The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood

Bendigo Art Gallery Edith Head in her Paramount Pictures studio 1940s © Paramount PicturesConsidered the most significant costume designer in the history of cinema, a new exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery from 29 September will feature a large slice of Hollywood history, honouring the life and work of multiple Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head.

In her 50 year career, first at Paramount Pictures and later at Universal Studios, the American-born designer worked closely with many of Hollywood’s most important stars on close to a thousand films. The Costume Designer brings together more than seventy of these costumes, from the 1930s to the 1960s, gleaned from the archives of Paramount, the Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design and other private collections.

Curated by Bendigo Art Gallery Curatorial Manager Tansy Curtin, The Costume Designer features garments worn by Shirley Temple, Gloria Swanson, Veronica Lake, Olivia De Havilland, Jane Russell, Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Yul Brynner, to name a few. Films highlighted in the exhibition include: The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, The Emperor Waltz, Sunset Boulevard, Vertigo, The Heiress and many more.

Highlights of the exhibition include: the three piece evening gown worn by Barbara Stanwyck in The 1941 film, The Lady Eve; a day dress, coat and shoes worn by Shelley Winters in the 1951 film, A Place in the Sun; a two-piece performance suit worn by Bob Hope in the 1953 film, Here Come the Girls; Shirley Temple’s bright red costume worn in the 1934 film, Little Miss Marker; and a sports coat worn by Cary Grant in the 1955 film, To Catch a Thief.

Edith Head received eight Academy Awards during her career, the largest number ever won by a woman. One of her many skills as a designer was to recognise apparent ‘flaws’ in the bodies she dressed, using drape, cut and pattern to disguise imperfects and to highlight the wearer’s ‘assets’.

Head was also known for developing a close, consultative relationship with the stars she designed for, which include Betty Davis, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson, Joan Fontaine, Joanne Woodward, Shirley MacLaine, Carole Lombard, Shelley Winters, Audrey Hepburn and Lillian Gish to name but a few.

A fashion-icon in her own right, Head wore understated clothing in only four colours (black, white, beige and brown), aiming to ensure that when dressing the stars, she herself would fade into the background and her star, and creations, would shine instead.

“We are thrilled to bring the creations of Edith Head to Bendigo Art Gallery,” said Director Karen Quinlan. “Here is a true Hollywood tastemaker, whose designs played a huge role in the history of fashion, design and cinema, and yet they’ve rarely been seen in the public domain or outside the US.”

The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition: 29 September 2017 – 21 January 2018
Admission fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Edith Head in her Paramount Pictures studio 1940s © Paramount Pictures