Costume Designer. Nationality: American. Born: Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California, 28 October 1897. Education: Attended elementary school in Redding, California to 1911; schools in Los Angeles; University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; also attended classes at Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art School, both in Los Angeles. Family: Married 1) Charles Head (divorced 1938); 2) the designer Wiard Ihnen, 1940 (died 1979). Career: French, Spanish, and art teacher at Bishop School for Girls, La Jolla, California, and at Hollywood School for Girls, 1923; 1924–27—sketch artist; 1927–38—assistant to Travis Banton; 1938–66—head of design, Paramount; then chief designer at Universal until her death; also designed for other studios, for stage shows, and for commercial companies; 1945–52—regular appearances on the radio show Art Linkletter's House Party (and on TV, 1952–69); 1949–51—lecturer, University of Southern California, Los Angeles (also in 1973); 1978—designed for the TV mini-series Little Women. Awards: Academy Award for The Heiress, 1949, Samson and Delilah, 1950, All About Eve, 1950, A Place in the Sun, 1951, Roman Holiday, 1953, Sabrina, 1954, The Facts of Life, 1960, and The Sting, 1973. Died: In Los Angeles, California, 26 October 1981.
Films as Costume Designer:
Peter Pan (Brenon) (co)
The Golden Bed (De Mille) (co); The Wanderer (Walsh) (co)
The Saturday Night Kid (Sutherland) (co); The Virginian (Fleming); The Wolf Song (Fleming)
Along Came Youth (Corrigan and McLeod); Follow the Leader (Taurog); Only the Brave (Tuttle); The Santa Fe Trail (Brower and Knopf)
The Big Broadcast of 1932 (Tuttle); A Farewell to Arms (Borzage) (co); He Learned about Women (Corrigan); Hot Saturday (Seiter); Love Me Tonight (Mamoulian); The Sign of the Cross (Banton) (co); Two Kinds of Women (W. De Mille); Undercover Man (Flood); Wayward (Sloman)
A Cradle Song (Leisen) (co); Crime of the Century (Beaudine) (co); Duck Soup (McCarey); Gambling Ship (Gasnier and Marcin); Hello, Everybody (Seiter); I'm No Angel (Ruggles) (co); She Done Him Wrong (L. Sherman); Sitting Pretty (H. Brown); Strictly Personal (Murphy); White Woman (Walker) (co)
Ladies Should Listen (Tuttle); Little Miss Marker (Hall); Many Happy Returns (McLeod); The Notorious Sophie Lang (Murphy) (co); The Pursuit of Happiness (Hall); The Witching Hour (Hathaway); You Belong to Me (Werker)
The Big Broadcast of 1936 (Taurog); Car 99 (Barton); The Crusades (De Mille) (co); Father Brown, Detective (Sedgwick); Four Hours to Kill (Leisen); The Glass Key (Tuttle); Here Comes Cookie (McLeod); Hold 'em, Yale (Lanfield); The Last Outpost (Barton and Gasnier); The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway) (co); Man on the Flying Trapeze (Bruckman); Men without Names (Murphy); Mississippi (Sutherland); People Will Talk (Santell); Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway); Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey) (co); Stolen Harmony (Werker); Two for Tonight (Tuttle); Wings in the Dark (Flood)
The Accusing Finger (Hogan); The Big Broadcast of 1937 (Leisen); Border Flight (Lovering); College Holiday (Tuttle); Collegiate (Murphy); Hollywood Boulevard (Florey); The Jungle Princess (Thiele); Lady Be Careful (Reed); The Milky Way (McCarey); Murder with Pictures (Barton); Poppy (Sutherland); The Return of Sophie Lang (Archainbaud); Rhythm on the Range (Taurog); Rose Bowl (Barton); The Texas Rangers (K. Vidor); Thirteen Hours by Air (Leisen); Three Cheers for Love (McCarey); Till We Meet Again (Florey); Too Many Parents (McGowan); Wedding Present (Wallace); Wives Never Know (Nugent) (co); Woman Trap (Young)
Arizona Mahoney (Hogan); Artists and Models (Walsh) (co); The Barrier (Selander); Blonde Trouble (Archainbaud); Blossoms on Broadway (Wallace); Borderland (Watt); Born to the West (Barton); Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (L. King); Bulldog Drummond Escapes (Hogan); Bulldog Drummond's Revenge (L. King); Clarence (Archainbaud); The Crime Nobody Saw (Barton); Daughter of Shanghai (Florey); A Doctor's Diary (C. Vidor) (co); Double or Nothing (Reed); Easy Living (Leisen) (co); Ebb Tide (Hogan); Exclusive (Hall); Forlorn River (Barton); Girl from Scotland Yard (Vignola); The Great Gambini (C. Vidor); Her Husband Lies (Ludwig) (co); Hideaway Girl (Archainbaud); Hills of Old Wyoming (Watt); Hold 'em, Navy (Neumann); Hopalong Rides Again (Selander); Hotel Haywire (Archainbaud); Interns Can't Take Money (Santell); John Meade's Woman (Wallace) (co); King of Gamblers (Florey); The Last Train from Madrid (Hogan); Let's Make a Million (McCarey); Love on Toast (Dupont); Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey); Midnight Madonna (Flood); Mind Your Own Business (McLeod); Mountain Music (Florey); Murder Goes to College (Riesner); Night Club Scandal (Murphy); A Night of Mystery (Dupont); North of the Rio Grande (Watt); On Such a Night (Dupont); Outcast (Florey); Partners in Crime (Murphy); Partners of the Plains (Selander); Rustler's Valley (Watt); She Asked for It (Kenton); She's No Lady (C. Vidor); Sophie Lang Goes West (Riesner) (co); Souls at Sea (Hathaway); Texas Trail (Selman); This Way, Please (Florey); Thrill of a Lifetime (Archainbaud); Thunder Trail (Barton); True Confession (Ruggles) (co); Turn Off the Moon (Seiler); Waikiki Wedding (Tuttle); Wells Fargo (Lloyd); Wild Money (L. King)
The Arkansas Traveler (Santell); Bar 20 Justice (Selander); Artists and Models Abroad (Leisen) (co); The Big Broadcast of 1938 (Leisen); Booloo (Elliott); The Buccaneer (De Mille); Bulldog Drummond in Africa (L. King); Campus Confessions (Archainbaud); Bulldog Drummond's Peril (Hogan); Cassidy of Bar 20 (Selander); Coconut Grove (Santell); College Swing (Walsh); Dangerous to Know (Florey); Doctor Rhythm (Tuttle) (co); The Frontiersman (Selander); Give Me a Sailor (Nugent); Heart of Arizona (Selander); Her Jungle Love (Archainbaud); Hunted Men (L. King); Illegal Traffic (L. King); In Old Mexico (Venturini); King of Alcatraz (Florey); Little Orphan Annie (Holmes); Men with Wings (Wellman); The Mysterious Rider (Selander); Pride of the West (Selander); Prison Farm (L. King); Professor Beware (Nugent); Ride a Crooked Mile (Green); Say It in French (Stone); Scandal Sheet (Hogan); Sing, You Sinners (Ruggles); Sons of the Legion (Hogan); Spawn of the North (Hathaway); Stolen Heaven (Stone); The Texans (Hogan); Thanks for the Memory (Archainbaud); Tip-Off Girls (L. King); Tom Sawyer, Detective (L. King); Touchdown Army (Neumann); Tropic Holiday (Reed); You and Me (F. Lang)
