Happy Birthday Edith Head

For millions of American women, Edith Head became the authority on what was chic, what was of the moment, and how to wear it: she was every bit as influential as her fashion editor counterparts in New York City. Edith Head became a celebrity in her own right, known for a rather severe flat-top hairdo, oversized sunglasses, and a reluctance to smile when she knew she was on camera. She was a frequent guest on Art Linkletter’s House Party, and played herself in several films and a memorable episode of “Columbo.”  She also designed the uniforms that were worn for decades by Paramount security guards on the lot. She died two weeks after finishing her last film, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” and left her estate to charity.

The following excerpt is from “Let’s Bring Back” (Chronicle Books, November 1):

EDITH HEAD (1897-1981)

Legendary costume designer, Ms. Head–aka the “Dress Doctor“–was as glamorous as the stars she dressed, and she dressed countless major Old Hollywood stars in some of their most memorable roles. If you loved Grace Kelly’s iconic look in “Rear Window” or Audrey Hepburn‘s lavish wardrobe in “Funny Face,” one of Hollywood’s ultimate fashion movies, take your hat off to Edith.

The winner of eight Oscars (she was nominated for an astonishing thirty-four), Ms. Head also had a heavy appetite for glamour and absolutely heaped it on the stars of “Notorious”, “All About Eve”,  “To Catch a Thief”, “A Place in the Sun”, and over four hundred other films. (“I’ve designed films I’ve never seen,” she once admitted.)

On the flamboyance of the times, Ms. Head once described Old Hollywood as a “Barnum & Bailey World,” filled with gold bathtubs, ermine bathrobes, and film actresses draped in satins and minks. “I caught the flavor and the fever,” she recalled.

Ms. Head’s snippets of advice and witticisms were as closely heeded as those attributed to Coco Chanel, and they remain relevant today:

• “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”

• “Life is competition; clothes gird us for the competition.”

• “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.”

• “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”

• “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.”

• “I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness.”

Edith Head’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6504 Hollywood Boulevard.




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