Edith Head – An American Movie Costume Designer

In this blog’s ongoing series on fashion and costume designers, this post will discuss the career of Edith Head who was an American costume designer at Paramount Studios and later Universal Studios.  She created movie costumes for some of the most glamorous film stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.

Special Note: In keeping with the theme of An Elegant Bride blog, the classic Edith Head movie costume designs detailed in this post would be a great inspiration for a classic wedding style for either a bride and/or bridesmaid dresses.

A brief history of the life and career of Edith Head

Edith Posener was born on October 28, 1897, her parents were Max Posener and Anna Levy.  Her parents divorced when Edith was a child and in 1905 her mother was remarried to a man named Frank Spare and the family moved often, although her parents were both Jewish her stepfather was Catholic and she converted to his faith.

Edith attended the University of California Berkeley and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1919 and then a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University in 1920.  After college she moved to La Jolla, CA and took a teaching position at the Bishop’s School teaching French and a year later she moved to Hollywood, CA to at the Hollywood School for Girls.  Unhappy with just teaching language Edith was looking to increase her salary and she had always been interested in fashion design so she enrolled at the Chouinard Art College.

Edith meet the brother of one of her Chouinard classmates, a man named Charles Head, and they were married on July 25, 1923 (they later divorce in 1938 after a long separation).  At the time of her marriage Edith was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures where she would continue to work there for the next 44 years.  Although she and Charles were divorced and she had remarried an art director named Wiard Ihnen in 1940 she would continue to be known professionally as Edith Head throughout her career. 

Eventually Edith would go onto have a very successful career at Paramount as a movie costume designer and then later at Universal Pictures, she moved to Universal in 1967 when Paramount declined to renew her contract.  During her time at the studios she designed for Mae West in the 1933 film She Done Him Wrong (which co-starred a young Cary Grant), she designed the famous sarong for Dorothy Lamour in the 1936 film The Jungle Princess, Barbara Stanwyck in 1944 film Double Indemnity, Bette Davis in 1950 film All About Eve (for which Edith won the Academy Award for Costume Design) and Gloria Swanson in 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.  Among her career accomplishments she won 8 Oscars and received 35 Academy Awards nominations.   

Edith also had two books published, the 1959 book The Dress Doctor and the 1967 book How to Dress For Success, in which she discussed her career and also her design and fashion style.  She also designed the uniforms for the women of the United States Coast Guard for which she received the Meritorious Public Service Award.  In 1974, Edith received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in the entertainment industry. 

Edith’s second husband, Wiard, died in 1979 from prostate cancer.  Two years later Edith died on October 24, 2982 for myelofibrosis which is an incurable bone marrow disease, she is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.   

Movie Costumes designed by Edith Head

Edith Head is perhaps best known for the work she did for three of Hollywood’s most beautiful and glamorous women – Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.  In this post, I will concentrate on movie costumes that she designed for these actresses during the 1950s to the 1960s. 

Elizabeth Taylor

The first iconic movie costume I will discuss is a dress Edith Head designed for a young Elizabeth Taylor for the 1951 film A Place in the Sun starring opposite Montgomery Clift.  At this time Elizabeth was best known as a child actress and it would be one of her first more mature roles.  In the film she played a beautiful society debutante and the wardrobe that Edith designed for Elizabeth would reflect a more sophisticated style, Edith would win the Academy Award in Costume Design for this black and white film. 

One of the costumes Edith designed was a strapless dress that featured a fitted boned bodice covered with velvet flowers and the skirt had several layers of sheer tulle over a pastel taffeta underskirt, floral embellishments also cascaded down the front of the skirt.  The dress accented Elizabeth’s tiny waist while the bust line was definitely enhanced by the floral fabric design.  The dress caused a sensation across the country and became so popular with young women that it was copied and sold in stores for proms throughout the 1950s.

