The Best Movies to Feature the 8-Time Oscar-Winner’s Fashion Design

There are a lot of elements that go into making a movie. It starts with a concept that evolves into a script that gets bought, green-lit, staffed, and cast by a studio or production company. The director, cinematographer, lighting, grips, actors, and actresses are chosen and hired. The costumes are a significant element of the movie (and television) making process. After all, it would be a bit strange to take a period piece — let’s say it’s the 1940s in the US — and have the actors and actresses wearing modern clothing. The costumes can make or break the look and mood of a production. The costume designer is an integral part of the process of creating scripted entertainment.


Edith Head was the most influential costume designers not just of her era, but of all time. She was nominated for an incredible 35 Academy Awards for her work in iconic films including All About Eve, Roman Holiday, and Sabrina. She worked with Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and a veritable who’s who of classic film stars. She won eight Oscars, more than any other woman to date, and more than anyone in history apart from the actual Walter Disney.

Head was born in San Bernardino, California in 1897. She was very educated. She graduated with a BA in French with honors from the University of California, Berkeley in 1919. She then got a Masters of Arts in romance languages ​​from Stanford University in 1920. She started her career as a French and Spanish teacher in La Jolla, California . To supplement her teaching income she offered to also teach art and took drawing classes at the Otis Art Institute and Chouinard Art College. In 1924, she was hired by Paramount as a costume and sketch artist. The following year she designed the costumes for the silent film The Wanderers, and from that point on she was off and running. It was not long before Head was known as one of the leading costume designers in Hollywood.

Head spent 43 years at Paramount before moving to Universal Pictures in 1967 to design the costumes for several of Alfred Hitchock’s films. She has been endlessly influential ever since, even inspiring the character Edna Marie “E” Mode in The Incredibles. Let’s take a look at a few of the films that featured Edith Head’s incredible and iconic costume designs.

The Sting

In 1973, Robert Redford and Paul Newman starred in The Sting as Johnny Hooker, a small-time grifter, and Henry Gondorff, an experienced hustler. They team up to seek revenge on a crime boss.The costumes in The Sting, unlike in many other films Edith Head worked on, are not the focus of the storyline and as such must blend into the story and the background. From tuxedos to pin striped suits, The Sting’s costuming achieves this masterfully, telling their own story about Hooker and Gondorff without ever having to say a word.


The great Alfred Hitchcock movie notorious starred Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in a perfect example of film noir. The 1946 film was one of many Hitchcock films that Edith Head did the costumes for. When Ingrid Bergman first appears in the film, she’s a loosely-dressed woman whose father is in jail for sympathizing with the Nazis. She’s wearing an ab-baring black and white striped off the shoulder top.

RELATED: Funny Face: A Fashion Masterpiece Long Before Devil Wears Prada

When she meets Cary Grant’s TR Delvin, an agent for the US government, he ties his scarf around her bare abdomen. This simple act of costuming beautifully captures the class differences between the two characters. As the film goes on and Bergman’s character becomes more respectable, Head clothed her in all-white outfits and structured jackets that hid the skin she so brazenly revealed at the beginning of the film. It’s a perfect example of costumes developing characters.

All About Eve

All About Eve is a classic movie from 1950 starring Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a famous Broadway actress, and Anne Baxter as Eve, her biggest fan. As the film goes on Eve becomes toxic and stalker-like to Margo, something Edith Head had to convey with the costuming of this movie. Eve starts to dress more and more like Margo. At the beginning of the movie she’s wearing a raincoat and hat. As the film goes on, she starts wearing the same style of skirts and sweaters that Margo does. By the end of the film, Eve has made herself into a replica of Margo, including becoming an actress in a satin gown decorated with sequins that looks just like Margo’s.

White Christmas

White Christmas is one of the most classic movies to come out of the 1950s (1954 to be precise) due in large part to Bing Crosby’s songs and Edith Head’s costumes. It came out in the era of family friendly movies, so the costumes had to convey the same wholesome chord as the film did. The women wore long skirts with high necked tops, however, it is the iconic red velvet, white fur trimmed outfits that steal the show and helped it become one of the best Christmas movies of all time.

RELATED: These Are The Best Audrey Hepburn Movies

To Catch A Thief

To Catch a Thief is another Alfred Hitchcock movie Edith Head did the costuming for. The film stars Cary Grant as John Robie, a retired jewel thief, and Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens, a wealthy young American socialite. The film is set on the French Riviera, giving Head a wonderful palate to work with. She dressed Kelly in elegant dresses with vibrant colors, scarves, and an enormous gold gown, making her look like the princess she would become in real life. The costumes truly tell their own story about the characters wearing them in this movie, which is being remade with Gal Gadot.

Roman Holiday

In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays Italian Princess Anne to Gregory Peck’s Joe Bradley, a handsome American reporter. She’s bored with royal life and runs away for a day of normal fun with Bradley. Hepburn’s character underwent a reverse makeover for the film, going from the high fashion of a princess to a ‘regular gal’ look of a circle skirt, short-sleeved blouse, skirt, and sandals. The change in clothing signifies a change in the outlook of Hepburn’s character. Roman Holiday is considered to be one of Head’s best achievements in costuming.

Sunset Blvd.

Directed by the great Billy Wilder, Sunset Blvd. starred Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a once-revered actress succumbing to mental illness, and William Holden as Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter who gets caught up in Desmond’s psychosis. Edith Head’s costumes for this 1950 film are a work of art. They worked with the script and story to show the audience the state of mind of Desmond. When she believes she is still a big star, she’s wearing expensive, modern clothing. As her state of mind devolves, her clothing becomes more erratic, eccentric, and downright strange, reflecting the delusions of grandeur Desmond has alongside the nightmarish quality of her state of mind.

Leave a Comment