The Designer Behind Hitchcock’s Icy Blondes, Audrey’s All-American Style

Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

Every awards show season, red carpet commentators fawn over certain gowns, touting a “return to Hollywood glamour.” But who is really responsible for Hollywood glamour as style? One candidate is Edith Head, costume designer to some of the most iconic movie stars, eight-time Academy Award winner for costume design and recent Google Doodle subject (she would have been 116 this week).

Head’s work made an impression on me long before I knew who she was. She is responsible for the memorable style of many Hitchcock leading ladies (think Tippi Hedren in The Birds and Kim Novak in Vertigo). She also created the classic all-American looks Audrey Hepburn wore in movies like Sabrina and Roman Holiday (see the photo above).

Starting at Paramount in the 1920s, Head designed costumes for silent movies such as the 1925 film, The Wanderer. She spent 43 years at Paramount and then moved to Universal in 1967. During her time as a costume designer, she became a favorite of female movie stars such as Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor.

Head worked outside of movies too — the first year the Academy Awards were televised (1953), she was brought on as a fashion consultant and made sure stars dressed modestly, a role she held until 1981. In the late 1970s, Head designed a woman’s uniform for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Head is credited with 438 costume designs on IMDB — not bad for someone who borrowed another student’s sketches for her first interview!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons (Audrey Hepburn Screentest for Roman Holiday)


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