All Women Have Secrets (Neumann); Arrest Bulldog Drummond (Hogan); Back Door to Heaven (Howard); The Beachcomber (Pommer); Beau Geste (Wellman); Boy Trouble (Archainbaud); Bulldog Drummond's Bride (Hogan); Café Society (E. Griffith); Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police (Hogan); The Cat and the Canary (Nugent); Death of a Champion (Florey); Disbarred (Florey); Disputed Passage (Borzage); Geronimo (Sloane); The Gracie Allen Murder Case (Green); Grand Jury Secrets (Hogan); The Great Victor Herbert (Stone); Heritage of the Desert (Selander); Honeymoon in Bali (E. Griffith); Hotel Imperial (Florey); Invitation to Happiness (Ruggles);Island of Lost Men (Neumann); I'm from Missouri (Reed); King of Chinatown (Grinde); The Lady's from Kentucky (Hall); Law of the Pampas (Watt); The Llano Kid (Venturini); The Magnificent Fraud (Florey); Man about Town (Sandrich); Man of Conquest (Nicholls) (co); Midnight (Leisen) (co); Million Dollar Legs (Grinde); Never Say Die (Nugent); The Night of Nights (Milestone); Night Work (Archainbaud); $1,000 a Touchdown (Hogan); Our Leading Citizen (Santell); Our Neighbors, the Carters (Murphy); Paris Honeymoon (Tuttle); Persons in Hiding (L. King); Range War (Selander); The Renegade Trail (Selander); Rulers of the Sea (Lloyd); Silver on the Sage (Selander); Some Like It Hot (Archainbaud); The Star Maker (Del Ruth); St. Louis Blues (Walsh); Sudden Money (Grinde); The Sunset Trail (Selander); Television Spy (Dmytryk); This Man Is News (McDonald); Undercover Doctor (L. King); Union Pacific (De Mille); Unmarried (Neumann); What a Life (Reed); Zaza (Cukor)
Adventure in Diamonds (Fitzmaurice); Arise, My Love (Leisen) (co); The Biscuit Eater (Heisler); Buck Benny Rides Again (Sandrich); The Cherokee Strip (Selander); Christmas in July (P. Sturges); Comin' round the Mountain (Archainbaud); Dancing on a Dime (Santley); Doctor Cyclops (Schoedsack); Emergency Squad (Dmytryk); The Farmer's Daughter (Hogan); French without Tears (Asquith) (co); Golden Gloves (Dmytryk); The Ghost Breakers (Marshall); The Great McGinty (P. Sturges); Hidden Gold (Selander); I Want a Divorce (Murphy); Knights of the Range (Selander); Light of Western Stars (Selander); The Light That Failed (Wellman); Love Thy Neighbor (Sandrich); Moon over Burma (L. King); Mystery Sea Raider (Dmytryk); A Night at Earl Carroll's (Neumann); Northwest Mounted Police (De Mille) (co); Opened by Mistake (Archainbaud); A Parole Fixer (Florey); The Quarterback (Humberstone); Queen of the Mob (Hogan); Rangers of Fortune (Wood); Remember the Night (Leisen); Rhythm on the River (Schertzinger); Road to Singapore (Schertzinger); Safari (E. Griffith); Santa Fe Marshall (Selander); Seventeen (L. King); The Showdown (Bretherton); Stagecoach War (Selander); Texas Rangers Ride Again (Hogan); Those Were the Days (Reed); Three Men from Texas (Selander); Typhoon (L. King); Untamed (Archainbaud); Victory (Cromwell); The Way of All Flesh (L. King); Women without Names (Florey); World in Flames (Richard)
Aloma of the South Seas (Santell); Among the Living (Heisler); Bahama Passage (E. Griffith); Ball of Fire (Hawks); Birth of the Blues (Schertzinger); Border Vigilantes (Abrahams); Buy Me That Town (Forde); Caught in the Draft (Butler); Doomed Caravan (Selander); Flying Blind (McDonald); Forced Landing (Wiles); Glamour Boy (Tetzlaff); Henry Aldrich for President (Bennett); Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Hall); Hold Back the Dawn (Leisen); I Wanted Wings (Leisen); In Old Colorado (Bretherton); Kiss the Boys Goodbye (Schertzinger); The Lady Eve (P. Sturges); Las Vegas Nights (Murphy); Life with Henry (Reed); The Mad Doctor (Whelan); The Monster and the Girl (Heisler); New York Town (C. Vidor); The Night of January 16th (Clemens); Nothing But the Truth (Nugent); One Night in Lisbon (E. Griffith); The Parson of Panamint (McGann); Pirates on Horseback (Selander); Power Dive (Hogan); Reaching for the Sun (Wellman); Road to Zanzibar (Schertzinger); Roundup (Selander); Secret of the Wastelands (Abrahams); Shepherd of the Hills (Hathaway); Skylark (Sandrich) (co); Sullivan's Travels (P. Sturges); Virginia (E. Griffith); There's a Magic in the Music (Stone); West Point Widow (Siodmak); Wide-Open Town (Selander); World Premiere (Tetzlaff); You Belong to Me (Ruggles); You're the One (Murphy)
Are Husbands Necessary? (Taurog); Beyond the Blue Horizon (Santell); The Fleet's In (Schertzinger); The Gay Sisters (Rapper) (co); The Glass Key (Heisler); The Great Man's Lady (Wellman); Henry Aldrich, Editor (Bennett); Holiday Inn (Sandrich); I Married a Witch (Clair); The Lady Has Plans (Lanfield); Lucky Jordan (Tuttle); The Major and the Minor (Wilder); Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (Murphy); My Favorite Blonde (Lanfield); My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Siodmak); The Palm Beach Story (P. Sturges) (co); The Remarkable Andrew (Heisler); Road to Morocco (Butler); Star-Spangled Rhythm (Marshall); This Gun for Hire (Tuttle); Wake Island (Farrow); Young and Willing (E. Griffith)
China (Farrow); The Crystal Bell (Nugent); Five Graves to Cairo (Wilder); Flesh and Fantasy (Duvivier) (co); For Whom the Bell Tolls (Wood); The Good Fellows (Graham); Happy Go Lucky (Bernhardt); Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour (Bennett); Hostages (Tuttle); Henry Aldrich Haunts a House (Bennett); Lady Bodyguard (Clemens); Lady of Burlesque (Wellman) (co); Let's Face It (Lanfield); Night Plane from Chungking (Murphy); No Time for Love (Leisen) (co); Riding High (Marshall); Salute for Three (Murphy); Tender Comrade (Dmytryk) (co); They Got Me Covered (Butler) (co); True to Life (Marshall)
