Monday, Apr. 02, 2012

Edith Head

Acclaimed costume designer Edith Head earned more Academy Awards than any other woman — eight out of a remarkable 35 nominations — but that was only part of what made her a legend. For almost six decades, starting in the Golden Era of the 1920s and carrying through to the 1980s, Head defined the cinematic stylings of Hollywood, dressing everyone from Lucille Ball and Bette Davis to Olivia de Havilland, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Born in 1897 in San Bernadino, Calif., Head got her start in 1923 as a sketch designer at Famous Players-Lasky Studios (which eventually became Paramount Pictures) after including in her portfolio "borrowed" work from several of her classmates. For 10 years, she toiled as an assistant before being promoted to designer for the film She Done Him Wrong, starring Mae West. From there, it took her only five years to become chief designer at Paramount — the first woman to ever hold the position. Over the course of her career, Head worked on more than 1,100 films, wrote two books, including How to Dress for Success, and became a style icon in her own right, known for her tailored suits, dark glasses and blunt bangs. Always a devoted worker, Head passed away in October 1981, four days before her 84th birthday and two weeks after finishing her last film, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Yet her legacy lives on through the superstar style she crafted, which is as much a part of today's cinema as it was during her era.