Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Life Of Edith Head

Have you ever seen the movie The Incredibles? Edna Head’s features were inspired by the world famous fashion designer, Edith Head. At the Coronado Library there is a dedication to Edith Head which consists of some of her designs and sketches. It is truly a fascinating and amazing exhibit, I encourage all of you to go and visit her work. Edith Head was famous for her costumes in many movies such as Sabrina, Funny Face, A House Is Not A Home, and The Oscar. Out of 35 nominations for her costumes at the Academy Awards- even every year from 1948 to 1966, she won 8 of them- the most any female has ever won. Edith only worked with two studios, Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios. Edith was born in Searchlight, Nevada; her full name was Edith Claire Posener. She was the daughter of Max Posener and Anna E. Levy. Her father was a mining engineer in the gold mine in Nevada. Her mother remarried Frank Spare in 1901 and was then passed off as his child, her birth parents were both Jewish, however later in her life she would claim to be Catholic. She would move to San Bernardino, California at an early age, she then attended the University of California at Berkeley and received a BA in French in 1918, and then in 1920 she graduated and received a MA in Romance Languages from Stanford University. She became a languages teacher, specializing in French at the Bishops School in La Jolla, California. After a year of teaching there, she took a position at Hollywood School for Girls as a French and Art teacher. She then took night classes for art in order to improve her drawing skills at Chouinard Art College. She married Charles Head on July 25, 1923, a brother of one of her classmates, Betty Head at Chouinard. The marriage ended in 1936 with a divorce; however she kept her last name for professional usage. She finally married Wiard Ihnen, a set designer on September 8, 1940. They were married until his death in 1979. In 1924, Edith was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Picture, with no previous costume design experience and lack of art design in its self. She later admitted that she used another student’s sketches for her job interview. She worked for Paramount for 44 years before switching over to Universal Studios. Her first film that she designed for was a silent film, The Wanderer in 1925. By the 1930s she had established herself as one of Hollywood’s leading costume designers. Edith accomplished many things over her life; almost all had to do with fashion. Some of those fashion accomplishments are famous in today’s world. Edith was associated with the design of the sarong for Dorothy Lamour in the film The Hurricane. This accomplishment made her well known with the general public. Again in 1944 she gained the public’s attention for the top mink-lined gown that she designed for Ginger Rogers in the movie Lady in the Dark. Edith was also rumored to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite costume designers. It was also rumored that the reason for her leaving Paramount was that Alfred had moved to Universal in 1960, and she too wanted to continue to work with him. Edith was well known among her piers for her look- key working style. She was also popular among the female actresses during her time period as a costume designer, mostly the stars of the 1940s and 1950s; including Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Barbra Stanwyck, Shirley Maclaine, and Anne Baxter. Edith also worked with Audrey Hepburn in the film Roman Holiday, which also made Edith’s work famous among the public and her peers. Edith was also “loaned” out to other studios in order for other female stars to work with her. She was also known for her restrained designs and was dubbed the “queen of shirtwaisters” by her detractors in the 1950s. Edith’s final Oscar win was for her work on the film, The Sting. During the late 1950s Edith was approached by the United States Coast Guard to design a uniform for the women, whose numbers were increasing at this time. Head was quoted saying that it was the “highlight” of her career. She had now moved to designing for T.V., she also designed for the T.V. mini- series Little Women. Edith was famous for her notable style which consisted of the thick, round dark sunglasses that had became her trademark (originally the lenses were blue, but later she changed them to darker shades of gray). She wore them originally for seeing how her clothes would appear in black and white. She wore her hair in the 1920s as a Colleen Moore Dutch boy cut, however in the 1930s; she changed her hair style to Anna May Wong’s that consisted of flat bangs and a chignon at the back. This hair style she would wear for the rest of her life. Edith Head died on October 24, 1981 in Hollywood, California in her sleep by rupturing her esophagus by her violent coughing (the cough was form a rare bone marrow disease). You can visit Edith Head on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6504 Hollywood Blvd. This exhibit is at the Coronado Public Library. It will be up until August 1, 2009. Elizabeth Dellinger Online Writer Intern