And Now Tomorrow (Pichel); And the Angels Sing (Binyon); Double Indemnity (Wilder); Going My Way (McCarey); The Great Moment (P. Sturges); Hail the Conquering Hero (P. Sturges); Henry Aldrich's Little Secret (Bennett); The Hitler Gang (Farrow); Here Come the Waves (Sandrich); The Hour before the Dawn (Tuttle); I Love a Soldier (Sandrich); I'll Be Seeing You (Dieterle); Lady in the Dark (Leisen) (co); The Man in Half Moon Street (Murphy); Ministry of Fear (F. Lang); The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (P. Sturges); National Barn Dance (Bennett); Rainbow Island (Murphy); Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (Allen); The Uninvited (Allen); Standing Room Only (Lanfield); Till We Meet Again (Borzage); You Can't Ration Love (Fuller)
The Affairs of Susan (Seiter); The Bells of St. Mary's (McCarey); Bring on the Girls (Lanfield); Christmas in Connecticut (Godfrey) (co); Duffy's Tavern (Walker) (co); Hold That Blonde (Marshall); Incendiary Blonde (Marshall); The Lost Weekend (Wilder); Love Letters (Dieterle); Masquerade in Mexico (Leisen); A Medal for Benny (Pichel); Miss Susie Slagle's (Berry) (co); Murder He Says (Marshall); Out of This World (Walker); Road to Utopia (Walker); Salty O'Rourke (Walsh); The Stork Club (Walker); You Came Along (Farrow)
The Blue Dahlia (Marshall); Blue Skies (Heisler) (co); The Bride Wore Boots (Pichel); Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall); My Reputation (Bernhardt) (co); Notorious (Hitchcock); Our Hearts Were Growing Up (Russell); The PerfectMarriage (Allen); The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Milestone); To Each His Own (Leisen); The Virginian (Gilmore); The Well-Groomed Bride (Lanfield)
Blaze of Noon (Farrow); Calcutta (Farrow); California (Farrow) (co); Cross My Heart (Berry); Cry Wolf (Godfrey) (co); Dear Ruth (Russell); Desert Fury (Allen); Easy Come, Easy Go (Farrow); I Walk Alone (Haskin); The Imperfect Wife (Allen) (co); My Favorite Brunette (Nugent); The Other Love (de Toth) (co); The Perils of Pauline (Marshall); Ramrod (de Toth); Road to Rio (McLeod); The Trouble with Women (Lanfield); The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Godfrey) (co); Variety Girl (Marshall) (co); Welcome Stranger (Nugent); Where There's Life (Lanfield); Wild Harvest (Garnett)
The Accused (Dieterle); Arch of Triumph (Milestone) (co); Beyond Glory (Farrow); The Big Clock (Farrow); Dream Girl (Leisen); The Emperor Waltz (Wilder) (co); Enchantment (Reis) (co); A Foreign Affair (Wilder); Isn't It Romantic? (McLeod); June Bride (Windust) (co); Miss Tatlock's Millions (Haydn); My Own True Love (Bennett); The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Farrow); Saigon (Fenton); Rachel and the Stranger (Foster); The Sainted Sisters (Russell); The Sealed Verdict (Allen); So Evil My Love (Allen) (co); Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak); Whispering Smith (Fenton) (co)
The Great Gatsby (Nugent); Beyond the Forest (K. Vidor); The Great Lover (Hall); The Heiress (Wyler) (co); Malaya (Thorpe) (co); Manhandled (Foster); My Foolish Heart (Robson) (co); My Friend Irma (Marshall); Red, Hot, and Blue (Farrow); Rope of Sand (Dieterle); Samson and Delilah (De Mille) (co); Song of Surrender (Leisen)
All about Eve (Mankiewicz) (co); Copper Canyon (Farrow) (co); The Dark City (Dieterle); Fancy Pants (Marshall); The File on Thelma Jordan (Siodmak); The Furies (A. Mann); Let's Dance (McLeod); Mr. Music (Haydn); My Friend Irma Goes West (Walker); Paid in Full (Dieterle); No Man of Her Own (Leisen); Riding High (Capra); September Affair (Dieterle); Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
The Big Carnival (Wilder); Branded (Maté); Crosswinds (Foster); Darling, How Could You? (Leisen); Dear Brat (Seiter); Detective Story (Wyler); Here Comes the Groom (Capra); Hong Kong (Foster); The Last Outpost (Foster); The Lemon Drop Kid (Lanfield); My Favorite Spy (McLeod); Payment on Demand (Bernhardt) (co); Peking Express (Dieterle); A Place in the Sun (Stevens); Rhubarb (Lubin); Silver City (Haskin); The Stooge (Taurog); Submarine Command (Farrow); That's My Boy (Walker); When Worlds Collide (Maté)
Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (Binyon); Caribbean (Ludwig); Anything Can Happen (Seaton); Carrie (Wyler); Come Back, Little Sheba (Daniel Mann); Denver and Rio Grande (Haskin); The Greatest Show on Earth (De Mille) (co); Hurricane Smith (Hopper); Jumping Jacks (Taurog); Just for You (Nugent) (co); My Son John (McCarey); Red Mountain (Dieterle); Road to Bali (Walker); Ruby Gentry (K. Vidor); Sailor Beware (Walker); The Savage (Marshall); Somebody Loves Me (Brecher); Something to Live For (Stevens); Son of Paleface (Tashlin); This Is Dynamite (Dieterle); The Turning Point (Dieterle)
Arrowhead (Warren); The Caddy (Taurog); Forever Female (Rapper); Here Come the Girls (Binyon); Houdini (Marshall); Jamaica Run (Foster); Little Boy Lost (Seaton); Off Limits (Marshall); Pleasure Island (Hugh); Pony Express (Hopper); Roman Holiday (Wyler); Sangaree (Ludwig); Scared Stiff (Marshall); Shane (Stevens); Stalag 17 (Wilder); The Stars Are Singing (Taurog); Those Redheads from Seattle (Foster); Thunder in the East (C. Vidor); Tropic Zone (Foster); The Vanquished (Ludwig); War of the Worlds (Haskin)
About Mrs. Leslie (Daniel Mann); Alaska Seas (Hopper); The Bridges at Toko-ri (Robson); The Country Girl (Seaton); Elephant Walk (Dieterle); Jivaro (Ludwig); Knock on Wood (Panama and Frank); Living It Up (Taurog); Money from Home (Marshall); Mr. Casanova (McLeod); The Naked Jungle (Haskin); Rear Window (Hitchcock); Red Garters (Marshall) (co); Sabrina (Wilder); Secret of the Incas (Hopper); Three-Ring Circus (Pevney); White Christmas (Curtiz)
Artist and Models (Tashlin); Conquest of Space (Haskin); The Desperate Hours (Wyler); The Far Horizon (Maté); The Girl Rush (Pirosh); Hell's Island (Karlson); Lucy Gallant (Parrish); The Rose Tattoo (Daniel Mann); Run for Cover (Ray); The Seven Little Foys (Shavelson); Strategic Air Command (A. Mann); To Catch a Thief (Hitchcock); The Trouble with Harry (Hitchcock); You're Never Too Young (Taurog)
