

Katharine Hepburn was a champion of the menswear trend. She made the wide-legged trousers and shirt look popular and it’s still a fashionable look now. And she knits!

Katharine Hepburn knitting(image source)

Katharine Hepburn beret(image source)

Katharine Hepburn(image source)

Bette Davis said “Hollywood wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.” ‘Nuf said! Although, if you haven’t seen All About Eve, you have to, she’s amazing!

Bette Davis(image source)

Jean Harlow died very young but did manage to become a film star in her short life. She also wore some amazing gowns!

Jean Harlow gown(image source)

Jean Harlow gown 2(image source)

Jean Harlow red gown(image source)

Marlene Dietrich said “I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” She was the first major female star to wear a tuxedo. She definitely rocked the masculine look!

(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit(image source)

Marlene Dietrich suit 2(image source)

The last woman I’ll mention, though not a film star, was one of the most influential woman of the 30s style-wise. She was famously photographed by Cecil Beaton in a Schiaparelli dress, designed with Salvador Dali, with a giant lobster on the skirt – it was quite a scandalous dress at the time!

Wallis Simpson by Cecil Beaton in Schiaparelli(image source)

Here’s a better, colour, picture:

Schiaparelli lobster dress(image source)

In writing this post I’ve definitely reignited my love of 30s fashion! Who is your favourite screen icon of the decade?