Edith Head, 1897-1981

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Woman Category: Fashion & Beauty, Media, and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Designer

  • HerStory

    An award-winning motion-picture and TV costume designer.

    Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California. Her parents got divorced, and she grew up in Searchlight, Nevada, and Los Angeles, California. Head studied French at the University of California at Berkeley and then romance languages at Stanford University. At 23, she worked as a French teacher at the Hollywood School for Girls. To earn a higher salary, she took another position at the school as an art teacher. Having no formal education in arts, she took evening drawing lessons at the Chouinard Art College and Otis Art Institute. In 1923, at the age of 26, she married Charles Head, and though the marriage did not last long, she kept using Head as her surname.
    At 27, Head was hired by Paramount Pictures as a sketch artist for silent films. Her first design appeared in 1925 in the movie The Wanderer. She worked her way up, and within a few years, she became one of the leading costume designers in Hollywood. In 1938, at the age of 41, Head was appointed chief designer at Paramount pictures, becoming the first woman to head the design department of a major studio. During the 1940s, Head gained public attention after designing Ginger Rogers’s top mink-lined gown in the film Lady in the Dark. In 1950, after winning her first Academy Award for The Heiress, Head became the most wanted and successful custom designer in Hollywood. Head was the favorite designer of many leading actresses, such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, and the first pick for designing the costumes for the biggest movies of the era, including Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, and Sabrina.
    In 1967, when she is 70 years old, Head left Paramount for Universal Studios. There, she won her first Academy Award for outfitting male stars in the film The Sting. She began designing costumes for TV productions, such as Bewitched and the mini-series Little Women. In the late 1970s, she designed the women’s uniform for the United States Coast Guard, for which she received the Meritorious Public Service Award. At the age of 83, Head worked on her last film project, the comedy, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. She died in the following year, a few days before her 84th birthday.
    Throughout her career, Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, winning 8 times – setting the record for the most honored costume designer in Academy Award history.

    “I have yet to see one completely unspoiled star, except for Lassie.”

    “I have yet to see one completely unspoiled star, except for Lassie.”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was born Jewish but raised as Christian catholic, her stepfather’s faith.
    • She used other students’ sketches for her job interview at Paramount Pictures.
    • Edna Mode, the costume designer in The Incredibles and Incredibles 2, was inspired by her.
    • In 1955 she was a contestant on the Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life. She and her partner won $1,540, which was donated to charity.
    • In 1973, she had a cameo appearance, playing herself on the series Columbo.
    • She was the godmother of one of Anne Baxter’s children.
    • She was known for wearing thick-framed glasses and two-piece suits.
    • She wore only four colors – black, white, brown, and beige.
    • She was married twice and never had children.
    • On her 116 birthday, Google commemorated her with a Google Doodle.
    • The Costume Department building on the Paramount Pictures lot is named in her honor.


  • More About Her Legacy

    * 8 Academy Awards for Best Costume Design
    * The Meritorious Public Service Award
    * She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Designer

    Edith Head (1978) - From the Videofashion Vault | Videofashion

    Edith Head (1978) - From the Videofashion Vault | Videofashion

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    Meet Edith Head, the costume designer who brought Hollywood fantasy to life in over a thousand films in this 1978 interview by Videofashion!

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  • Photo credit - Wikipedia

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Oscars website.
    IMDB page.