Designer Edith Head’s costumes coming to El Paso

Edith Head design

I continue to be amazed and delighted with fabulous things happening in El Paso.

Even though summer starts unofficially this Memorial Day weekend, we still have exciting events coming our way.

I am especially thrilled with the coup pulled off by the El Paso Museum of Art and the Plaza Classic Film Festival to bring an incredible exhibit of designs by one of the country’s finest fashion designers ever: Edith Head.

An eight-time Academy Award winner for costume design, Edith Head influenced not only fashion on screen, but also fashion everywhere.

If you are a reader of a certain age, you are already familiar with this creative genius who ruled from the 1930s through the ‘70s. However, I confess, I did not know much about Edith Head. The reason for this cultural omission? My “sheltered upbringing.”

During my growing-up years in the ‘60s, my adorable father instilled his three girls with “proper values.” One of lessons drilled into our heads was that reading books was saintly.

However, playing cards, watching television or going to the movies were not activities that would enrich our malleable minds. So I became a person who spent very little time watching TV or going to movies.

Change of scene: In my middle-age years, I started spending time with Dr. Sammy Paredes, now my husband. As a boy, he absorbed his mother’s love of film. He knows every movie star from the silent era to now. He can lip-sync the dialogue in old movies. He is even frequently referred to as an encyclopedia of useless movie trivia.

Thank goodness this man rescued me from my cultural darkness. A great evening for us is watching a black-and-white film classic together, with me telling him to stop voicing the lines in advance so I can enjoy the movie.

The El Paso Museum of Art exhibit, “Designing Woman: Edith Head at Paramount,” runs July 14-Sept. 9, and will be accompanied by screenings of some of the films spotlighted in the show during the Plaza Classic Film Festival Aug. 2-12. Many of Paramount’s biggest stars of the Edith Head era, including Joan Fontaine, Veronica Lake, Carole Lombard, Jane Russell and Barbara Stanwyck, wore her glamorous designs.

El Paso film guru Charles Horak will be curating the exhibit of some 40 gowns and wardrobe pieces and a number of Head’s original drawings and photographs.

Horak has already put in countless volunteer hours coordinating with the folks at Paramount Pictures, and is an incredible ambassador for El Paso and the Plaza Classic Film Festival. Tres Mariposas will be a sponsor for this extraordinary exhibit.

No doubt over the next six weeks, you will be hearing more about this unique and somewhat offbeat fashion icon who wasn’t afraid to be different.

At a time when the movie industry was a male-dominated world, Edith Head wielded a lot of power at Paramount Pictures, making her all the more interesting as a woman designer.

Here are a few facts about her to pique your interest.

  •  She was nominated for 35 Academy Awards, and won eight times for Best Costume Design, winning more Oscars than any other woman.
  •  Edith Head received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and from Stanford University. Despite being well educated, she wasn’t above a little sleight of hand to get ahead. She got her start at Paramount as a costume sketch artist; later she admitted to borrowing another student’s sketches for her job interview.
  •  Head had a low-key working style and consulted with the movie stars before she designed their garments. As a result, she was a favorite designer. Actresses like Elizabeth Taylor contracted with Edith Head to design for them personally, in addition to her costume work.

I am looking forward to seeing costumes up close and personal that Edith Head designed for movie greats Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and others. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!

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