Elizabeth Taylor with Montgomery Cliff in a scene from A Place in the Sun

dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun

Audrey Hepburn

Another beautiful actress that Edith designed movie costumes for was Audrey Hepburn.  Audrey’s slim figure proved to be a challenge for Edith especially after working with such voluptuous actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor. 

Roman Holiday

The 1953 film Roman Holiday would be the first of several films in which Edith designed movie costumes for Audrey Hepburn.  In this film Audrey plays a princess visiting Rome who decides to escape the tedium and boredom of her royal duties to explore the city where she meets an American reporter, played by Gregory Peck.  The film would catapult Audrey to stardom and she would win the Best Actress Academy Award for Roman Holiday and Edith would win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for this black and white film.

At the start of the film we see Audrey’s character wearing the quintessential princess dress which Edith designed.  The off the shoulder formal dress featured a floor length full skirt, beaded shawl collar and fitted bodice worn with a royal satin sash and jeweled royal orders; she is also wearing long white gloves, a diamond tiara, necklace and earrings. 

Audrey Hepburn in a scene from Roman Holiday as Princess Ann

Princess Ann dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday
photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Special Note:  Although Edith won the Oscar for her work in this film the iconic shirt, blouse and belt worn in the scenes when Audrey’s character explores Rome were actually from the Capri collection by European fashion designer Sonja de Lennart.  This practice of a movie costume designer taking credit from another person’s work would cause controversy for Edith in another movie she did with Audrey.   

Sabrina – 1954

The next film that Edith worked with Audrey was the 1954 Sabrina, much has been written about the costumes for this movie and I will highlight one of the most famous dresses.  In the film Audrey plays, Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffeur for a wealthy family.  Sabrina is secretly in love with the youngest son, David who is played by William Holden and Humphrey Bogart plays the older brother.  On the pretense of attending the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, she is sent away to Paris leaving as a young naïve girl but returning a year later as a more mature and very well-dressed woman.    

After her arrival back home she finally catches the notice of David and is invited to a party that evening at the house.  She makes a dramatic entrance looking very sophisticated in a stunning dress made by Edith but designed by Hubert de Givenchy.   The white strapless organza gown with black floral embroidery features a slim column dress with a separate and matching overskirt that had a black band of fabric at the bottom, she also wears long white gloves.       

Audrey Hepburn and Bill Holden in a promotional photo for Sabrina

evening gown worn by Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

Special Note:  As previously mentioned, Edith sometimes took credit for another person’s work and in this case the other fashion designer was a young Hubert de Givenchy.  Despite the fact that Givenchy designs were featured in the film Edith was given full screen credit. She won the Academy Award for Costume Design for Sabrina and never acknowledged Givenchy contribution.  Later, to sidestep this controversy, the studio stated that regardless of the fact that it was Givenchy designs, because the dresses were made at the studios under the supervision of Edith that she had the right.    

For information about the costumes of another Audrey Hepburn movie, please click on the link to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.              

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly was another beautiful actress that Edith worked with on four of her films, Rear Window was the first Alfred Hitchcock film they worked together on which was followed by the film To Catch a Thief.  Grace had the style that could only be described as elegant and chic which made dressing her for films a dream as you can see in the two movie costume dresses that I will discuss next.   

Rear Window

The 1954 film Rear Window is a mystery thriller and is often considered one of Hitchcock’s best films.  In the movie a photojournalist, played by James Stewart, is recovering from a broken leg and confined to a wheelchair.  While in his apartment with a view of the courtyard and building across the way he witnesses what is thinks is a crime and he shares this information with his girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly.    

