The “Dress Doctor” Edith Head

Edith Head (1897 – 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, starting with The Heiress (1949) and ending with The Sting (1973).

Born and raised in California, Head managed to get a job as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures, without any relevant training. She first acquired notability for Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong dress, and then became a household name after the Academy Awards created a new category of Costume Designer in 1948. Head was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively, and these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.

After 43 years she left Paramount for Universal, possibly because of her successful partnership with Alfred Hitchcock, and also adapted her skills for television.

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Edith Head 1930s

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Edith Head’s costume for Anna May Wong in Dangerous to Know directed by Robert Florey, 1938.

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Grace Kelly wearing her Oscar dress by Edith Head. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.

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Edith Head’s costume for Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd directed by Billy Wilder 1950.

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Audrey Hepburn (with Edith Head in the background) puts on her tiara and necklace while on the set of Roman Holiday, 1952.

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Hitchcock and Head on the set of Family Plot (1976).

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