Edith Head

February is Oscars Month. While I don’t keep up with current movies (meaning, any movies after 1950), I do love the old movies from the 30s and 40s,  and the cold, rainy days of February are perfect for watching them. Or, reading about them.

I was happy to find David Chierichetti’s book, Edith Head (Harper Collins 2003) at my local library. She is the one Hollywood costume designer I could name off the top of my head, and I thought reading about her would be a good starting point to learn more about other designers and the process of designing.

But I was very disappointed in the book.  It relates story after story of her interactions with stars, studio heads, and assistants, almost on a month-by-month basis.  It repeats that she balanced and placated all these different factions, but it doesn’t give any idea of how she worked.  What inspired her?  Where did she get her historical reference information? Where did she get her fabrics?  What kinds of fabrics did she prefer to work with? None of that is mentioned.  Trips that she took to Paris and Japan – in an era when travel was not easy or common – are barely mentioned, much less the effect these trips had on her designs or thinking.

I had hoped for a behind-the-scenes look into the world of movie costuming, but what I got was no better than a glance at Head’s meeting schedule.