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The most famous costume designer: constructing Edith Head’s narrative from school teacher to Hollywood stardust
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies, Fashion Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1286-073X
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Costume designer Edith Head has become a symbol of Hollywood costume designers. With more than 50 years career designing for the big screen,her iconic look has inspired several characters that pay homage to her legacy. Edith Head started her career in 1924 as Howard Greer’s assistant. Without any background in drawing or costume design, Head rapidly ascended to head of the costume department in 1937, when Travis Banton left Paramount and join Howard Greer in his Beverly Hills fashion atelier. Scholars have presented her career as a linear story of costume design success, focusing mostly on her time at Paramount Pictures and basing arguments onHead’s own media declarations. However, Head’s media appearances and the widespread popularity as a public persona demonstrate that a large part of her work for the studio rested on being a promoter by exploiting her role as a mediator of fashion discourses for female audiences. Head used the looks of the stars to educate women into finding “their type” and showed them how to adapt screen looks for real life situations. Storytelling became key to Her media appearances rehashed anecdotes from Hollywood’s golden age, building her own celebrity status through the discursively constructed proximity to Hollywood stars.This paper looks at the media construction of Edith Head as symbol of Hollywood success through her media appearances as costume designer and fashion expert. Drawing from archival holdings at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the Wisconsin Film and Theater Research center, the study focuses on Head’s battle horse anecdotes that filled in interviews, radio segments, books, as well as her work as the Academy Awards fashion consultant. The presentation will demonstrate that Head was a key PR figure for the studio and that this strategy also worked on her favor to perpetuate her position in the job market after the demise of the studio system by means of her own acquired celebrity flare.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Edith Head, Costume Design, Celebrity culture, Hollywood, history
National Category
Studies on Film
Research subject
Fashion Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-169656OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-169656DiVA, id: diva2:1323927
Conference
Fashion, Costumes, and Visual Culture, Roubaix, France, July 9-11, 2019
Available from: 2019-06-12 Created: 2019-06-12 Last updated: 2019-11-06Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
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Output format
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