Hollywood Costume Collection

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The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster has secured a second exhibition from Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.

Edith Head & Company: Costumes and Jewelry 1924 – 2015 follows the phenomenal success of Edith Head: Designing Woman seen by more than 11,200 visitors during a ten week exhibition at the Center in 2014.

The new collection features previously unseen costumes by Ms. Head, Travis Banton and Howard Greer that have not been exhibited before.  Banton and Greer were the two iconic designers who reigned at Paramount in 1924 when Edith Head was hired as a sketch artist. Also featured will be works by designers who were requested by certain stars, including Irene Lentz, Mary Kay Dodson and Oleg Cassini.

This exhibition includes fabulous jewelry commissioned by Edith Head, Banton and Greer worn by stars including Mae West in She Done Him Wrong; Hedy Lamarr and Angela Lansbury in Samson and Delilah and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Paramount is the only studio archive to have a jewelry collection.  There are more than 12,000 individual pieces in the collection.  Very few have been on public display.  The thirteen pieces in this exhibition represent a cross section of film genres.  There are contemporary pieces from the 1930s and 1950s and more exotic pieces from biblical epics and period dramas.

Curator Randall Thropp has selected classic suits, elegant formal wear and period costumes from Paramount’s archives.  Mr. Thropp, formerly of Lancaster, at Paramount since 2003 and Costume Archivist since 2007, has seen the collection grow to include more than 20,000 costume pieces in addition to the jewelry.  When he brought the exhibition to the Center in 2014, it was just the second time the costumes had left Hollywood.  Most of the garments and the jewelry in this new collection will be seen by the public for the first time.

Edith Head, at Paramount for 43 years, succeeded in a cut-throat industry despite dictatorial directors; egotistical and sometimes neurotic actors; the industry’s moral censors and intense competition from American and European designers.  She worked on 1000 films, had 35 Academy Award nominations and won eight Oscars.

The stars she dressed were fiercely loyal to her, often insisting she design for them in films by other studios. She studied their scripts, listened to their concerns and camouflaged their physical flaws – real or imagined – making them look their absolute best.

Edith Head was made chief designer at Paramount in 1938.  Between 1938 and 1967, the studio employed over 1300 people in the costume department.  There were seamstresses, tailors, sketch artists, beaders, shoe makers, jewelers, stock clerks and on-set dressers. While designing for the industry’s brightest stars including Ginger Rogers, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Veronica Lake, Dorothy Lamour, Jane Russell, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, she also managed to create an enduring brand for herself.  She wrote books and newspaper articles and appeared on radio and television giving fashion advice. She created a line of dress patterns making her designs available to a wide market.

Her iconic look rarely varied. The bangs, the bun, the glasses, the classic suits.

The glasses had blue lenses which she credited with enabling her to better translate color into black and white for her films.  Her superbly tailored suits, while the epitome of elegance, never drew attention away from the star and the costume being fitted.  Thirty five years after her death, her name remains one of the most recognized and revered in the history of film.

This exhibition is made possible by Paramount Pictures, Andrea Kalas VP of Archives and by a generous gift from the Fox Family Foundation with support from Susan and Monte Black and the Ohio Arts Council.

The exhibition runs through Sunday, August 14, 2016.

For information about programs and classes associated with this exhibition, go to www.decartsohio.org or call 740-681-1423.

The Decorative Arts Center is housed in the Reese-Peters House, a Greek Revival masterpiece at 145 E. Main Street in Lancaster’s Historic District. Admission is free Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.