Dressing Up The Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Diana Toledano

Hello, Jeanne Walker Harvey! Hello, Diana Toledano! Thank you for stopping by Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate and discuss Dressing Up The Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, your dazzling picture book biography. I became a reader because of movies, TV shows, and movie and TV tie-in books. I learned so much about cinema and costume design from your book. I would have checked it out from the library multiple times as a child.

Diana, please take us on a tour of the cover! A cover tour!

Diana Toledano: Hola, Mr Schu! Please meet Edith Head. Condensing a whole life into a single image was a hard task. We tried out many different ideas before landing on this one. Edith sitting at her desk? Too boring. Edith as a kid dressing up her pets? Too specific. Edith holding a pile of clothes? Too abstract.

In the cover we chose, Edith is holding a pencil and a drawing while flinging costumes onto a mannequin. This way you can see her designs come to life! From marks on a paper, to sewing and fitting a garment using a dress form, to actual clothes for movie stars to wear. There is a big pile of clothes and accessories because Edith worked in SO MANY movies. And did you notice the Oscar statue and the clapperboard?

For Edith, working in Hollywood was a dream come true. I’m so glad I was able to help tell her story.

Thank you, Diana! Jeanne, when did you know you needed to write a biography of costume designer Edith Head?

Jeanne Walker Harvey: Oh, that’s a great question, John! But first of all, I want to thank you for hosting our cover reveal. It’s always such an honor to be on your wonderful blog. I love learning about your connection to movies as a reader. And that means so much to me to hear that you would have checked out this book as a child. We’re certainly hoping this book connects with children.

Ok… back to your question. I have been fascinated with Edith Head ever since I was a child growing up in Southern California. My mom and I would watch on TV the Academy Awards ceremony filmed in nearby Hollywood. We would look for Edith Head with her characteristic round dark glasses and straight short hair, wearing something spectacular, of course. And we always rooted for her to win “Best Costume Design” (which she often did as she still holds the record for winning more Oscars (eight) than any other woman, including actresses). I’ve always been drawn to the costumes in movies, and how they enhance the movie experience. As Edith said, “what a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not.” It was a pure delight to tell Edith Head’s story. And I so appreciate everyone at Beach Lane Books for this opportunity, and especially the amazing Andrea Welch and Danielle Collins for their gentle expert editing and guidance. And as always, I want to send out a huge hug and heartfelt thanks to my agent extraordinaire, Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. 

Diana, please finish the following sentence starters:

Jeanne Walker Harvey’s manuscript for Dressing Up The Stars is very engaging! I’ll confess, I find many non-fiction books boring, but when I read Jeanne’s story I was charmed and entertained. Right away I knew I wanted to work on it.

Edith Head was resilient, creative and inspiring. I’m in awe of her accomplishments, and I’m grateful too. She opened a path for other girls and women to follow.

Jeanne, please finish the following sentence starters:

Diana Toledano’s illustrations for Dressing Up The Stars are enchanting, dazzling and wonderfully whimsical! I squealed with delight when I saw the finished spreads. Her illustrations far exceeded what I imagined when I wrote the text. Diana has put so much thought and creativity into each image. She transports the viewer from Edith’s quiet desert life as a shy girl dressing up her pets to the hustle and bustle of backstage life as a confident costume designer for Hollywood movies. Diana’s choice of colors and detailed patterns interspersed throughout the illustrations are so wonderful. And children will love noticing all the tiny playful details –the ants at Edith’s tea party, the tiny cat on a roof, the horned toad on a sofa in the dollhouse. I noticed Diana even added a small store sign in the Los Angeles street scene that says “Jeanne RADIO” – isn’t that fun?! Gracias, Diana!

Edith Head was a dynamo! She’s considered one of the most influential costume designers in Hollywood movie history. She was able to rise to the top of the male-dominated Hollywood movie costume world as the first female Chief Designer at Paramount Studios. She did that by working hard with persistence and conviction, despite a lack of experience and various setbacks. She believed that “to be a good designer in Hollywood, one has to be a combination of psychiatrist, artist, fashion designer, dressmaker, pin cushion, historian, nursemaid, and purchasing agent too.” She did all of that! Edith Head, as a movie costume designer, was a star among the (movie) stars.

Thank you, Jeanne and Diana! 

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. 

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. 


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