Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published September 20th, 2022 by Beach Lane Books
Summary: Discover the true story of how a shy miner’s daughter became one of the most legendary costume designers in Hollywood in this inspiring nonfiction picture book biography.
As a child in the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith Head (1897 – 1981) had few friends and spent most of her time dressing up her toys and pets and even wild animals using fabric scraps. She always knew she wanted to move somewhere full of people and excitement. She set her sights on Hollywood and talked her way into a job sketching costumes for a movie studio.
Did she have formal training? Did she know how to draw or sew costumes? No. But that didn’t stop her!
Strong and determined, Edith taught herself how to sew and tirelessly worked her way up until she was dressing some of the biggest stars of the day. These included Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, and Elizabeth Taylor. She made costumes for films like Sabrina and Rear Window and TV shows like Bewitched. She also designed costumes for many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including To Catch a Thief, Notorious, and The Trouble With Harry. She became the first woman to head a major Hollywood movie studio costume department and went on to win eight Academy Awards for best costume design—and she defined the style of an era.
By ultimately becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after designers, Edith Head proved that with tenacity, anything is possible. This insightful behind-the-scenes look at the iconic figure is a must-have for cinephiles, history buffs, and fashionistas alike.
FUN FACT! Edith served as the inspiration for the iconic character Edna Mode in the Pixar film The Incredibles! With her classic hairstyle and glasses, Edith will be recognizable as the inspiration for Edna to the observant reader.
About the Creators:
Jeanne Walker Harvey studied literature and psychology at Stanford University and has worn many job hats, ranging from being a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney, a middle school language arts teacher, and a long-time docent for school groups at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture book biographies Dressing up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines. Jeanne lives in Northern California. Visit her online at JeanneHarvey.com.
Diana Toledano is an illustrator, writer, and educator. She is also a Pisces who loves children’s books, patterns, and dancing her heart out. Originally from Spain, Diana (pronounced the Spanish way: dee-ah-na) grew up in Madrid where she studied art history and illustration. Now she lives in San Francisco with her husband and two fluffy cats. Her mixed media art seeks to capture the magic of the ordinary. Diana’s product designs, picture books, board books, and chapter books have been published and sold all over the world. Diana also teaches workshops for kids and adults. She enjoys doing school visits and speaking at conferences. Learn more at Diana-Toledano.com.
Review: As a fan of old Hollywood, I recognized Edith Head’s costumes right away. I mean–Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn, Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii–anyone?!? And this is just the tip of the iceberg of Head’s designing. She was nominated for an Academy Award THIRTY FIVE times and won EIGHT making her the most awarded woman in the Academy’s history. But yet, she was behind the scenes and not as well known as the actors in front of the camera, so I am so happy to have this picture book biography to bring to light her genius. A self-taught young woman with no experience fighting her way up to being an Oscar winner–yes, please! Harvey does a fantastic job of sharing Edith’s magic from her childhood dreams to her adult reality and Toledano’s illustrations work perfectly for Edith’s style and costumes.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:
Check out the publisher-provided activity kit for some fun activities to do with the book:
- What does Edith’s journey to her dream job teach you about growth mindset?
- How did Edith’s hobbies as a child help her reach her dreams?
- Why do you think Edith chose to wear black or other dark, neutral colors when dressing stars?
- How does a costume designer impact a movie or show?
- Why do you think Edith was given a second chance after she failed to create costumes for dancers dressed as candy?
- How do you think Edith grew her confidence overtime so much that she was able to not allow nay-sayers to make her question herself?
- What are some words in the book that you did not know? What do you think they mean based on context? Check your guess by looking ups its definition.
- How does the Author’s Note at the end of the book add to the book experience?
The trailer can also be viewed on the author’s website:
Read This If You Love: Nonfiction biography picture books, specifically about groundbreaking women, including Harvey’s books on Maya Lin and Alma Thomas
**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster and Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**