Wednesday, February 24, 2010

queen of oscars

At the manor, we like to call out the name of a favorite actor,
director, or designer we might happen to see in the opening credits
of a film. The name I end up calling out most often, is Edith Head!
Did you know this powerhouse American costume designer's long
career in Hollywood garnered her more Academy Awards than any
other woman in history? She was nominated a whopping 35 times
and actually won a total of eight Oscars.

I adore that stunning off white cashmere coat she designed for Kim
Novak in Vertigo. And what about that classy wardrobe of Patricia
Neal's in Breakfast at Tiffany's? All those gorgeous dresses for Grace
Kelly in the Hitchcock films were also designed by Head.


She is one of those people I would love to have for dinner. Fascinating
conversation would take place, and there would be a paper table cloth
and lots of pencils near her place setting for sketching, during that
after dinner coffee. It would be fun to hear all the inside scoop on all
the iconic stars of old Hollywood. I would like it almost as much as
stopping in for a chat with Pop Leibel in the Argosy Book Shop.

Here's a list of Ms. Head's fashion commandments, listed in her book
The Dress Doctor, Prescriptions for Style, from A to Z. Amazingly
enough, her rules for dressing are still applicable today, only she
doesn't mention anything about woolly socks.

Don't let your clothes be fitted too tightly.
Even a perfect figure looks better if it doesn't
resemble a sausage. Only bathing suits
should be tight.

Don't wear a date dress when you're arriving
for a day's work at the office. The dressy
dress, the low-necked lacy blouse, the glitter
sweater, all of the glitter category belong to
after dark.

Don't be too different. You don't want to dress
like the heard, but you don't want to look like a
peacock in a yard full of ducks. Being too
much an individualist is not being well dressed.

Don't feel that when you're going to a party
you must look "dressed up" a simple dress is
safer if there’s a question of what to wear, and
you will be much more comfortable simply
dressed than over dressed.

Don't be afraid to wear a becoming costume many, many times. It's
an old fashioned idea that you have to have a new dress for every
occasion or party. Even if you have the money to do so, it isn't
necessary. The modern approach is to change accessories.
.

Life is competitive;
clothes gird us for the competition.
.
Edith Head
.
.

68 comments:

  1. how does she feel about plaid and courderoys?

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  2. I haven't thought about her for quite a while, but - yes - an amazing costume designer and a name I remember hearing over and over from years of watching the Academy Awards. Thanks for including her fashion advice...still very relevant today. You've put me in the mood for this year's Oscar telecast.

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  3. I remember driving by her home on an evening she was having a huge party. Like you, I'd always been fascinated by her. I too always called out her name when I saw it on the screen. As I drove by her beautiful home, which was all lit up, I kept wishing I could go inside. The streets were packed with cars being parked by valets. I drove by slowly, hoping to get a glimpse of something. I didn't. But oh I wished I could have conned one of those valets to park my car and allow me to sneak in. Within a year she had died. The house was no longer magical when I drove by.

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  4. Now there's a name I hadn't thought of in some time! She was indeed amazing.

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  5. Tattered, oh how I would have loved to have attended one of her parties, or like you, even a glimpse of the inside of her home! Fun that you were able to see it when it was still magical.

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  6. Tom, I'm sure she would wholeheartedly approve plaid and courderoys....on you!

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  8. Hi Willow - great post. I love understated elegance, ease, and the color white. My favorite fashion and design era for both clothing and furniture is the 40's. If I could I would be tall and thin like Kathrine Hepburn, and wear classic Edith Head.

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  9. Good fashion advice from one of the best. I agree that understated and classic is much better than being too done up. And of course accessorize to make a whole new look out of that same elegant black dress.

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  10. oh willow --how I would love to sit and have a cup of tea or coffee or glass of wine with you! Your perspective is so refreshing!

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  11. I agree with all those who stated they had not thought of her in a long time. True she was the biggest name in the movie fashions. Maybe they have more of them now. I watch one soap opera just for the way they dress, the hairdos and makeup. This Magpie project has turned out to be something reallllly big, hasn't it Willow. Everyone seems to be enjoying it a lot.
    QMM

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  12. Very interesting fashion post. And I agree, all very true today. I liked the sausage comment ;)

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  13. nice. my wife appreciates anyone sharing fashion advice with me...smiles.

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  14. Oh Daaaaaling.... yes, but of course! I do adore her work. I love her designs in "An American in Paris" and "White Christmas". My Rosemary Clooney wore Edith's black evening gown with the white tale in the scene for "Love you did me wrong" in "White Christmas". You have nice pics of her here. Love it! :) The Bach

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  15. I enjoyed this. I've always been interested in the old Hollywood costume designers. My grandmother on my mother's side sold Irene designs at Bullocks Wilshire, the first luxury dept store in Los Angeles. This was back in the Thirties.