Anything Goes (Lewis); The Birds and the Bees (Taurog); The Come-On (Birdwell); The Court Jester (Panama and Frank) (co); Hollywood or Bust (Tashlin); The Leather Saint (Ganzer); The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock); The Mountain (Dmytryk); Pardners (Taurog); The Proud and the Profane (Seaton); The Rainmaker (Anthony); The Scarlet Hour (Curtiz); The Search for Bridey Murphy (Langley); The Ten Commandments (De Mille) (co); That Certain Feeling (Panama and Frank); Three Violent People (Maté)
Beau James (Shavelson); The Buster Keaton Story (Sheldon); The Delicate Delinquent (McGuire); The Devil's Hairpin (Wilde); Fear Strikes Out (Mulligan); Funny Face (Donen) (co); Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (J. Sturges); Hear Me Good (McGuire); The Joker Is Wild (C. Vidor); The Lonely Man (Levin); Loving You (Kanter); The Sad Sack (Marshall); Short Cut to Hell (Cagney); The Tin Star (A. Mann); Wild Is the Wind (Cukor); Witness for the Prosecution (Wilder)
As Young as You Are (Gerard); The Buccaneer (Quinn) (co); The Geisha Boy (Tashlin); Hot Spell (Daniel Mann); Houseboat (Shavelson); Maracaibo (Wilde); I Married a Monster from Outer Space (Fowler); King Creole (Curtiz); The Matchmaker (Anthony); Me and the Colonel (Glenville); The Party Crashers (Girard); Rock-a-Bye Baby (Tashlin); Separate Tables (Delbert Mann) (co); St. Louis Blues (Reisner); Teacher's Pet (Seton); Vertigo (Hitchcock)
Alias Jesse James (McLeod); The Black Orchid (Ritt); But Not for Me (W. Lang); Career (Anthony); The Hangman (Curtiz); Don't Give Up the Ship (Taurog); The Five Pennies (Shavelson); A Hole in the Head (Capra); The Jayhawkers (Frank); Last Train from Gun Hill (J. Sturges); That Kind of Woman (Lumet); Too Young for Love (Girard); The Trap (Panama); The Young Captives (Kershner)
The Bellboy (Lewis); A Breath of Scandal (Curtiz); Cinderfella (Tashlin); The Facts of Life (Frank) (co); G.I. Blues (Taurog); Heller in Pink Tights (Cukor); It Started in Naples (Shavelson); Pepe (Sidney); The Rat Race (Mulligan); A Touch of Larceny (Hamilton); Visit to a Small Planet (Taurog)
All in a Night's Work (Anthony); Blue Hawaii (Taurog); Breakfast at Tiffany's (Edwards) (co); The Errand Boy (Lewis); The Ladies' Man (Lewis); Love in a Goldfish Bowl (Sher); Mantrap (O'Brien); On the Double (Shavelson); The Pleasure of His Company (Seaton); Pocketful of Miracles (Capra); Summer and Smoke (Glenville)
The Counterfeit Traitor (Seaton); Escape from Zahrain (Neame); A Girl Named Tamiko (J. Sturges); Girls! Girls! Girls! (Taurog); Hatari! (Hawks); It's Only Money (Tashlin); The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford); My Geisha (Cardiff); The Pigeon That Took Rome (Shavelson); Too Late Blues (Cassavetes); Who's Got the Action? (Daniel Mann)
The Birds (Hitchcock); Come Blow Your Horn (Yorkin); Critic's Choice (Weis); Donovan's Reef (Ford); Fun in Acapulco (Thorpe); Hud (Ritt); I Could Go On Singing (Neame); My Six Loves (Champion); Love with the Proper Stranger (Mulligan); A New Kind of Love (Shavelson) (co); The Nutty Professor (Lewis); Papa's Delicate Condition (Marshall); Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (Daniel Mann); Who's Minding the Store? (Tashlin); Wives and Lovers (Rich)
The Carpetbaggers (Dmytryk); The Disorderly Orderly (Tashlin); A House Is Not a Home (Rouse); Lady in a Cage (Grauman); Men's Favorite Sport? (Hawks); Marnie (Hitchcock); The Patsy (Lewis); Roustabout (Rich); Sex and the Single Girl (Quine) (co); Thirty-Six Hours (Seaton); What a Way to Go (Lee Thompson) (co); Where Love Has Gone (Dmytryk)
Boeing, Boeing (Rich); The Family Jewels (Lewis); The Great Race (Edwards) (co); The Hallelujah Trail (J. Sturges); Harlow (Douglas) (co); Inside Daisy Clover (Mulligan) (co); John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (Lee Thompson) (co); Love Has Many Faces (Singer); Red Line 7000 (Hawks); The Slender Thread (Pollack); The Sons of Katie Elder (Hathaway); Sylvia (Douglas); Who Has Seen the Wind? (Sidney); The Yellow Rolls-Royce (Asquith) (co)
Assault on a Queen (Donohue); The Last of the Secret Agents (Abbott); Nevada Smith (Hathaway); Not with My Wife, You Don't! (Panama); The Oscar (Rouse); Paradise, Hawaiian Style (Moore); Penelope (Hiller); The Swinger (Sidney); This Property Is Condemned (Pollack); Torn Curtain (Hitchcock); Waco (Springsteen)
Barefoot in the Park (Saks); The Caper of the Golden Bulls (Rouse); Chuka (Douglas); Easy Come, Easy Go (Rich); Hotel (Quine) (co); Warning Shot (Kulik)
In Enemy Country (Keller); Madigan (Siegel); The Pink Jungle (Delbert Mann); The Secret War of Harry Frigg (Smight); What's So Bad about Feeling Good? (Seaton)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Hill); Downhill Racer (Ritchie); Eye of the Cat (Rich); The Hellfighters (McLaglen); House of Cards (Guillermin); The Lost Man (Arthur); Sweet Charity (Fosse); Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (Polonsky); Topaz (Hitchcock); Winning (Goldstone)
Airport (Seaton); Colossus: The Forbin Project (Sargent); Myra Breckinridge (Sarne) (co); Skullduggery (Douglas); Story of a Woman (Bercovici)
Red Sky at Morning (Goldstone); Sometimes a Great Notion (Newman)
Hammersmith Is Out (Ustinov); Pete 'n' Tillie (Ritt); The Screaming Woman (Smight)
Ash Wednesday (Peerce); A Doll's House (Losey) (co); Divorce His, Divorce Hers (Hussein); The Sting (Hill); The Don Is Dead (Fleischer); The Showdown (Seaton); The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (Huston) (co)
Airport '75 (Smight)
The Great Waldo Pepper (Hill); Rooster Cogburn (Miller); The Man Who Would Be King (Huston)
The Bluebird (Cukor); Family Plot (Hitchcock); Gable and Lombard (Furie); W. C. Fields and Me (Hiller); The Disappearance of Aimee (Harvey)
Airport '77 (Hiller); Sex and the Married Woman (Arnold); Sunshine Christmas (Jordan)
The Big Fix (Kagen); Olly Olly Oxen Free (Colla); Sextette (Hughes)
The Last Married Couple in America (Cates)
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Reiner)
By HEAD: books—
With Jane Kesner Ardmore, The Dress Doctor, Boston, Massachusetts, 1959.
