Costume designer Edith Head has become a Hollywood legend in her own right. She is so recognizable, her look inspired the design of The Incredibles’ superhero seamstress Edna Mode. Over the course of his career, Head won 35 Oscar nominations. Of those nominations, she won 8 Oscars, more than any other costume designer.
These 8 victories also make Head the most awarded woman in the history of the Academy. Head was the costume designer for many Alfred Hitchcock films. Through her partnership with the author, she has dressed some of her most recognizable principal ladies, including Kim Novak, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly.
ten Notorious (1946)
Head’s first collaboration with the director, Alfred Hitchcock’s black spy Famous stars Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains caught in a love triangle while on a spy mission. A government agent recruits the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy for a mission in Brazil, the two falling in love in the process. Things get complicated when Alicia de Bergman must seduce one of the leaders of the Nazi organization she infiltrates.
Famous is one of Grant’s best movies, and he looks like the mischievous spy he’s always been meant to be. Bergman looks refined in every costume she wears, with each outfit fitting the 1940s figure perfectly while still feeling elevated. Head also uses accessories, like necklaces and hats, to bring out Alicia’s simplistic wardrobe in the black and white film.
9 The Heiress (1949)
William Wyler’s romantic drama The heiress won Head’s first career Oscar. Adapted from the 1947 play of the same name, The heiress stars Olivia de Havilland as a naive woman who falls in love with a handsome playboy her father is suspicious of. De Havilland won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Catherine Sloper, and The heiress is often cited as his best film.
Prior to 1967, the Best Costume category was split between color and black-and-white films, with Head winning most of his Oscars in the latter category. The designer makes de Havilland look incredibly expensive, showing off her status with rich fabrics and oversized jewelry. Head embraces the fashion of the 1850s, making century-old trends luxurious instead of sultry.
8 All About Eve (1950)
Better Davis plays an aging Broadway star whose biggest fan becomes his biggest competition in All about Eve. After slipping into the actress’ inner circle, Eve Harrington threatens the career and personal life of Margo Channing. Starring knockout performances from Davis and Anne Baxter in the lead role, the drama won 6 Academy Awards.
Head won Oscars in both costume categories at the 23rd Academy Awards. For the color, she won for her work on Samson and Delilah. But it’s his job in the black and white drama All about Eve it’s incredibly memorable. She embraces the tapered waist and full skirt jumpsuit the 1950s would become known for, and the black evening gown worn by Margo is a costume memorable in movie history.
seven Rear window (1954)
Rear window, a mysterious thriller, stars Jimmy Stewart as a wheelchair photographer who believes he witnessed a murder committed by one of his neighbors after spying. Rear window is one of the best films of the decade, critically acclaimed and 4 Oscar nominations.
The second time Grace Kelly played one of Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous Ice Blondes, she wore an exquisite wardrobe of just 6 costumes, all designed by Head. Kelly plays Lisa Fremont, the socialite girlfriend of Jeff de Stewart. Head embraces Lisa’s rich education to create beautiful costumes, the black and white dress she wears on her dream entrance is one of the best costumes in the movie.
6 White Christmas (1954)
Michael Curtiz’s classic Christmas musical White christmas was the first film to use VistaVision. Starring the songs of Irving Berlin, it stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two soldiers who return from the war and become a performing duo. The two go from stage to production, meeting Betty and Judy Haynes’ sister group, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, along the way.
They fall in love as they transform the Columbia Inn into a travel destination, starring the world’s best-selling musical Play around at the hostel. For White christmas, Head embraces the supersaturated nature of technicolor, using rich reds and vivid blues to make performance outfits stand out. For these looks, she also played with exaggerated embellishments. The daily wear in the film was not as loud, but still wonderfully tailored and reflecting 1950s style.
5 To Catch a Thief (1955)
Alfred Hitchcock’s latest film with Grace Kelly, the romantic thriller To Catch a thief teamed up with actress with Cary Grant. Following a retired jewelry thief trying to save his reputation after an impostor began targeting wealthy tourists in France. Catch a thief is one of the actress’ most critically acclaimed films, and her performance as Frances Stevens is one of the best of her short career.
Kelly and Head have become close friends, working together on 4 films. Catch a thief was the duo’s last film together, and Head made sure to come out on a high. Like many of Kelly’s characters, Frances was a wealthy woman with style and Head made sure to create a wardrobe to reflect that. Catch a thief earned the designer an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design – Color.
4 Funny Face (1957)
Head worked with famous French designer Hubert de Givenchy on the 1957 musical Funny head. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star in the romantic comedy about a fashion photographer whose new muse is a philosophical and shy saleswoman. Givenchy created custom dresses for Hepburn, while Head designed the wardrobes for everyone.
The duo shared the Oscar for Best Costume Design – Color Nomination. This was not the first time that Hepburn, Head has won back-to-back Oscars for roman holidays and Sabrina, although Sonja de Lennart and Givenchy designed costumes in both. Funny head allows Givenchy’s chic designs to take center stage while letting Head’s impeccable fit shine through through costumes for Astaire and Kay Thompson.
3 Vertigo (1958)
Another notable collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and Head, the psychological thriller fear of heights stars Jimmy Stewart as a private investigator and Kim Novak as the woman he was hired for. John “Scottie” Ferguson retired from the police after developing a fear of heights and dizziness. Madeleine Elster is the wife of a college friend of Scottie’s whom he slowly becomes obsessed with until his untimely death.
In fear of heights, Novak plays the dual role of Madeleine and her double, Judy Barton. Scottie uses Madeleine’s wardrobe to slowly turn Judy into his lost obsession. Much like Scottie, Head uses his costumes to tell the stories of the two women. Madeleine prefers more neat and less garish clothes while Judy favors colors and younger silhouettes.
2 What a way to go! (1964)
Black comedy What a way to go! features Shirley MacLaine and a revolving door of prominent men. MacLaine plays Louisa May Foster, a woman whose wealth increases after being widowed several times due to various circumstances. Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly and Dean Martin are the 5 men who married Louisa, the only Martin’s Leonard alive until the end of the film.
Dark comedy embraces the aesthetics of the camp, Head uses bright colors and theatrical patterns to make each character from What a way to go! exit the screen. One of the best costumes in the movie is a monochrome pink ensemble, wig included, that Louisa wears after marrying Kelly’s Pinky Benson. Head won an Oscar nomination for his costumes in comedy.
1 The Sting (1973)
The bite is the latest film featuring Oscar-winning costumes designed by Head. Robert Redford and Paul Newman teamed up with their Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid director George Roy Hill for this 1930s antics after a crook and veteran con artist team up and seek revenge on a crime boss. The bite presents the best career performances of the two main actors.
The film won 7 Academy Awards, including Head’s for Best Costume Design. The men’s clothes she designed for The bite allowed Head to show that she doesn’t just make pretty dresses. She embraced the 1930s aesthetic, creating era-specific ensembles that still make Redford and Newman look great on screen.
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