Edith Head (1897-1981) American
Head was responsible for the on-screen looks of Barbara Stanwyck, Dorothy Lamour (she designed her first sarong), Gloria Swanson, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor. She was famous for catering to the more difficult actresses and was a genius at coping with figure problems. For instance, the actress Barbara Stanwyck was thought to have a long waist and a lower rear end than the average female. Head devised a solution by fashioning her waistbands wider in the front then tapering them narrower at the back creating an illusion that her proportions were correct. Examples of this can be seen in Stanwyck’s first high fashion picture, The Lady Eve (1941), in which Head created 25 separate costumes for the actress.
Her films: Double Indemnity (1944), Roman Holiday (1953), White Christmas (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Sweet Charity (1969), and Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Her style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
- She was the first female head designer at a major studio.
- Head applied for her first sketch artist job with a portfolio consisting of her student’s sketches mixed in with her own after hearing that Paramount was looking for someone capable of variety.
- She received more than 1,000 screen credits, 35 Oscar nominations, and won the Academy Award eight times for costume design.
- Her most popular success was the lilac blossom-covered tulle ball gown worn by Elizabeth Taylor in 1951’s A Place in the Sun. Copies of this dress flew out of the stores for that year’s prom season.
- Published two books, The Dress Doctor (1959) and How to Dress for Success (1967).