With Joe Hyams, How to Dress for Success, New York, 1967.
With Paddy Calistro, Edith Head's Hollywood, New York, 1983.
By HEAD: articles—
"A Costume Problem: From Shop to Stage to Screen," in Hollywood Quarterly, October 1946.
"Honesty in Today's Film Fashions," in Show (New York), 6 August 1970.
"Head on Fashion" series in Holiday (New York), January-February 1973; July-August 1973; September-October 1974; November-December 1974; January-February 1975; March 1975; September-October 1975; March 1976.
In Hollywood Speaks! An Oral History, by Mike Steen, New York, 1974.
Inter/View (New York), January 1974.
Films Illustrated (London), September 1974.
Take One (Montreal), October 1976.
American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1978.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 19 April 1979.
On HEAD: books—
Cjetti, David Chier, Edith Head, New York, 2000.
On HEAD: articles—
Films in Review (New York), February 1972.
In Hollywood Costume Design, by David Chierichetti, New York, 1976.
In Costume Design in the Movies, by Elizabeth Leese, New York, 1976.
In In a Glamorous Fashion, by W. Robert LaVine, New York, 1980.
Films (New York), May 1981.
Obituary, in The Annual Obituary 1981, New York, 1982.
The Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), no. 19, 1982.
Spoto, Donald, in Architectural Digest, vol. 49, April 1992.
Skrien (Amsterdam), October-November 1994.
Vanity Fair (New York), March 1998.
* * *
For many people, Edith Head and film costume design are synonymous. Other designers may have been more flamboyantly creative, or more consistently original, but no one did more to earn this art form popular recognition. Her guiding principle was that costume should support, rather than compete with, story and character development. Better than most, perhaps, she understood that clothing is not merely a matter of adornment, but a potent method of communication working in tandem with film's sound and other visual elements. Her longevity, her productivity, her frequent touches of genius, and her talent for self-promotion secured her a celebrity status rare among Hollywood's legions of production artists. Moviegoers have long remained oblivious to the identities of those who work in the shadow of the stars, but they seem to have found a place in their consciousness for this tiny, austere-looking woman who wove illusions out of beads and cloth.
Unlike most of her peers, Head entered film costuming without relevant training or experience. When Howard Greer, Paramount's chief designer, hired her as a sketch artist in 1923, she was a high school teacher of French and art looking for a way to supplement her income. She learned quickly, however, honing her skills by observing the masters at work. From Greer, she learned the value of attention to detail. From Travis Banton, another outstanding member of Paramount's design team, she learned how to fabricate the highest standards of glamor and elegance.
In her early years at the studio, Head mainly dressed minor characters and animals, and generated wardrobes for the countless B-pictures then in production. Gradually she progressed to creating costumes for stars with whom the senior designers lacked the time or inclination to work. Among her first major assignments were Clara Bow, Lupe Velez, and Mae West. Head became Paramount's chief designer in 1938, when Banton, who replaced Greer as head designer in 1927, left to start a couture business. She remained at the studio for another three decades, working with most of Hollywood's major actresses and some of its best-known actors. When Paramount was sold in 1967, she became chief designer at Universal, where she worked until her death.
During her career, which spanned nearly six decades, Head's productivity achieved legendary proportions. In 1940 alone, she supervised costumes for 47 films. She is estimated to have contributed to more than 1,000 movies during her lifetime. In terms of formal recognition, her record is equally staggering. She received 34 Academy Award nominations, of which eight resulted in an Oscar. Costume design did not become an Academy Award category until 1948. For the first 19 years in which this honor was given, Head was nominated at least once every year. Had the award been introduced earlier, she would surely have earned additional nominations for such distinctive creations as Dorothy Lamour's sarongs in The Jungle Princess or Barbara Stanwyck's Latin-inspired garments for The Lady Eve.
Much of her best work was executed in the 1950s, when glamor and high-fashion were the keynotes of costume design. Among the enduring images her designs helped promote were Grace Kelly's refined allure in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, Elizabeth Taylor's incandescent sensuality in A Place in the Sun, Audrey Hepburn's chic individuality in Sabrina, Bette Davis's mature sophistication in All about Eve, and Gloria Swanson's anachronistic glamor in Sunset Boulevard. This was also an era in which Head's public visibility reached its zenith. Already a fashion magazine editor, columnist, and regular contributor to Art Linkletter's radio show House Party, Head now made frequent television appearances, acted as consultant for the Academy Awards show, and published her first book. The diversity of her activities helped to extend her influence well beyond the realm of motion pictures.
Perhaps her greatest asset was her adaptability. Entering the business when limitless spending permitted designers broad artistic license, she later had to adjust to the restrictions imposed by wartime shortages of luxury textiles and the government's L-85 ruling on the amount of materials which could be used in clothing manufacture. Following the return to glamor and clothing-as-special-effects during the 1950s, Head made yet another successful transition when the 1960s ushered in a new emphasis on realism.
Head was also able to adjust to widely varying ideas about her role among the directors with whom she worked. Attitudes ranged from Alfred Hitchcock and George Roy Hill's close involvement in design, to the laissez-faire approach of Joseph Mankiewicz. Describing herself on one occasion as "a better politician than costume designer," Head was expert at handling star temperament, preferring to yield ground on a neckline or dress length than engage in a battle of wills. The conservative, neutral-colored suits she perennially wore symbolized her willingness to suppress her individuality in the interests of her craft. With the exception of a dispute over whether she or Givenchy deserved the credit for Audrey Hepburn's famous bowtied neckline in Sabrina, her career was unruffled by controversy.
