Edith Head and Hollywood

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 14-Sep-2017

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Bendigo Art Gallery curator Tansy Curtin found herself in Hollywood heaven not so long ago when she was invited to peruse the famous Paramount Pictures costumes collection.

Inspired by the designs of Hollywood legend Edith Head, Ms Curtin was on a mission to select a number of her costumes for the next Bendigo Art Gallery major exhibition.

The Costume Designer brings together more than 70 of Head’s costumes from the 1930s to the 1960s. 

Ms Curtin chose them from the Paramount archives as well as the Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design and other private collections.

The two dresses at the unpacking of the exhibition were an Egyptian inspired, black lame dress designed for the 1956 film, the Ten Commandments. The second rather chic dress was worn by Kim Novak in Vertigo. 

Head is considered the most significant costume designer in the history of cinema. In her 50-year career she collaborated with both directors and actors to enhance production values as well as contributing to the development of the films’ characters.

In the Hitchcock film Vertigo, Edith Head restricted Kim Novak to two dresses. Her first costume was an effacing grey and the second dress, as the Novak character became more defined, was a chic green number.

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. 

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. 

The Costume Designer: Edith Head and Hollywood. Bendigo Art Gallery, September 29 – January 21, 2018.

For further information see www.bendigoartgallery.com.au

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