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Edith Head (1897-1981) is America’s best-known and most successful Hollywood designer. A winner of eight Academy Awards for Costume Design, Head defined the style of classic Hollywood with her striking work at Paramount and Universal studios.

She dressed some of Hollywood’s most beautiful movie stars, including Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Lana Turner and Marlene Dietrich. Her work, however, was not limited to women. She designed wardrobes for such dashing leading men as Cary Grant, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, to name a few.

Edith Head and actress Joan Crawford

Actress Joan Crawford (right) with Edith Head on her first one-woman exhibit at the Wright/Hepburn/Webster Gallery in New York in 1969.

Head’s gown designs for Ingrid Berman in the 1946 suspense classic, Notorious, was her first collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, a partnership that lasted for eight movies.

All told, Head designed costumes for about 500 films and was nominated thirty-five times for an Academy Award. She also became a recognizable personality in her own right thanks to her distinctive personal style including her signature glasses and blunt personality, which inspired the character of Edna Mode in the Pixar animated hit, The Incredibles.

Grace Kelly

A publicity shot of Grace Kelly for the movie, Rear Window, wearing an Edith Head designed dress. A sketch of the dress is below.

While she designed some of the most eye-catching and breathtaking outfits in movie history, Head only liked to wear four colors herself: black, white, beige and brown.

A collection of Head’s striking design sketches recently sold at Heritage Auctions. A sample of her work follows.

Edith Head design sketch

Grace Kelly “Lisa Fremont” costume sketch by Edith Head for the Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rear Window (Paramount, 1954). The sketch sold for $21,250.

Edith Head design sketch

Head's original costume sketch of Kim Novak as "Madeleine Elster" in Hitchcock's Vertigo. (Paramount, 1958). The sketch sold for $11,520.

Edith Head design sketch

Vintage original costume sketch of Bette Davis as “Margo Channing” in All About Eve (TCF, 1950). The iconic and glamorous chocolate brown evening gown seen in the famous party scene when a tipsy and bitter Channing ruins her own party and utters the unforgettable line, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Head won the 1951 Oscar for “Best Costume Design” for the film. The sketch sold for  $11,780.

Edith Head design sketch

Vintage original costume sketch by Head designed for and worn by Vera-Ellen in the classic holiday film White Christmas (Paramount, 1954). This instantly recognizable costume was featured on film posters and advertisements. The sketch sold for  $6,875.

Edith Head design sketch

Head’s sketch of Audrey Hepburn’s outfit for her Oscar-nominated role as “Holly Golightly” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Paramount, 1961). The outfit was designed by Hubert de Givenchy
with a final version by Head. The sketch sold for $38,750.

Edith Head design sketch

Head’s original sketch of Elizabeth Taylor’s “ Angela Vickers” costume for A Place in the Sun (Paramount, 1951). The movie earned Head the Oscar for “Best Costume Design.”
The sketch sold for $13,750.

Edith Head design sketch

Grace Kelly “Frances Stevens” costume sketch by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (Paramount, 1955). Depicts an alternate version of the iconic gown worn by Kelly in the memorable masquerade sequence in the Hitchcock thriller. Head was nominated for “Best Costume Design” for this film. The sketch sold for $23,750.

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