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  16. She was amazing--so many wonderful movies she worked on. As a seamstress, I always watch for the wardrobe people. She was perfection. Love her tips.

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  17. Willow you look very much like Kim Novak.Edith Head is unsurpassable
    in the fashion stakes.Oh,maybe Galliano..as good as at least.I love watching old movies just to look at her clothes.Pat (?) of Sex and the City is very good.I think she could be Edith Head's successor

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  18. I have always loved her spunk, and her glasses. smiles.

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  19. Always nice to have reminders on how to dress appropriately, Willow.

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  20. Excellent advice from a true classic herself. Love this post.

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  21. Oh I LOVE Edith!!!! So much. I should live at the Manor!

    Rear Window. Oh, to die, to die.

    And have you seen The Incredibles. The costume designer was based on Edith. At least her hair was.

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  22. Remind me sometime to tell you the story about how costumer Peggy Farrell wound up with an autographed fragment of a dress complete with cigarette burn.

    The culprit? Bette Davis.

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  23. Jeff, that would be a fascinating blog post. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!

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  24. I love this post and all those perfect, perfect rules. And then it's capped off with that fantastic photo of the inimitable Ms. Head. Thank you!

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  25. Just to drive by on party night would have been a thrill for me. Sighhhh....

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  26. Glitter clothes belong to the dark. Now that's a quote that going to stay with me for some time.

    And the reason why my silver glitter sweater usually only emerges for evening dinner parties around the holidays...

    Fab post, I Tweeted 2 quotes from it just now. (They were irresistable.)

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  27. Hmm, and I thought I could buck the trend by dressing like a duck in a yard full of peacocks!

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  28. They just don't make 'em like her any longer! You jogged my head and memories with this interesting post. Haven't thought of her in a hundred years!

    A contemporary or hers I thought of last week for no apparent reason was Hedda Hopper, although Ms. Hopper died some 20 years before Edith Head. Icons of another age.......

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  29. Yes that would be a fun party. Would I be invited? I promise to be my most elegant and ladylike.

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  30. That's why I enjoy visiting you Willow! I learn something new every time I come to the Manor. xx

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  31. Just the fact that she did 'Vertigo' AND 'Breakfast at Tiffany's should suffice. Two completely opposite movies.

    On the subject of 'seasonal toffs'. In spring and summer, I dress down completely. I'm scruffy as they come. But come autumn and winter my fashion sense kicks in and I love the greys (dark, especially) and the black and white combos. The scarves (yes, the thick, wooly ones!), the gloves. Everything is classier. I prefer autumn to winter, but still like the latter to boast a bit of taste. :-)

    Great post.

    Greetings from London.

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  32. a post i can really relate to.

    she was the bomb!!!

    -and right on on every point.
    but after all...she was EDITH HEAD.
    too cool!
    xxx

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  33. Sometimes the design/costumes are the best part of a film! She certainly is one talented woman...and I love her fashion rules!

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  34. Tom, you are funny!

    Edith Head - even her name is fabulous. I've also always been a fan of Coco Channel. She said many many wonderful things, too.

    You'd never know it by looking at my clothes! (I almost said "wardrobe" - but - that would be a completely inflated way of describing my closet!)

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  35. I love the journeys you take us on , Willow.
    I wonder what Edith would think of Lady Gaga?

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  36. Deb, hard to say what Ms. Head would think about Lady Gaga's outrageous costumes. I'm sure she would appreciate her creativity, but not recommend it for the average girl...like me!

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  37. The costume designers are fabulous people but then I remember ages ago when going to western movies the person who chose the location to shoot the movie at was one of my inspirations. It didn't even matter that the events in the movie didn't take place there it just seemed right. I always admired them but can give no names.

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  38. Such a wonderful arbiter of taste.
    Such flair!
    Such style!
    So sorry I missed Magpie --maybe will try later today.
    I loved the prompt picture.

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  39. I agree, Edith Head was a fabulous designer who made a huge contribution to Hollywood and so many of the successful films of yesterday. One wonders who in this current film age could even carry her pencil.

    Great post, Willow, you always come up with thought-provoking offerings.

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  40. I think Edith Head was an inspiration. Especially since she worked in an industry really ruled by the gents of her time! I do think today's film costume designers are wonderful too, but none with quite the stamp of Ms. H. I am so impressed with the period costumes in recent movies -- like "Young Victoria," for example.

    Oh! how right she was about not wearing clothes too tight. Her sausage analogy was a good chortle!
    Thanks, Willow. You're reminding me I need to print out my ballot to have fun at home guessing at the winners of this year's Academy Awards!

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  41. You've inspired me to pull out my Edith Head action figure again! Yes, she was an amazing entity, more than just a designer and I recall her tips for how to dress appropriately as a running segment on Art Linkletter's House Party show. My mother always agreed with her adage that you should buy a few perfectly fitting pillars of your wardrobe and not apologize about how much they cost. You can't put a price on a perfect fit.

