Roman Holiday and 1950s Fashion in Films

Roman holiday is a 1953 Hollywood romantic film which all scenes were shot in Rome. The film is about an escaped princess called Princess Ann, acted by Audrey Hepburn, who rebelled against her royal requirements and privileged life to experience Rome on her own. During her escape, she met a journalist Joe Bradley, a role played by Gregory Peck who supposedly was to interview Princess Ann. The movie ends with her returning to her duty as a princess while keeping the adventurous and romantic memories of Rome with Bradley. The film enjoyed great success with numerous awards won, including Hepburn’s Best Actress in Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, New York Film Critics Circle and BAFTA Award for Best British Actress. Edith Head, the fashion and character designer of the film was also recognized by the industry with Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Black-and-White Award. The film was also picked to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry to document the glory of the 1950s.


William Wyler, the producer and director of Roman Holiday, was known for many other successful movies at the time with his sensational touch on the narration and settings. He is described as a competent, renowned and proficient director who is also known for using ordinary characters for real-life circumstances in his movies. According to his manifestation, Audrey Hepburn landed the role of Princess Ann after his failure to find other actresses he thought fit. Hepburn proved herself worthy of the role after a screen test. Though she had taken part in European movies, this was her first major role in the American movie.[1] Wyler invited Edith Head as the visual guarantor to the romantic story. Head worked closely with Hepburn with the costume design as well as teaching her the transformation in body movement between being the princess and a normal girl[2]. She also suggested the rebellious short hair look which later on set a unique trend in 1950s fashion. Gregory Peck who played the role of Joe in the movie was only granted a star billing for the film. However, later in time, Hepburn was also included after Peck requested Wyler to give her a star billing too.  She did an exceptional work for the film made her star winning for it and for other movies later.


In the picture, Hepburn and Peck look relaxed with uplifting smiles on both faces. They are holding hands while Hepburn leans forward her body toward Peck and Peck slowly walking down the Roman stairs. She wears midi over-knee skirt with a white blouse with rolled up sleeves separated by a belt. The belt emphasizes her tiny waist and elongates her legs. And her string sandals in Greek and Roman make the look more relaxed. Together with her short hair, she does not exhibit any sophistication of her role- the royal princess. She is just a young woman who is having fun in the streets of Rome with her casual clothes. On the other hand, Peck is dressed in a comparably more formal suit with a tie just as expected of a journalist’s interviewing look. The suits were not perfectly skimmed to the body during 1953. Peck wore loose fit high waist trousers with his tie tackled into the belt. The jacket is long and covers the hip. And people in the background are seated some standing showing a hassle-free mood around.


According to Head, she was trying to bring a casual and informal look as Hepburn was a princess trying to blend in and it worked. Hepburn was playing the role of a princess disguising herself to appear as a common girl on the streets. Head had to find a costume that brought out this by looking at the trends of Rome at the time as well as the weather.[3] Therefore, form a princess outfit she needed something simple. The sandals deed the magic as well as the rolled-up sleeves on a hot temperature of Rome during summer.


The 1950s are acknowledged for the post-war restoration and gradual growth in prosperity. And the fashion is characterized by femininity and conformity[4]. While war and restrictions were gradually over, ultra-feminine looks with refined, tailored garments that skimmed the body’s contours were expected with the ideology of getting women out of work and back into the home. The New Look, initiated in 1947 by Christian Dior, resonated with the zeitgeist to emphasize femininity that it could make women who wore it at once sexy and desirable and also matronly and maternal.[5] The public perceived the transformation as the psychological need for changing and moving away from boxy silhouette from the 1940s war-time while feminists were concerned about the waistline as an unappreciated and irresponsible attempt to curtail women’s freedom.


Introduction of TV in the living rooms and the engagement in leisure and holiday activities directly boosted the progression of Hollywood and lifestyle needs. Movies were the most common form of storyline entertainment in America with a large number of audiences. Therefore, the movies mostly mirrored the social attitudes of the people or advocates for the mainstream ideology at the time which led the rise of “women’s film”[6] that empowers women’s femininity by not only distinguishing the physical appearance in the film, but also and with narratives of her personality and storyline. For example, Princess Ann is perceived as the center of the story with supporters, admirers, a photographer in pursuit trying to catch sight of her. The plot design enables the star phenomena for the narration[7].


William Wyler had directed several films in the 1950’s. In 1951, he produced and directed Detective Story, Roman Holiday in 1953 and Friendly Persuasion in 1956 respectively. In 1959, he directed the legendary successful box office film Ben-Hur that had won 11 Oscars. Though previously known for drama, Wyler wanted to try comedy and thus directed Roman Holiday. His first choice to play the role of Joe Bradley was Grant who declined the role. He then managed to convince Peck to take the role. Getting a character for Princess Ann was trickier. His first choice was Elizabeth Taylor then Jean Simmons who were both unavailable. He then went searching for a character of which he landed on Audrey Hepburn who had to go through a screen test before being taken. And after the test shot, he had to convince Paramount to allow him to shoot on sight in Italy and then talk Italian officials into allowing them to shoot since the officials thought the film was making fun of common Italians[8].