Although she created a number of outstanding designs for period movies, most notably The Heiress and Samson and Delilah, she preferred to dress films with a contemporary theme, believing that they afforded more scope for originality. She also preferred to dress men rather than women, on the grounds that they were easier to deal with. One of her most effective wardrobes was the clothing worn by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting, in which her subtle use of accessories, especially hats, was brilliantly executed. Her designs, on occasion, set fashion trends, but she did not deliberately set out to influence what the public wore. She placed far more importance on enabling stars to assume their characters' identities. She also believed it essential to create designs which would not cause a movie to date prematurely. This preference for a middle-of-the-road approach dates from 1947, when Dior's "New Look" exploded onto the fashion scene, making Head's streamlined designs seem instantly outmoded.
Head's excellence as a designer was augmented by her keen understanding of the technical constraints within which she operated. She was acutely aware of the different requirements created by variations in lighting, sound, and color. She also believed in close collaboration with her fellow production artists. Although she worked in an industry in which honors and public recognition are focused on individual achievement, Head truly was a team player. She may have enjoyed the celebrity status earned by her television appearances and writing, but when it came to practicing her craft, aligning her skills with the needs of directors, cinematographers, art directors, and others is what mattered most. It was her capacity for partnership that helped her become one of Hollywood's preeminent production artists.
Edith Head (c. 1898-1981) is widely viewed as Holly-wood's most successful costume designer, as well as one of its most colorful personalities. Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, won eight, and designed the costumes for several hundred films.
Edith Head's birthdate was probably October 28, 1898. All records of that time period were destroyed in a courthouse fire, and Head publicly claimed to have been born in 1907 or 1908. However, since she definitely had graduated from college, married, divorced, and worked as a teacher for several years by 1923, the later birthdates are not possible. Even her family name is uncertain; Head was the name of her first husband. One biographer, Paddy Calistro, determined that her parents were probably of Jewish heritage, which Head never acknowledged. Similar uncertainty about the details of many events continued throughout Head's long life. In a Vanity Fair feature story, Amy Fine Collins reported that the designer "obstinately refused to talk about her background except in the vaguest of terms. Edith admitted, 'I have in my mind a special room with iron doors. The things I don't like I throw in there and slam the door."'
What does seem factual about Head's childhood is that she was born in California, and then lived with her mother and stepfather in an isolated area of Nevada until she was about 12, when the family moved to Los Angeles. In her autobiography, The Dress Doctor, Head describes how her best friends were animals-dogs, cats, and donkeys-which she dressed in scraps of material. She also was interested in gymnastics, a sport for which her small frame (five-feet-one-inch at adulthood) was well suited.
Won First Studio Job by Deception
Head graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a major in French, before going on to receive her master's from Stanford. Then she became a teacher, first at an exclusive finishing school and then at the Hollywood School for Girls, where she taught the children of many famous film personalities. When she was asked by her school to teach an additional course in art, she enrolled in night classes, where she met the sister of the man who would become her first husband, Charles Head. "After 15 years of marriage, " reported Collins, "Edith sued Charles for divorce in 1938, complaining that her husband 'indulged in the use of intoxicating drinks, "' causing her "'great mental anguish."' Although Head made only a passing reference to this husband in her autobiography, she used his name professionally for her entire life.
In 1923, desperately in need of a higher-paying job after her divorce, Head answered an advertisement for a costume design artist at Paramount Studios. The chief designer, Howard Greer, was greatly impressed by the variety of work in Head's portfolio-everything from fashion designs to interior decoration plans. It was only after she had taken the job, which paid $50 per week (double her teacher's salary), that Head confessed she had "borrowed" this work from other art school students. By then, however, Greer had decided that Head's own work was good enough for her to stay on at Paramount-where she remained until 1967 following sale of the studio, moving for her final career years to Universal Studios.
Became First Woman Design Head at Major Studio
The year after Head joined Paramount, Travis Banton was added to the design staff. He and Greer became notorious for their wild lifestyles, and in 1927 Greer left Paramount to open an exclusive shop on what is now Rodeo Drive. Banton became Head's mentor, and he began to give her the sole responsibility for designing costumes when he was too busy to do the work himself, or when he did not particularly like the actress.
Head was assigned the designs for Lupe Velez in Wolf Song (1929), but her first major project was to create gowns for Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933), while Banton was busy with a Paris buying spree. The tight-fitting outfits designed by Head probably contributed to the film's huge success. Afterward, West frequently requested that Head design her costumes, noting that she loved the "insinuendo" in them. When West made her film comeback in Myra Breckinridge (1970), she insisted that her contract specify Head as her designer. Another notable Head design of the 1930s was a clinging sarong made for Dorothy Lamour in The Jungle Princess (1936). This creation became an instant fashion hit among women of all shapes and sizes.
By the late 1930s Head's popularity was increasing, and her success was almost guaranteed when she began to outfit Barbara Stanwyck (a reportedly difficult-to-fit actress handed down to Head by Benton). Head became Stanwyck's confidante (a role she replayed with many other actresses over the years), and Stanwyck insisted that Head be written into all of her contracts, even outside of Paramount. Head's mentor Benton decided to leave Paramount for Universal Studios in 1938, and Head was selected as his successor to run the design department-a first for a woman at a major film studio. As a reward, Paramount sent Head on a trip to Europe (her first, despite her French language background and 15 years at the studio). By that time she was designing costumes for as many as 50 films per year, and routinely worked 16-hour days. As reported in The Annual Obituary, Head said she was "a combination of psychiatrist, artist, fashion designer, dressmaker, pincushion, historian, nursemaid, and purchasing agent."
Second Husband Became Lifelong Companion
In the early 1930s Head met the Paramount art director Wiard (Bill) Ihnen, himself the winner of two Academy Awards. In 1940, apparently on a whim, Head (42) and Ihnen (52) chartered a small plane, flew to Las Vegas, and were married, much to the surprise of all who knew them. Ihnen had never married and was known as a "confirmed bachelor" (a code often used at the time to refer to a gay man). In turn, by then Head had adopted her unusual trademark appearance: large-framed dark glasses, inconspicuous tailored suits, and long bangs on her forehead. However, according to her entry in The Annual Obituary, Head admitted that at night she wore "wild colors and evening pants, anything I want, but when I'm at the studio, I'm always little Edith in the dark glasses and the beige suit. That's how I survived." Ihnen and Head shared the remainder of their lives together, most of it living at a Los Angeles hacienda named Casa Ladera, which Ihnen decorated in bright Mexican style. Head had a separate bedroom, furnished in the French Provincial style that she had used in her previous home. She and Ihnen maintained a companionable relationship until he died in 1979, at the age of 91.
Won Eight Academy Awards
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to institute a "best costume" Oscar for films released in 1948. Head arrived at the award ceremonies, assuming that she would receive the award for the elegant costumes she had created for The Emperor Waltz. She was stunned when the award went instead to the designers for Joan of Arc. However, Head made up for this defeat, winning four Oscars in the following three years.