Edith had previously worked with Grace on the film Country Girl which called for the character to wear dowdy clothes but now for Rear Window Edith would design six stylish and sophisticated outfits for Grace who was playing a high fashion model.  The dress worn when Grace makes her first appearance in the film is a considered a timeless classic.  Edith designed a stunning dress which featured a black fitted bodice with a deep V neckline and a full white chiffon skirt accented with a black floral pattern, she is also wearing bright red lips, perfectly styled hair, a pearl necklace and bracelet, white gloves, black strappy shoes and white chiffon shawl when she enters the apartment for the first time.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in a scene from the Rear Window

Grace Kelly in a promotional photo for Rear Window

To Catch a Thief

The second film that Edith worked with Hitchcock and Grace was for the 1955 film To Catch a Thief, it would be one of Grace’s last films as she was soon to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco and give up her acting career.   

To Catch a Thief is a romantic thriller in which a retired jewel thief, played by Cary Grant, is suspected in several burglaries on the French Rivera and to prove his innocence he decides to catch the real thief.  He meets the beautiful daughter of a wealthy American oil heiress, played by Grace, and they work together to set a trap.

Since the film is set on the French Rivera, Edith designed a wonderful resort wardrobe for Grace’s character and the first dress she wears in the film is an absolute enchanting dress!  Edith designed a flowing Grecian style dress made in two lovely shades of blue chiffon with thin straps, a draped bodice and a matching chiffon shawl that she casually drapes over one shoulder.     

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in a scene from the film To Catch a Thief

Grace Kelly in a promotional photo for the To Catch a Thief film

For information about another Edith Head dress designed for Grace Kelly for the 1955 Academy Awards, please click on the link to Grace Kelly Style.

Wedding ceremony – aisle decorations (Part Two)

In Part One of the series on Wedding Ceremony Aisle Decorations, I previously mentioned that aisle decorations are frequently added to a ceremony site to coordinate with the wedding style and also as a way of bringing color to a venue.  In that post I discussed aisle decoration that included aisle runners, rugs and also floral, candle and fabric aisle decorations, please click on the link for more information. 

Now, in Part Two of the series I will offer ideas and suggestions for items, such as floral decorations which can be used for the chairs or pews at the ceremony site.  I will also offer ideas about less traditional and more unusual items which can be used to decorate the ceremony aisles, such as tree stumps, wine barrels and door panels.

Special Note:  Frequently at a wedding the center aisle of a ceremony site is reserved for only the bride and her attendants to walk down, sometimes the aisle will be roped off and the guests will be asked to use the side aisles to get to their seats and this is especially important when elaborate aisle decorations are used.


Fabric can be relatively inexpensive to use when decorating a wedding site, see Aisle Decorations – Part One for fabric draping ideas.  Fabric can also be used to embellish rental chairs for a ceremony site.  Below are several examples for chair decorations, showing fabric tied to the side, embellished with flowers, woven through the chair backing and beautifully tied with a ruffled chair sash.


Another frequent aisle decorations used for a wedding ceremony are floral arrangements for the pews or chairs and these can be used for indoor or outdoor venues. 

Special Note: I would highly recommended checking with the wedding venue for advice on what type of method that should be used to attach a floral decoration, especially to a church pew, that would avoid any possible damage.  Although rental chairs for a ceremony site cause less of a problem for attaching a floral decoration I would still advise to check with the vendor on what are the acceptable methods to use.

Perhaps the most classic formal style of floral arrangement for a ceremony site would be roses with greenery and ribbon as seen in the photos below.  Although the examples show white and pastel roses accented with white ribbon, other more vibrant colors of roses and ribbons can be used to match the wedding colors selected by the bridal couple. 

Other flowers or embellishments, such as pearls can also be added to a rose pew/chair floral arrangement, shown below is a beautiful example using roses, orchids and pearls for an elegant style. 

More colorful varieties of flowers can also be used for floral arrangements for the chair/pew decorations at a ceremony site, shown below are examples using hydrangeas and peonies. 


Feather can be added to chair/pew decorations for a more whimsical style, shown below are several examples using peacock and ostrich feathers.


Sometime the seasons of the year can inspire chair or pew decorations, shown below are examples for a summer beach wedding using seashells, lovely pink tulips for spring, a sheaf of wheat for the fall and a winter pine spray with pinecones. 


