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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion In Film || Paper to Reality: Edith Head Defining an Era

This here is my little contribution to the Fashion in Film Blogathon that is being hosted by Angela at The Hollywood Revue - thank you for holding this, Angela! It's going to be exciting to see all the other posts, to read them, maybe even discover new blogs. Yes, blogathons are a ton of fun. And I know a bunch of my favorite blogs are participating in the event, so this will be a real treat!

This was a vast topic to cover, and in the end I came up with this post. A shroud of my thoughts on two topics I love: fashion and movies. Put together, I think they equal "Classic Hollywood."

Let's face it: Among one of the many things modern movies lack is fashion. Oh, sure, there are some pretty dresses and nice ensembles here and there, but you're just as likely to find the main character stretched out on the couch in a pair of baggy sweatpants and a t-shirt.

Classic Hollywood was different, though. And to be fair, the times were completely different. It wasn't acceptable to be walking around in baggy sweatpants then in the way it is today; in the 40s and 50s one had to look put together and neat upon going out - or even being around the house. Today, sweatpants (sorry to keep picking on this piece of attire for you sweatpants lovers!) add realism to a film just in the way that chic costuming did in Classic Hollywood.

My favorite designer of this era - and this may be deemed the default answer - would be Edith Head. She was a genius and probably dressed every leading woman in Hollywood at least once.

"Edie knew the truth about all of us. She knew who had flat fannies and who didn't -- but she never told."


Edith knew how to dress a woman exactly according to her figure. As Lucy's words explain, Edith knew how to conceal imperfections by making it work to an actress's advantage or instead spotlighting her other assets. Marlene Dietrich was not very busty at all, but she had long legs and Edith understood this and pulled out the stops. Audrey Hepburn had a spindly neck, legs, and arms; Edith concealed this by staying away from short sleeves, full dresses, jewels on her neck. She could fix anything -- was Veronica Lake's neck too thin, Loretta Young's too long? Bette Davis pulled a "diva" to get Edith for All About Eve and it is said Joan Crawford would not buy a pair of socks without Edith's consent.

The woman had power.

She won Oscars for it, a proud collection of golden men. She took complete pride and credit in her work. Some actresses loved her and others butted heads with her, but each one became grateful to her in the end. Sometimes she was a snob. In 1955 she brought home the Oscar for "Sabrina" -- yet 90 percent of the film's costumes came hand selected by Audrey Hepburn from Givenchy, Audrey's favorite designer. Edith did not speak of Givenchy once in accepting her award.

Still, this was only a rare occasion in which Edith's success was downplayed. She could turn out genius things, she made every women in Classic Hollywood a fashion icon in her own right. Her favorite protegee was said to have been Grace Kelly, but she could fit any figure, from skinny (Audrey Hepburn) to curvy (Sophia Loren).

Edith was tops, but there were other designers. Helen Rose was of her own prestige and designed Grace Kelly's wedding gown; Adrian was on a first name basis and designed for "The Wizard of Oz."

Together, these designers and all the little people created a definitive era of fashion in movie making. The makeup was never smudged, a hair never out of place, and her outfit? It was always superb. 

They were all wonderful, but today and for this particular blogathon, I think I'll stop and spotlight Edith.

From Paper to Reality

It seems that for almost every actress of Classic Hollywood, combine her name with "Edith Head" on Google and you come across an gorgeous treasure trunk of sketches. Some dresses we know so well; others not so familiar but beautiful. The following is a tribute to Edith Head. If I could find a picture of the actual actress wearing the sketched dress, it appears alongside the photo. 

Sketched: A pale, blue chiffon dream for "To Catch a Thief"

Pictured: Grace Kelly in the finished product. 

Sketched: A chic and modest brown gown for All About Eve

Pictured: Bette Davis shows off the Edith Head creation

Sketched: A gorgeous and elegant black dress for "Sabrina."

Pictured: Audrey Hepburn brings it to life.

Sketched: One of my personal favorite dresses, a simply elegant number for "Rear Window"

Pictured: Grace Kelly showing off her dress to an uninterested Jimmy Stewart from a vivid Technicolor frame

Sketched: The outfit sketched must have been something for Joan Crawford to wear on her day off, as it appears that Edith Head never did design for Joan in a movie -- yet off screen, Joan relied on her totally. Hmm. If only we had a "Pictured" for this one!

Sketched: A slinky, shimmery black ensemble for "The Lady Eve"

Pictured: Barbara Stanwyck, who adored her, showing off the dress. It seems to have captured Henry Fonda's rapt attention!

