Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fashion | Sketch To Screen

Edited 04.04.11

This is the first of the series Sketch To Screen. In this series of photographs, we will document costume design from the sketch paper to the screen where the costumes were made famous. In the first post of the series, we are going to look at the Edith Head designed gown Bette Davis wore in the beloved party scene of All About Eve.

DESIGN: ankle length, made of a heavy brown silk, with elbow-length cuffs & pockets at the waist, all trimmed in sable

The name Edith Head and costume design go hand & hand and on the film All About Eve, Head delivered some of of her most glamorous high-fashion designs of her career. She captured Bette Davis' mature sophistication unlike anyone had before her. Edith even walked away with the Oscar in 1951 for her work on the film.

"The is the way, I want the clothes to act." - Bette Davis

In the scene where Davis' character Margo Channing declares that everyone 'should fasten your seatbelts... this is going to be a bumpy night!", this beautiful gown sort of takes a back seat to Bette Davis' attitude in this scene. But if anyone has seen the infamous 'seat belt' scene, they will remember this gown. 

I chose to spotlight this gown first because until recently, I never realized the gown was brown! Even though I have seen the color promotional photos of Bette, I never took notice of the color. It wasn't until I ran across a webpage that had a picture of the actual gown on display that I knew of it's true color. With it's pleated top accented with a beautiful broach, the fact this it was this beautiful chocolate color added the icing to this already beautiful cake.

I was reading the TCM book Edith Head: The 50 Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer, where I ran across an interesting fact about this gown. It turns out the dress was actually designed to be over the shoulder, but after wrong measurements were used to make the dress, the sleeves fell off the shoulder. Edith Head was actually going to post pone production, so the dress could be remade. It was Bette Davis who suggested keeping the dress the way we all know it. Everyone agreed and the dress was sewn to make sure it didn't fall any further.

All About Eve remains one of my favorite movies after seeing it countless times and this gown always stands out to me for its gorgeous design. A perfect match... Bette Davis & Edith Head.

A designer is only as good as the star who wears her clothes”- Edith Head


  1. Bette was very wise. As a woman ages, her shoulders don't. :)

    A wonderful dress and a wonderful post detailing it's path to the screen. Loved it.

  2. What a great post! I love all the detailed trivia you picked up. I always find it fun to find out the actual colors of all these famous gowns from black-and-white film.

  3. You know, I never really noticed that the gown was brown either. I've seen that last photo you posted before, but when I see the scene in black and white I always imagine it as blue or a deep red.

    I love love love the sable on the sleeves. Its a very subtle gown, but the sable adds that touch of glamour.

    As for the off the shoulder mistake, that somehow doesn't surprise me. I've often looked at it and thought that it seemed like a heavy gown and maybe hard to keep up with the sleeves like that.

    Great post!