Edith Head was a Hollywood costume designer from the 1920s until her death in 1981. Her designs were genius and her resume is beyond impressive: chief costumer for both the Paramount and Universal studios, a favorite of the stars that she dressed, often asked for by name, a published author, a brilliant marketer, and ultimately the person to win more Academy Awards than anyone other female performer or designer--eight in total. In fact, Edith was nominated for an Oscar every year from 1948 to 1966.
Edith was certainly among the most effective self-promoters in history. In her younger years, while barely making it as an elementary school teacher, she billed herself as an art instructor in order to advance herself. She didn't let the fact that she had only the most rudimentary knowledge of the subject get in her way. No, she shored up her lack of art education by taking night classes on the sly, and apparently did quite well at it.
Later, when Edith went to Hollywood, she realized that her lack of a professional portfolio was holding her back. Undeterred, she cobbled together a folder filled with designs and sketches that had been discarded by other artists, signed her name on them, and presented the work as her own. Deceitful? Well, yes, and I really can't condone it. The point is that she knew she had the skill to back it up, and she had the guts to go for her dream despite the obstacles. Despite her tactics, I can't help but admire her spirit.
Edith's philosophy can be summed up as follows:
- You can have anything you want, if you work hard and sell yourself.
- Be ready to sacrifice the accepted way of doing things in favor of whatever works for you.
- You design yourself. So, design as many selves as you need to get by.
- And of course, dress the part.
Well! Looks like I'm four for four. How about you?