Sketched: A delicately glamorous gown for "A Place in the Sun"

Pictured: Elizabeth Taylor is the lucky girl who gets to wear this creation.

Sketched: An ornate, fabulous period piece for "The Heiress"

Pictured: Olivia de Havilland flaunting it in said film!

Sketched: For Katharine Hepburn... I am not sure what film this is. If I were to take a guess, I would say "Little Women."

Sketched: A Cinderella style dress for "Inside Daisy Clover"

Pictured: Star Natalie Wood in the end product.

Sketched: Another design for Natalie Wood, this time for "Love With the Proper Stranger"

Sketched: A simpler, peasant girl style dress for Sophia Loren in "Houseboat"

And, now, of course, for my personal favorites....

Sketched: A chic outfit for Lucille Ball in "The Facts of Life"

Sketched: Also for "The Facts of Life", another gorgeous ensemble for Lucy

Sketched: Peach, beige chiffon for "The Facts of Life" and Lucy once more!

Sketched: Edith would even design for Lucy on "The Lucy Show"


Okay, so, perhaps I got a little carried away with the pictures there. But each time I found a new sketch I had  got more excited and just had to post it. ;) Also, I thought it was so interesting to see how each sketch seemed to be a near perfect definition of the actress's likeness as well as captured her personality and the personality of the dress -- I do not think Edith was the actual artist of the sketches (correct me if I am wrong),  but I found it quite interesting anyhow. But Edith was amazing, for sure.

That's all for me - though that was quite a lot of "all"! Once again tons of thanks to Angela for hosting this, and be sure and go over to The Hollywood Revue and check out the wonderful blogs. And comment with what you think!

PS: Edith Head is so fabulous, I think I'll just go ahead and make a tag for her on my blog. ;)


Yvette said...

Wonderful post! I loved seeing the Edith Head sketches and the finished product. Also loved hearing the theme from GONE WITH THE WIND on your blog. :)

This is a super blogathon.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Even though her designs were always spectacular, there is something so fascinating about seeing her original sketches. Now I'm trying to think if I've ever seen Joan Crawford wear a dress like that. Hmm...

Thank you so much for participating!

Mommy said...

Frankly My Dear....I loved this post...Loved it!!!

Sophie said...

Great post! I loved seeing all of the sketches. Imagine getting to wear an Edith Head outfit... *swoons*

Anonymous said...

First of all, I love your blog!

Like everyone else, I love seeing the sketches and the finished product. Oh to get my hands on an Edith Head creation. Oh, I can always dream.

Meredith said...

I just love looking at the original sketches for these costumes. Couldn't pick a favorite if I tried!

Natalie said...

Yes, we love our Edith Head (for obvious reasons). I loved this, Rianna! Great job!

Jessica P. said...

Wow that sketch of blue dress Grace Kelly wears in "To Catch a Thief" is just as wonderful on paper as it is in real life.

I admit...I thought of another word other than snob when you said Edith didn't mention Givenchy in her acceptance speech for "Sabrina"...but then I guess why would she? I had forgotten she won for that movie. I also didn't realize she designed the black cocktail dress Audrey wears out dancing with Humphrey Bogart. For some reason I thought she had only designed the little girl dress at the beginning and some capri pants. haha oops!

Wonderful post. I'm so glad you shared all of those sketches :)

Meredith said...

All of the sketches are fantastic! I think that Lady Eve dress is my favorite. It's provocative without being unseemly. MUCH sexier than any skimpy tube top could ever be.

Rianna said...

Yvette - Oh, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I agree. What a lovely blogathon!

Hollywoodrevue - Aren't they? I think in "Mommy Dearest", Faye Dunaway's Joan Crawford wears a dress like that, but I am not sure. You're welcome; I had fun!

Mommy - Thank you :)

Sophie - Thanks! Oh, same. Getting to wear Edith Head... well, I can dream. ;)

sittinonabackyardfence - Thank you so much! I just discovered your blog too; I love it. And what a creative name!

Meredith - Thank you, I had fun finding them :)

Natalie - Thanks! I think we all agree on loving Edith Head!

Jessica - I hadn't realized she had sketched the cocktail dress either; I thought she had only done a few like the ones you'd mentioned. I thought most of the "pretty" ones were all Givenchy... You're welcome! And by the way, I just love your blog!

Meredith - I agree! And so much more elegant, too. ;)

Unknown said...

Like your site. Got here b/c of Google's tribute today to Edith Head. Keep up the good work.

Unknown said...

I have 7 Edith Head original sketches to sell somebody is interested

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