Shepherd hooks or garden stands are a wonderful alternative to use for an outdoor ceremony, these items can also be used indoors but a container stabilized with weight (such as rocks) would be needed to hold them upright.  Shown below are several examples using shepherd hooks with various floral arrangements and plants.  

Lanterns or crystal chandeliers can also be used to hang from the shepherd hooks and would look beautiful at an evening ceremony.  The examples shown below feature a simple black lantern, a white lantern hanging from a shepherd hook decorated with grapevine and roses and a lovely crystal chandelier which would be perfect for a romantic style wedding. 


Sometimes a bridal couple is looking to add more unusual aisle decorations to customize a ceremony site.  Shown below are several ideas using various items, including wood stumps for floral arrangements or candles which would be perfect for an informal outdoor ceremony, wine barrels filled with a large floral arrangement for a barn or vineyard ceremony and door panels that would beautifully frame the arrive of the bride and her attendants.

Words or pictures can be attached to chairs/pews for a very personalized style for a wedding ceremony.  The words can be from a favorite bible verse or poem; I would suggest keeping the wording relatively short for easier reading. 

The photos selected can range from childhood (starting with the oldest to most recent) and one side could be photos of the bride while the other side could be photos of the groom, this would be a very sentimental idea especially if the groom and his parents precedes the bride down the aisle escorted by her parents.

Finally, here is one last idea for a distinctive look at an outdoor ceremony site which features a curved aisle instead of a straight one that could be decorated with flowers or plants to resemble a wandering garden path as shown in the photo below.

Please click on the link to Part One of the Wedding Ceremony Aisle Decorations for more information.  In that post I discussed ideas and suggestions ranging from traditional fabric aisle runners which are available in a variety of styles and colors.  I will also discuss the popular use of floral designs, candles and fabric draping to decorate the aisle of a ceremony site. 

Toasting Glasses – ideas and suggestions

Customarily special toasting glasses are selected for the bride and groom to use for the traditional champagne toast which is done during a wedding reception.  In this post I will offer ideas and suggestions for selecting toasting glasses and I will discuss the numerous types and styles that are available depending on the wedding theme and/or colors.  (For detailed information about the various shapes of champagne glasses and the history of champagne and the Custom of the Wedding Toast, please click on the link) 

Champagne is usually served in a champagne flute with the intent to preserve the carbonation and maximizing nucleation (basically the bubbles).  There is an often repeated legend that the shape of the classic coupe style of champagne glasses was either modelled on the breast of either Madame de Pompadour, she was the mistress of King Louis XV of France who had a fondness for champagne, or perhaps Marie Antoinette who was the wife of King Louis XVI and the last Queen of France before the French Revolution.  

Champagne should always be served cold and an ice bucket is perfect to chill a bottle to the right temperature.  Ice buckets come in several of sizes to accommodate a single bottle or multiple bottles and they can also be found in variety of styles ranging from glass to silver to even copper. 

Shown below are several examples of just a few styles that are available:  

a simple and inexpensive stainless steel ice bucket

a classic silver ice bucket

a plain glass ice bucket

a cut glass ice bucket

a hammered copper ice bucket which would be perfect for a fall wedding

a silver seashell ice bucket which would be great for a beach wedding!

a large silver ice bucket for chilling multiple champagne bottles

ice mold with lemons (any fruit can be used) from Crate and Barrel

Many couples getting married will select special champagne glasses for the wedding toast to use at the reception.  A great idea is that after the wedding the toasting glasses can be placed in a shadow box with other wedding items (such as the wedding invitation, bridal garter, etc) for a sentimental decorative display for the newlywed’s home.  The special glasses can also be used every year for an anniversary toast or maybe even in celebration of the couple’s first child!

