Today is the anniversary of Edith Head’s birthday on Oct 28, 1897. And please don’t say “Edith who?”
The iconic Hollywood costume designer, a tiny bird-like woman with blunt black bangs, won a record 8 Oscars for her work in films such as Roman Holiday, Sabrina, All About Eve. But she was also Oscar nominated 35 times for other films. In other words, she’s the current costume queen Colleen Atwood times 100.
After designing for decades of actresses still seen as style inspirations — Audrey Hepburn, Hedy Lamar, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Loretta Young. Ingrid Bergman — one wonders what Head would say about today’s popular TV costume designs.
She might appreciate Kerry Washington‘s Olivia Pope wardrobe on ABC’s hit seriesScandal. She would applaud the soft muted shades, minimalist designs and classics from costume designer Lyn Paolo. Just like Head did with Hubert Givenchy, Paolo incorporates her fave designers latest work on the show — Alexander McQueen,Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren – as well as Olivia’s infamous Prada bag.
Downton Abbey would probably tickle Edith pink. All the fabulous period styles, and watching as the cultural changes impact women’s fashion, from pre-WWI aristocratic opulence to post war era practicality, slimmer silhouettes, vanishing corsets and dropped waists. While she would kill to dress the slender Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, Maggie Smith‘s Dowager Violet Crawley would be her favorite character, if only for the clever bon mots.
Janie Bryant’s Mad Men costumes would definitely be Edith’s cup of tea. She would rave about Don Draper’s classic suits (so Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief) and Betty Draper’s nipped waist dresses a la Dior’s new look, launched in 1947. The full-skirted silhouette – seen on Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953) — was a reaction to WWII austerity and Dior would remain one of Head’s strongest influences throughout her career.
Since Head created Hitchcock’s icy blonde look, she’d approve of January Jones/Betty Draper’s mode overall. Even though she designed hundreds of films in the ‘60s, she might not have appreciated the Mod influence. It’s a given that Jessica Pare/the second Mrs. Draper’s miniskirt worn in the 2012 season premiere, would have appalled Ms. Head. So unlady-like!
Pretty Little Liars has become one of the most popular TV shows for young fashionistas. And the show’s costume designer Mandi Line follows — and sets — trends for the show’s audience. Sadly, Ms. Head would have been horrified at how many terribly trendy and poorly made clothing and accessories these girls own. She would not appreciate the current “fast fashion” pace at all. Heavens to retail, would a few well-made classics hurt?
Edith Head knows just a little something about powerful women, having costumed the iconic film about backstabbing and bitchiness in the 1950 classic, All About Eve.
In The Good Wife, Head would have appreciated the way the central character, Alicia, (Juliianne Margulies) becomes a strong confident woman, as evidenced by her clothing choices that started as staid politico wife to power player in a legal firm. Her armor includes Alexander McQueen, Etro, Proenza Schouler, Armani, and Dior.
Like Head, costume designer Dan Lawson felt it was important for all the women on the show maintain their femininity in a man’s world. “Why can’t they be feminine and be strong?,” he asked. Head always knew the answer: They can.
Revenge would be Edith’s favorite TV series. The plot — a daughter of an executive accused of a crime he did not commit — infiltrates Hampton’s high society to get revenge. Delish! Costume Designer Jill Ohanneson‘s couture gowns worn byMadeleine Stowe as Victoria Greyson and Emily VanCamp/Emily Thorne’s classic — almost preppy — silhouettes would absolutely thrill the designer who dressed Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.
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