Head won the 1949 Oscar for Olivia De Haviland's mid-19th century costumes in the black-and-white film The Heiress. In 1950 Head won two Oscars: one for Cecil B. DeMille's color biblical spectacle, Samson and Delilah (a project she had thoroughly detested because DeMille insisted that costumes be approved by a group of designers); and the other for the black-and-white film All About Eve, for which she had designed Bette Davis's costumes. The 1951 Oscar for best black-and-white costume design went to Head for outfitting Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun. A strapless bouffant dress worn by Taylor in the film became an immensely popular outfit when it was sold to the public under the Edith Head label. (This film also marked the beginning of a long friendship between Head and Taylor, who reportedly lived with Head and Ihnen when her marriage to Richard Burton was in trouble).
In 1953 Head won another Oscar for the film Roman Holiday, in which Head worked with the rising star Audrey Hepburn. The following year Head won another Oscar for a Hepburn film, Sabrina. This award led to controversy over who actually designed some of the costumes. Hepburn had chosen to wear several costumes created by the young Paris designer, Hubert de Givenchy, rather than let Head design everything. Givenchy was shocked to see that he received no credit in the final film; and, when Head received her award for the film, she did not mention him. In fact, she repeatedly claimed that she had designed dresses actually made by Givenchy.
After Sabrina, Head did not receive another Oscar until 1960, for The Facts of Life. Her eighth and final Oscar came after she had switched to Universal Studios, for The Sting (1973), the first film for which she received an award for outfitting male stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Head has won more Academy Awards than any other woman. Actress Arlene Dahl stated in Vanity Fair that Head "referred to her Oscars as 'my children."'
In addition to these award-winning films, Head worked on hundreds of other films, earning a total of 35 Academy Award nominations. One of her most notable partnerships was with Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she worked on 11 films. These included designs for Grace Kelly's costumes in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, and for Kim Novak's in Vertigo. Head considered Kelly and To Catch a Thief her favorite star and film.
Remained Active While Elderly
During the 1950s Head became a fashion commentator on the Art Linkletter television show, House Party. "She was my dress doctor, " recalled Linkletter in the Vanity Fair piece. "The first time Edith was on she was so introverted…. Then I coached her until she felt comfortable … It was remarkable to see this shy, retiring designer suddenly become a national personality!" By the late 1950s, Hollywood had moved away from elaborate costume dramas, and Head was working on only a few films per year. She used some of her time to move into new areas. In 1959, she wrote The Dress Doctor, a retelling of her career that became an instant best-seller. However, some details of the book remain questionable. According to Vanity Fair, it is even acknowledged now that the sketches in the book, attributed to Head, were drawn by her assistant, Grace Sprague.
After she moved to Universal Studios in the late 1960s, Head's film work was further reduced. She began new work, such as writing a syndicated fashion column and serving as president of the Costume Designers Guild for three years (1966-1969). With her friend June Van Dyke, Head began to hold costume fashion shows, supposedly with original costumes from films. However, numerous sources insisted that many of these costumes were reproductions, and that some were not even Head's designs.
In 1970 Head was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease and her husband also was in poor health. However, Head continued to work through the following decade. Her final film work was for Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which was released in 1982 after her death. Head's husband died in 1979, and Head herself finally succumbed to her illness on October 24, 1981. Her funeral was attended by crowds of Hollywood stars, as well as costume fitters and studio guards. Bette Davis (who kept a Head gown from All About Eve on permanent display in her home) gave the eulogy, calling Head "the queen of her profession."
Epstein, Beryl Williams, Fashion Is Our Business, J.B. Lippincott, 1945.
Head, Edith, and Jane Kesner Ardmore, The Dress Doctor, Little, Brown and Company, 1959.
Head, Edith, and Paddy Calistro, Edith Head's Hollywood, Dutton, 1983.
LaVine, W. Robert, In a Glamorous Fashion, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980.
Podell, Janet, editor, The Annual Obituary 1981, St. Martin's Press, 1982.
Vanity Fair, March 1998.
Internet Movie Database,http://us.imdb.com (March 4, 1998).
American film costume designer
Born: Edith Claire Poesner in San Bernadino, California, 28 October 1897. Education: University of California at Los Angeles, B.A.; Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, M.A.; also studied at the Otis Art Institute and Chouinard School, Los Angeles. Family: Married Charles Head in 1923 (divorced, 1923); married Wiard Ihnen in 1940 (died 1979). Career: Instructor in French, Spanish, and art, The Bishop School for Girls (La Jolla, California) and at Hollywood School for Girls, 1923; sketch artist, Paramount Pictures, 1924-27; assistant to Travis Banton, Paramount, 1927-38; Head of Design, Paramount Studios, Hollywood, 1938-66; chief costume designer, Universal Studios, Hollywood, 1967-81. Also author, editor, radio and television commentator. Designed uniforms for the Coast Guard and Pan American Airlines; lecturer, University of Southern California and University of California at Los Angeles. Exhibitions: Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1974; Hollywood Film Costume, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 1977; Edith Head: A Retrospectacular, presented by Chivas Regal benefitting the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS and the Motion Picture & Television Fund Foundation, 1998. Awards: Academy® award, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1960, 1973; Film Designer of the Year award, Mannequins Association, Los Angeles, 1962; Costume Designers Guild award, 1967. Died: 26 October 1981, in Los Angeles, California. Website: www.edithhead.com(A Retrospectacular Tribute).
The Dress Doctor, with Jane Ardmore, Boston, 1959.
How to Dress for Success, with Joe Hyams, New York, 1967.
in Silver Screen (New York), September 1946, January 1948.
in Hollywood Quarterly (Los Angeles), October 1946.
in Photoplay (New York), October 1948.
in Good Housekeeping (New York), March 1959.
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in Inter/View (New York), January 1974.
in Take One (Montreal), October 1976.
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McCarthy, Todd, "Edith Head Dies at 82; Costumes Subordinate to Story, Character," Variety, 28 October 1981.
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Locayo, Richard, "Inside Hollywood! Women, Sex, & Power," People, Spring 1991.
Spoto, Donald, "Edith Head," Architectural Digest, April 1992.***
As head of design for Paramount Pictures, Edith Head was the last great designer to work under contract to a major film studio. Head's first significant assignment was to create the wardrobe for silent film star Clara Bow in Wings (1927). Her last was costuming Steve Martin in the 1940ish mock noir film, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). In a career spanning 60 years, Head was responsible for the on-screen persona of such stars as Mae West, Dorothy Lamour, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Haviland, Gloria Swanson, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Head had no formal training in design and she took care to work within what she saw as her limitations. She might never be considered a couturier, but she could—and did—become a taste-maker. Thus while contemporaries Erté and Adrian came to be known for gowns which epitomized fantasy and glamor, Edith Head made herself known for designing beautiful and flattering clothes which the movie-going public could easily imagine wearing.
