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2014 Abstracts

A Simple Suit: Understanding Edith Head by Recreating Her Work

Rebekah Jackson, Brigham Young University

Fine Arts

This project has been an involved approach to studying the history of costume design, both through conventional research and the more tactile construction process. While Edith Head is a renowned costume designer with many books and articles on her life work, less has been done to understand how her designs functioned and evolved from concept to completion. But this process is essential to understanding her career’s success, as it opens valuable insights to how Head thought as a designer. It reveals what she was and wasn’t willing to compromise on, how she balanced aesthetics with practical considerations and how she worked with an actor or actress to achieve the proper look for their character. In Blake Edward’s production The Great Race, Edith Head’s designs showed this transformation of idea to reality by compromises between the original designs and finished garment. A simple red suit, worn in this production, exemplifies such compromise and was the construction portion of my research. Recreating this costume, in conjunction with conventional research on Head and her work, revealed important decisions Head made from materials to fit, how and why she changed her original design and the general approach she used in her work. These insights combine to form the basic pattern used in her creative process, applicable to both costume design and related fields as it unveils the thought process of one of Hollywood’s most successful career women.