10 Things to Love About Edith Head on Her Sweet 116

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Costume designer Edith Head is a legend. She won more Academy Awards than any other costumer in history, dressing the likes of Grace Kelly, Bette Davis, and Audrey Hepburn. Head also penned two books, How to Dress for Success and The Dress Doctor. In honor of her sweet 116th birthday, here’s our round up of 10 things we love about the indomitable designer:

1. HER WIT: Ms. Head could have gone head-to-head (pun intended) with Dorothy Parker in a battle of quips. She’s so damn quotable. My favorite Edith Head one-liners are: “Some people need sequins, others don’t” and “You can lead a horse to water and you can even make it drink, but you can’t make actresses wear what they don’t want to wear.”

2. HER BANGS: We wish we could rock a thick curtain of fringe like Edith Head did. Long before Anna Wintour’s bob, Head’s signature haircut was legend.

3. HER GLASSES: Another trademark, Head’s round spectacles had custom tinted blue lenses; she claimed the color helped her visualize how a costume would look when filmed in black and white.

4. HER ABILITY TO LOOK GOOD IN BEIGE: Here’s how the designer explained her personal style: “I always wear beige, black or white. For one thing I look good in them. For another, when I’m beside a star at a fitting, and she looks into the mirror, I don’t want to be competing in any way. And I always wear gloves. I’m a caricature, really.”

5. SHE WAS THE O.G. RED CARPET POLICE : When Head issued a dress code for the 1968 Academy Awards, she insisted women wear floor length evening gowns in pastel colors and men go white tie with formal evening accessories.

6. SHE THRIVED IN HOLLYWOOD’S BOYS CLUB: Head once admitted that she never thought she did good work for director Cecil B. DeMille. “I always had to do what that conceited old goat wanted,” she said, “whether it was correct or not.”

7. SHE FAKED IT TIL SHE MADE IT:  Head was first hired at Paramount Studios as a costume sketch artist. However, she never studied art–she held a BA in letters and sciences from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in romantic languages from Stanford. She admitted years later that the sketches she showed during her Paramount interview were borrowed from a fellow student.

8. SHE WAS A WOMAN’S WOMAN: Head was favored by Hollywood’s leading ladies because, unlike her male counterparts, she listened to their requests.

9. SHE THREW AWESOME PARTIES: Head was known as a warm and inviting hostess who threw the most fabulous fêtes at her Benedict Canyon hacienda.

10. SHE WAS FRANK WHEN GIVING ADVICE: In her book How to Dress for Success Head advises women on what to wear for a variety of occassions. Here’s what she told hostesses: “Don’t select something with long tight sleeves and a high turtleneck that will make you look and feel like a steamed clam after the first cocktail. Play it cool. And no matter how glamorous they look in the adds, avoid long dangling necklaces that wind up in the salad bowl when you’re serving.” In the Dress Doctor, Head warns, “Don’t let your clothes be fitted too tightly. Even a perfect figure looks better if it doesn’t resemble a sausage.”

 

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