Shown below are examples of the different shapes of toasting glasses:

the classic coupe champagne glass

two styles of flute champagne glasses –  regular and stemless

trumpet glass

tulip glass

Shown below are several examples of a few different styles of toasting glasses that are available to fit any wedding colors and theme (click on any photo to enlarge):

vintage cut glass coupe glass

silver flute glasses

gold stem flute glasses

silver beaded flute glasses

painted flowers flute glasses

cut glass trumpet glasses

engraved trumpet glasses

acrylic flowers trumpet glasses

blue stem (right) trumpet glasses

teardrop glasses for the bridal couple engraved and available from the Knot.com

A British Royal Wedding – Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank

In my ongoing series on British Royal weddings, this post will be about the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank which took place on October 12, 2018 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  At the time, Princess Eugenie was ninth in the line of succession to the British throne and since the wedding of Princess Anne to Mark Phillips in 1973 it has been 45 years since a British Princess has been married. (although her older cousin Zara Phillips married Mike Tindall in 2011 she does not hold the Royal title of Princess)

The wedding of Princess Eugenie also marked the second Royal wedding to take place in 2018, her cousin Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in May also at St. George’s Chapel.  Previously the most recent Royal weddings held at the Chapel include her uncle Prince Edward (the Earl of Wessex) to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999 and her cousin Peter Phillips to Autumn Kelly in 2008 while her uncle Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) had the blessing for his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles at the same site in 2005.

Princess Eugenie Victoria Helena was born on March 23, 1990 and she is the second daughter of Prince Andrew (the Duke of York) and Sarah Ferguson.  Sadly her parents divorced in 1996 but the former couple has remained on very good terms. 

Princess Eugenie and her sister, Princess Beatrice received a proper British education.  She attended NewCastle University and graduated in 2012 with a degree in English Literature and Art History.  In 2013 she moved to New York to work at Paddle8 as a benefit auctions manager then moved back to London in 2015 to work for the Hauser & Wirth art gallery as a director.

Princess Eugenie met Jack Brooksbank through friends while on a ski trip to Switzerland in 2010, he was working there at the time.  Jack was employed as a wine merchant and then later as the European brand ambassador for Casamigos Tequilla.  The couple dated for seven years before Jack proposed while on a holiday in Nicaragua. 

The engagement was announce on January 22, 2018 by the office of the Duke of York at Buckingham Palace and the wedding would follow in the fall of 2018.  After the engagement photos were taken in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace the couple gave an interview to the BBC which was an opportunity to see the engagement ring that Jack gave Princess Eugenie.  It was an oval-cut Padparadscha sapphire surround by a circle of diamonds set on a gold band with two addition diamonds place on either side of the band.

When announcing the plans it was describe that it would be a family wedding and not a public one like her cousins Prince William’s grand ceremony in Westminster Abbey or Prince Harry’s earlier in the year at St. George’s Chapel.  In addition, since Princess Eugenie is a supporter against plastic pollution, it was noted that she would like a “plastic-free” wedding.  This decision aligns with her personal views on sustainability and also with her role as an ambassador for Project O, which is a charitable initiative committed to protecting the ocean from pollution involving single use plastic. 

Prior to the wedding, it was confirmed that Princess Beatrice, the bride’s sister, would be the maid of honor and Thomas Brooksbank, the brother of the groom, would be the best man.  The six bridesmaids and two page boys selected would be Prince George and Princess Charlotte (son and daughter of her cousin Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge), Isla and Savannah Philips (daughters of her cousin Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn), Mia Tindall (daughter of her cousin Zara Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall), the bride’s godchild Maud Windsor (daughter of Lord and Lady Frederick Windsor), Theodora Williams (daughter of Robbie Williams and Avda Field) and Louis de Givenchy (son of Olivier and Zoe de Givenchy).  Two special attendants would be her cousins Lady Louise Windsor and James Viscount Severn (son and daughter of her uncle Prince Edward and Sophie)

On the morning of the wedding almost 850 invited guests gathered in St. George’s Chapel.  The interior and exterior floral arrangements were designed by the London based florist Rob Van Helden and featured a beautiful autumn floral theme using roses, hydrangeas, dahlias and berries that were sourced from the nearby Windsor Great Park.