Head's wardrobe for Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (1941) advanced her growing reputation as a designer particularly attuned to the psyche of the average woman. Stanwyck had most often been cast in roles which required she look plain. Her on-screen transformation to a woman of style thrilled audiences as much as it thrilled Stanwyck herself. The star had Edith Head written into her contract, and the studio publicity department saw to it that the name Edith Head became synonymous with home-grown American fashion.
Beginning in 1945, Head had a featured spot on Art Linkletter's radio program "House Party," giving advice on matters of dress to the listening audience. When the show moved to television in 1952, Head moved with it. On live television, she would perform an impromptu verbal and visual makeover on members of the studio audience, sometimes using some element of her own clothing to suggest a more effective personal presentation. Head had a keen intellect, and when she brought her gift of analysis to the human figure, she created a look to flatter the wearer and fit the occasion. This was one of her great strengths as a costumier and it was a skill which could benefit anyone.
In her film work, Head was known as a "director's designer" whose interpretation of a character became the visual embodiment of the directorial thought process. Olivia de Haviland's subtly ill-fitting costumes for the opening scenes of The Heiress, or Gloria Swanson's clothes for Sunset Boulevard, with their simultaneous references to the 1920s and the 1950s, remain superb examples of characterization. Head often said that even without a soundtrack the story of The Heiress could be understood through its costumes.
One of the most challenging problems for any theatrical designer is so-called "modern dress." A motion picture may be shot up to two years before it is shown to the public but clothing must not betray this fact by seeming dated. If so versatile a designer may be said to have a trademark, Head's would be a clean and simple line with a minimum of detail, in a subdued palette. Head produced timeless classics which never competed with the performer and never took focus from the storyline. It was all, she said, "a matter of camouflage and magic."
updated by Nelly Rhodes
Edith Head (1897–1981) was born in San Bernardino, California. In 1923, after a brief career as a schoolteacher, Head answered an advertisement for a sketch artist at Famous Players–Lasky (soon to be renamed Paramount Studios). Although she had very little artistic training, her versatility impressed Howard Greer, the chief costume designer, who hired her immediately. When Greer left Paramount in 1927, he was replaced by his assistant designer, Travis Banton. As chief designer, Banton costumed the stars at Paramount, while Head, who had been promoted to assistant designer, costumed the B-movie players and extras. When Banton left the studio in 1938, Paramount named Edith Head chief designer;
she remained at the studio in this capacity until 1967. That same year she received a contract with Universal Studios, where she worked until her death in 1981. From the 1950s on, Head became a media personality through her regular appearances on the television show Art Linkletter's House Party. She also published two books: The Dress Doctor (1959) and How to Dress for Success (1967).
During her fifty-eight-year career, Head received more than one thousand screen credits, garnered thirty-five Oscar nominations, and won the Academy Award for costume design an unprecedented eight times. She was legendary for her ability to please difficult personalities and to camouflage figure problems. She was considered particularly skilled at defining character through costume, and her "character" costumes were among her most successful, including those for Double Indemnity (1944), The Heiress (1949), and Sunset Boulevard (1950). Head was especially proud of her work on The Heiress, for which she had traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to conduct period research, winning her the first of her many Academy Awards. Her collaborations with the director Alfred Hitchcock were renowned, since Head shrewdly understood the importance of costume to Hitchcock's creative vision in his films Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), and Vertigo (1958).
Head's designs were also occasionally responsible for influencing popular fashions. Her costumes for the Mae West film She Done Him Wrong (1933) reputedly set off a flurry of Gay Nineties–inspired fashions, while the sarong worn by Dorothy Lamour in the film The Jungle Princess (1936) continued to influence styles well into the next decade. Her costumes for Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (1941), which featured bare midriffs and fringed bolero jackets, are said to have popularized Latin American styles. Her most influential design by far was the lilac-strewn gown worn by Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951). The dress was a sensation in the teen market, and thousands of copies were sold.
Throughout her career, Head was criticized for taking credit for costumes she did not design and for exaggerating her influence on popular fashion. Despite these flaws, Head was undeniably one of the hardest-working talents in costume design and certainly one of the most versatile. Her intelligence and dedication secured her position both in the Hollywood studio system and in the history of fashion.
Chierichetti, David. Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003.
Epstein, Beryl Williams. "Edith Head." In Fashion Is Our Business. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1945.
Head, Edith, and Jane Kesner Ardmore. The Dress Doctor. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959.
Head, Edith, with Joe Hyams. How to Dress for Success. New York: Random House, 1967.
LaVine, W. Robert. In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980.
HEAD, EDITH (1897–1981), U.S. costume designer. Head was born Edith Claire Posener to Max and Anna Posener (née Levy) in San Bernardino, California. When her mother divorced and remarried, Edith took her stepfather's surname, Spare, and adopted his Roman Catholic faith. The family moved to Los Angeles when Head was 12. She received an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree in French from Stanford University in 1920. She returned to Southern California to teach at the Hollywood School for Girls. When asked to teach an art course at the school, Head signed up for night classes at the Otis Art Institute and then the Chouinard School of Art. In 1923, she married Charles Head, but the couple divorced in 1938; however, Head would use his surname for the rest of her life. Head responded to an advertisement from Paramount for a costume design artist in 1923 and won the position by borrowing designs from art school students at Chouinard. In 1927, she was appointed assistant to Travis Banton, Paramounts chief costume designer. Her first film credit as a costume designer was for the Mae West film She Done Him Wrong (1933). In 1938, Head became the first woman to lead a studio's costume department. Barabara Stanwyck even had Head written into her contract after her deft handling of the numerous costume changes in The Lady Eve (1941). In 1945 she started making regular appearances on Art Linkletter's House Party to give fashion advice to women, which was followed by her advice books The Dress Doctor (1959) and How to Dress for Success (1967) and later a syndicated advice column. In 1946, she worked on the film Notorious, which began a 30-year collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock. Head received her first Oscar nomination for costume design in 1948 for The Emperor Waltz; she was nominated a total of 34 times in her career, winning Oscars for The Heiress (1949), Samson and Delilah (1949), All About Eve (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), The Facts of Life (1960), and The Sting (1973). When Paramount failed to renew her contract in 1967, Head went to Universal, where her six-decade career finally came to an end in 1981 with her 1,131st film, the Steve Martin comedy noir Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).
[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]
Edith Head, 1907–81, American costume designer, b. Los Angeles, Calif. She began to design costumes for the motion pictures in the early 1930s, working at Paramount for most of her career and moving to Universal in 1967. She won eight Academy Awards for a variety of films, including The Heiress (1949), All about Eve (1950), Samson and Delilah (1951), A Place in the Sun (1952), Roman Holiday (1954), and The Sting (1973). She was responsible for such classic bits of costumery as Mae West's ostrich feathers, Dorothy Lamour's sarongs, and Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina necklines.
See her autobiography, Fashion as a Career (1966); biography by D. Chierichetti (2003).