Susan King features this series in the Los Angeles Times.
For more than five decades, costume designer Edith Head contributed to Hollywood storytelling and the communicative power of star personalities, while dominating her chosen field as a star in her own right. A resourceful and intelligent artist, she collected eight Academy Awards (still a record) and many more nominations. She was the first woman to amass power and prestige as a studio costume department head (for nearly four decades at Paramount Pictures, before a late-career move to Universal Pictures) in a world ruled mostly by men. Never viewed as an assertive visionary in the sense of Travis Banton, a mentor at Paramount, or MGM’s Adrian, Head shrewdly navigated the evolving role of Hollywood costume design in the storytelling process as it interacted with modern fashion. An avowed servant of story, she professed a “magic” that transformed actors and actresses into their characters. More than this, her visibility and public advocacy for the topic of costume design made Head the very personification of her field, and engendered unprecedented public interest in and respect for the costume designer’s art. This series presents noteworthy examples of Head’s diverse creations, in collaboration with noteworthy film artists, and in dialogue with history.
Special thanks to: Deborah Nadoolman Landis, chair, The David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at UCLA; Randy Haberkamp, Ellen Harrington, Bernardo Rondeau, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.