The bride’s mother, Sarah Ferguson arrived wearing a Kelly green dress and coordinating hat and Princess Beatrice, the bride’s sister wore a royal blue dress.  The groom and best man arrived wearing dark morning dress suits.  The groom wore a navy blue vest and light blue tie with a tie pin featuring the white rose of York (remember the bride’s father is the Duke of York) and Padparadscha sapphire that was a gift from Princess Eugenie. 

Just after the arrival of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip (the bride’s grandparents), the bride and her father, Prince Andrew the Duke of York, arrived in a 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI. In a very sweet gesture Prince Andrew helped to arrange Princess Eugenie’s bridal dress train before they climbed the steps to enter the Chapel as a specially composed fanfare “Adventus” played.

Then to the music of “Piece d’Orgue” by J.S. Bach, the bride was escorted by her father through the Nave to the Organ Screen where the groom and the best man were waiting.  They were greeted by the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, who gave a brief introduction and then the couple with the bride’s father and the best man proceeded through the Quire of the Chapel and to the Main Altar to the music of “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” by John Newton.

The Dean of Windsor officiated the vows and ring ceremony, the bride’s wedding ring was a simple band made of Welsh gold that was a gift from Queen Elizabeth.  Next, Andrea Bocelli performed two songs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, “Ave Maria” by Bach/Gounod and later “Panis Angelicus” by Cesar Franck. Charles Brooksbank, the groom’s cousin, gave the first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians which was followed by Princess Beatrice who gave a second reading taken from “The Great Gatsby”, a novel by F.S. Fitzgerald. 

The Dean of Windsor gave the sermon and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, gave the prayer for the service.  After the signing of the register, the bridal couple and their invited guests sang the National Anthem.  Then with a deep curtsey from Princess Eugenie and a bow from her new husband to Queen Elizabeth, the couple proceeded down the aisle followed by their attendants and family members. 

The Princess Eugenie and Jack emerged from the chapel and they shared a kiss on the steps to the cheers of the crowd gathered outside.  Members of the Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, of which the Duke of York is Colonel, lined the West Steps of the chapel.  Then, there was a carriage procession in the Scottish State Coach through the streets of Windsor, it has been estimated that 3,000 people lined the streets to watch.  The procession route was slightly smaller in length than the one that Prince Harry and Meghan took just a few months earlier after their wedding.

The bridal couple returned to Windsor Castle and there was an afternoon wedding reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth.  It has been reported that Prince Andrew gave a very touching father of the bride speech.  At the luncheon Princess Eugenie and Jack cut their 5 tier red velvet and chocolate wedding cake which was made by London-based cake designer Sophie Cabot.  The cake featured white icing with the couple’s intertwined initials on the bottom layer, sugar ivy to represent their new home at Ivy Cottage and decorated with a beautiful cascade of sugar autumn flowers and leaves.

Later that day Princess Eugenie and Jack were seen leaving Windsor Castle for the nearby Royal Lodge which is the country residence of Prince Andrew.  The car was a silver Aston Martin DB10; it was one of eight cars used for the 2015 James Bond film “Spectre”.

An evening reception was held at Royal Lodge and Jack worn a black tuxedo while Princess Eugenie looked amazing in a stunning blush color silk gown made by designer Zac Posen.  The gown featured “pin tucked plisse” (material specially made to give a permanent crinkled effect) cut on the bias which beautifully draped, the White Rose of York was embroidered on both shoulder and back to hold a cape.  In her hair Princess Eugenie wore brooches borrowed from her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.  The brooches are known as the Queen Victoria Wheat Brooches which date back to 1830.  The brooches were originally commissioned by King William IV for Queen Adelaide and were inherited by Queen Victoria in 1837 and later by Queen Elizabeth in 1952.