STYLE ICON: Edith Head
Edith Head was one of the most prolific costume designers in 20th century film, winning a record eight Academy Awards.
Born on October 28, 1897, Edith Head became chief designer at Paramount Pictures in 1933 and later worked at Universal Studios. Hollywood's best-known designer, Head's costumes ranged from the elegantly simple to the elaborately flamboyant. She designed the costumes for Double Indemnity (1944) won a record eight Academy Awards for her work in films such as All About Eve (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), The Facts of Life (1960), and The Sting (1973).
After graduating from Los Angeles High School, she attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in letters and sciences (earning honors in French), and then went on to enroll at Stanford University, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in romance languages in 1920.
After receiving her M.A., Head landed the position of sketch artist, then design assistant at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. In 1938, Head was named chief designer at Paramount Pictures. She remained at Paramount for 44 years until 1967 when she moved to Universal Studios, where she became known for personally phoning producers and directors who were working on important films for the studio to offer her services.
Head received her first Academy Award nomination in 1949, for her design work in the 1948 film The Emperor Waltz, starring Joan Fontaine. Head won her first Oscar in 1950, for her costume work The Heiress.
Head's costumes ranged from the elegantly simple to the elaborately flamboyant. The celebrated visionary continued to be an artistic force with other films from the decade, including All About Eve (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), and, The Ten Commandments (1956). And the 1960s saw Head serving as designer for movies like The Nutty Professor, The Carpetbaggers, Sex and the Single Girl, and Barefoot in the Park (1967), among many other projects.
By 1970, Head had received her 31st Oscar nomination, specifically for her work on Bob Fosse's 1969 musical Sweet Charity, starring Shirley MacLaine and Ricardo Montalban. Head had also reunited with iconic director Alfred Hitchcock (the two had worked together on previous Hitchcock films like Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Birds) for Topaz (1969), and with George Roy Hill for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
In 1978, Head was honored with her last Oscar nomination for her design work in Airport '77. She had won her eighth and last Oscar four years earlier, in 1974—setting the record for most Oscars won by a woman (a record she still holds today)—for her work in Hill's The Sting (1973).
By the end of her lifetime, Edith Head had secured her legacy as Hollywood's best-known costume designer. During her career, Head worked on more than 1,100 films, received 35 Oscar nominations and took home eight statues. She was also known for having designed uniforms for female members of the U.S. Coast Guard towards the end of the 1970s.
The iconic designer died on October 24, 1981, at the age of 83, in Hollywood, California.