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  42. I have always loved the stylings Edith Head created.

    And Kim Novak, WOW! Love her.

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  43. Elizabeth, no problem on Magpie. Just jump in when you can. I'll be posting a new photo prompt tomorrow!

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  44. I have never hear of Edith Head. However, I agree with her advice. Still appropo for today's standards.

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  45. Kathleen BotsfordWed Feb 24, 01:38:00 PM

    I have read that she did not design half of her film credits and was a total hellion on "heels" but I admire her just the same. Great blog!

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  46. Kathleen, I'm sure she had to be a bit of a hellion to succeed in that chauvinistic era.

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  47. Egads - Edith Head!

    As classic movies are de rigeur in Thistlebright Cottage, my husband and I have a long-running custom. As the opening credits are rolling, we silently watch, and wait, and then as soon as we see "gowns by" come on-screen, we both scream at the top of our lungs, "EDITH HEAD!!!!".

    We do this whether or not Ms. Head is actually listed as the designer. It's just that usually, she is.

    Ms. Head has no idea how much fun and frivolity she has brought to wackos all over the world.

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  48. Hey, did you know Edith borrowed someone's croquis / sketches to win a job at a movie house? That takes guts! She clothed many a beauty! -J

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  49. I've just checked the list of actresses she dressed for and they are all there! Fab!

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  50. Marcheline, well small world. I thought I was the only one out there screaming "EDITH HEAD!!!!" at the top of my lungs. We are kindred wackos, indeed.

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  51. I love the fashions of the past because it reminds me of my youth when I could wear maybe one of those gorgeous outfits. I wonder if Edith Head designed for Loretta Young when she wore the white fur and swept into the white convertible cadillac--such flair.

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  52. oh, and I'm STILL such a red carpet groupie! the voyeur here...and edith head! those glasses BLEW ME away in the day!

    we watched de-lovely last night, kevin kline and ashley judd, and the clothes were the fav!

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  53. She also said, "Your dresses should be tight enough to show you're a woman and loose enough to show you're a lady."
    If she did say it, it kind of sums up her style.

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  54. This is a wonderful remembrance of Edith Head. Hubby and I check out movies from the library and the really great movies show credit to Edith Head. You are right about the cashmere coat.

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  55. Hi Willow, wonderful post with elegant thoughts and imagination:) I'd love to teach the: "Don't let your clothes be fitted too tightly."to some women here with generous shapes who seem to love their fashionable leggings and a woolen minishirt or dress over it...I cannot get used to this fashion (couldn't when it was fashionable in the 80ies)
    greetings from Paris
    Andrea

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  56. I always felt EH was a rather enigmatic character & that was part of the fascination for me. I love that her movie credits always read 'Gowns by Edith Head'. And that's exactly what they were. Not frocks or dresses, but gowns, as only Edith could create.
    Millie ^_^

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  57. Love this post - I have a fabulous book by Edith Head... she's a force!

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  58. Hi Willow,
    Thanks for the post on Edith Head, that cerebral but fantablulous fashion designer. People make a big toodoo about Coco Chanel, but Miss Head's influence on fashion is just as significant. (Plus, I dig those bangs--so Anna Wintour BEFORE Anna Wintour!)

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  59. "Don't be afraid to wear a becoming costume many, many times. It's an old fashioned idea that you have to have a new dress for every occasion or party."

    I love this tidbit... my mother selected a mother of the bride gown when I married that she loved. The color was right, it fit perfectly, it made her look stunning... so, she wore it for my wedding and then for the marriages of my two sisters as well.

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  61. How delightful to read your thoughts on Edith Head. I have created a theatrical piece about Miss Head, A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD and have traveled around the world keeping her legacy alive! Check out my website http://www.edithhead.biz - there are video clips of the performance! I look forward to staying touch! Let's have dinner!

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  62. Oh. My. Gosh. I can't believe you left a comment here! I've heard of you, and would LOVE to see your show. She was a powerhouse of a woman and I'm sure you do a powerful Ms. Head, as well. You do look as if the two of you were separated at birth, by the way. Thanks so much for reading my post. Yes, let's have dinner. Paper table clothes and sketch pencils! xx

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  63. I knew nothing about her and found this so fascinating!

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  64. hmmm - woolly socks as in "do" or "don't"? I wouldn't want to do without them...

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  65. Lettuce, I could NEVER part with my woolly socks. There are essential.

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  66. Grace Kelly's wardrobe in To Catch a Thief was just perfection for me. I wonder if Lady Gaga should take some notes from the glorious Ms. Head?

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  67. Brilliant! We do the same thing, shout out the names of those we recognize in the credits :)

    Jen

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)