I was fortunate enough to catch the play about Edith Head. It was absolutely wonderful. Then the other night, being the insomniac that I am, I caught the movie Sabrina, the original! And it gave me the idea to bring you this post,
on one of thee most influential women as far as fashion statements. I think of all the old movies that I love, and sure enough, it is she, that was responsible for all of the costuming!
Edith Head was a legendary costume designer who styled the stars of Hollywood’s golden age – a field which at the time was dominated by men. She received her big break on the film She Done Him Wrong, which starred Cary Grant and Mae West,
and featured the often quoted line ‘why don’t you come up and see me some time’. West, who wrote the play Diamond Lil on which the film was based, was typically provocative in her brief to Head: ‘Make the clothes loose enough to prove I’m a lady,
but tight enough to show ’em I’m a woman.’
Over her long career Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, including every year from 1948 to 1966, and won no fewer than eight, for films such as All about Eve, Roman Holiday and The Sting – more than any other woman. She designed costumes for more than 1,100 films, dressing a who’s who of greats including Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Newman and countless others.
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.
She also dispensed her advice to women across the country through newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television shows, and two bestselling books. Read her savvy, still-relevant bon mot-like tips below.
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.
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.”