Saturday 22 August 2015

Edith Head Inspiration for The Incredibles' Edna Mode

"I let my kids use them [Oscar statuettes] as G.I. Joe's." (Edith Head)

The Incredibles' character Edna Mode, sporting thick round glasses and straight black bangs, is based on real life fashion designer Edith Head.  Just as Mode designed costumes for every superhero, Head designed dresses for just about every leading lady in Hollywood.

Edith Head, born and raised in California, received a B.A. in French and an M.A. in Romance Languages.  Her first teaching job was at a La Jolla school, where she offered to teach art as well as French to make more money.  She enrolled at Chouinard Art College to hone her skills, a move which would lead to her brilliant career in fashion design.  

It started with a job at Paramount Studios where Head was selected to design costumes for the silent film The Wanderer in 1925.  Despite no experience, Head seemed well suited for the job and by the 1930's, she was considered one of Hollywood's leading costume designers.  In 1937, she outfitted Dorothy L'Amour in a beautiful sarong in The Hurricane.  In 1944, Head designed a mink lined gown for Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark.  

Head's work on The Emperor Waltz (1937) led to her first Academy Award nomination when a fashion design category was added in 1948.  Each successive year with Paramount brought another nomination for head until 1966.  In total, Head received 35 nominations and brought home 8 gold statuettes.  "I let my kids use them as G.I. Joe's," she once said.  

While Head worked on an astonishing 436 films, here are a few actresses she outfitted:  Bette Davis in All About Eve, Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun.  

Head developped a close working relationship with Alfred Hitchcock, partnering with him on several films including Vertigo, Read Window and The Birds.  Hitchcock left for Universal Studios in 1960 and Head followed 7 years later.  

Head penned two fashion design books titled The Dress Doctor (1959) and How to Dress for Success (1967).  While she was known for the beautiful gowns she sketched, she chose to wear simple two piece suits, along with the trademark thick glasses copied by Edna Mode.

One of the highlights of the fashion designer's illustrious career was designing a woman's uniform for the U.S. Coast Guard in the late 1970's.  Edith's last movie, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which premiered after her death in 1982, was dedicated to her.

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