Designing Woman

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Head, wearing her  signature glasses, also created looks for other Hollywood  legends, including Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren.

Head, wearing her signature glasses, also created looks for other Hollywood legends, including Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren.

An online exhibit highlights the costumes created in Edith Head’s head.

In her nearly sixty years as a costume designer, Edith Head worked on more than one thousand films, dressing Hollywood’s beautiful leading ladies (Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor) and handsome men (Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Robert Redford). Along the way, she received thirty-five Academy Award nominations and took home the statue eight times — the most of each for any woman in any category.

The papers of this design legend reside at UW-Madison as just one of the 242 collections of film, theater, television, and radio history and memorabilia held by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Historical Society. The compilation includes some of Head’s personal papers, but is largely watercolor, pencil, and pen-and-ink sketches.

You needn’t come to campus to ooh and aah over the fashions, though. The center has prepared an online exhibit that gives a taste of the Head papers, revealing the creative process of designing film costumes and the business behind the magic. Browse the Head exhibit and other fascinating featured collections.

Edith Head designed  this elegant ball gown for Grace Kelly to wear in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.

Edith Head designed this elegant ball gown for Grace Kelly to wear in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.

Kelly, wearing the final version of the dress, also wore Head’s designs in the Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Kelly, wearing the final version of the dress, also wore Head’s designs in the Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Published in the Fall 2009 issue

Tags: Collection

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