When I logged on to Google this morning, I got a wonderful surprise. There, right at the top of the page, the minimalist Google logo was replaced (as it sometimes is – on special occasions) by something else. Looking back at me was a tiny little woman, dressed in a smart outfit complete with pearls and her trademark round glasses perched on her face. Picture Edna from The Incredibles. She was standing in front of a row of sumptuous gowns and I knew, before clicking on the image, it could only be one woman. The iconic Hollywood costume designer – Edith Head.
If you’ve not heard of her, no doubt you’ve seen her work. This woman is legend. She’s won eight Academy Awards for her costume design (more than any other woman), has helped dress Audrey Hepburn in some of her most memorable films, and today she would have been 116 years old. Now, Edith Head can add “Google Logo” to her list of accomplishments. Because these days, you haven’t fully made it until Google honours you with your very own Google doodle on your birthday!
I love seeing this woman honoured in such a global way. With no formal training, this California native managed to build a career that spanned sixty years. Head created some of the most timeless designs I ever saw women wear on screen. It was Head (with Givenchy) who dressed or supervised Hepburn’s costumes in Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She designed the gorgeous strapless evening gown Elizabeth Taylor wore in A Place in the Sun. Head really made her mark when she helped create the perfectly co-0rdinated suits and dresses worn by Grace Kelly (Rear Window), Kim Novak (Vertigo) and Tippi Hedren (The Birds) in many Alfred Hitchcock films in the 1950s. In 1955, when she won an Oscar for Country Girl, Grace Kelly wore a pale blue gown designed by Head. Made with over $4,000 worth of fabric, it was was considered to be the most expensive Oscar dress ever made.
Seeing Edith Head celebrated today got me thinking. How many Hollywood costume designers of her calibre can you name? Is there someone who is her equal today? I’m stumped. If you can think of someone, let me know.
Check out this fascinating video of Head speaking about working with Audrey Hepburn. Happy Birthday Edith!