The 1950s was a period when most people felt free and women could make several decisions, go to work and support their families from their incomes. The film is about a princess feeling pressurized by her obligations and attire that she feels uncomfortable in. She then decided to change this and take matters into her own hands. The same is true for most things at the time as it was a time of massive transition.


Conclusively, the film’s success is attributed to the collaboration between its major contributors. Edith Head’s enhancement in femininity in both fashion and character design, William Wyler’s sensational narration, and Audrey Hepburn’s adaptability in expression and body movement had a synchrony that helped them work together to produce an exceptional movie that was recognized by both public and the industry.

[1] Neil Sinyard. A wonderful heart: the films of William Wyler. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland& Company, Inc., 2013. Page 122.

[2] Rebecca Adams. “Edith Head’s Roman Holiday Costumes Made Audrey Hepburn An Instant Star”

[3] Jorgensen, Jay. Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer. Philadelphia: Running Press; New York: LifeTime Media, 2010. P192-195.


[4] Valerie D Mendes. “1946- 1956 Femininity and Conformity”/ Fashion Since 1900. London: Thames & Hudson,

  1. Page 126.

[5] Stella Bruzzi. “It will be a Magnificent Obsession: Femininity, Desire and the New Look in 1950s Hollywood Melodrama”. In Fashion in Film, edited by Munich, Adrienne. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011. Page 161.

[6] Ibid. 5. Page 163.

[7] Andersson, Therese. “Fashioning the fashion princess: mediation- transformation- stardom” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture. NO.1, Vol.4 (2012):

[8] Neil Sinyard. A wonderful heart: the films of William Wyler. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland& Company, Inc., 2013. Page 120.


Adams, Rebecca. “Edith Head’s Roman Holiday Costumes Made Audrey Hepburn An Instant Star” published on (Accessed October 29th, 2017).

Andersson, Therese. “Fashioning the fashion princess: mediation- transformation- stardom” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture. NO.1, Vol.4 (2012):

Bruzzi, Stella. “It will be a magnificent obsession: Femininity, Desire and the New Look in 1950s Hollywood Melodrama”. In Fashion in Film, edited by Munich, Adrienne. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Head, Edith. How to Dress for Success. New York: Penguin Random House, 1967.

Jorgensen, Jay. Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s Celebrated Costume Designer. Philadelphia: Running Press; New York: LifeTime Media, 2010. P192-195.

Mendes, Valerie D. “1946- 1956 Femininity and Conformity” In Fashion Since 1900. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010.

Sinyard, Neil. A wonderful heart: the films of William Wyler. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland& Company, Inc., 2013.

Stutesman, Drake. “Costume Design, or What Is Fashion in Film?” In Fashion in Film, edited by Munich, Adrienne. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2011.

Wyler, William. William Wyler’s production of Roman Holiday. (Place of publication not identified; publishers not identified), 1952.

Fashion History: Final Topic Choices

Designer: Edith Head

Date: 1953

Dresser: Audrey Hepburn


Edith Head was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design from 1940s to 1970s working with Paramount and Universal. She was a favorite among many of the leading female stars of the 1940s and 1950s, such as Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Bette Davis.


In the image, Hepburn rolls up the sleeves of the V-neck collar shirt and puts it in a high waist midi skirt with buckle belt. The sandals with strips that she got from street vendors show the Roman summer and wild break away journey of the princess. And in the picture, she looks casual, free and delighted.


The aesthetic and spirit of this outfit are clean, strong and classic. It doesn’t wipe out her beauty and elegance as a princess. On the other hand, it shows a transformation to her pursuit of independence and adventure. Also, Roman Holiday is the first movie I saw from Audrey Hepburn. I was enchanted by the adventurous love story and was heartbroken for the couple couldn’t end up together at age of 10. This outfit has left an inerasable impression to me and my aesthetics. My designs are relatively considered conservative. Because I like to use classic lines, basic shapes and showing less skin. And as I was designing resort lines, sandals, high waist midi skirt and blouse were all my preferred items.

Designer: William Chang

Date: 1950s-1960s (shoot in 2000)

Dresser: Maggie Cheung


Cheongsam (or qipao in Mandarin) is a one-piece Chinese dress for women. It was originally worn loose in Qing dynasty, hanging straight down the body or flared slightly in an A-line. Over the years, the cheongsam was tailored to become a lot more form-fitting. The modern version was first developed in Shanghai in the 1920s.


There are over 20 Cheongsams in this film and this one above is my favorite piece. The dress fits perfectly for the human curves even with the smooth lines from neck to shoulder. The pink silk and wool blend cheongsam with burgundy geometric print decorates her body flawlessly with a sense of fluidity and sensuality. It also matches the lighting background of the scene.


The designer of all the cheongsams in this film, William Chang, is an art director and always collaborate with Wong Kar Wai. He is known for his nostalgic mood in art directing and frequent use of improvisation and split narratives in film editing. He has received an Academy Award for Best Costume Design nomination for his work in The Grandmaster


Cheongsam originates from China so I feel this familiarity with it yet it is so different with my own design aesthetic. There are not a lot of cheongsams that I consider beautiful but this is an eye-catching one.

“Girl in Black and White”

Photographer: Irving Penn

Date: 1950

Dresser: Jean Patchett

Dress Designer: Larry Aldrich

Hat Designer: Lily Dache

Publisher: Vogue


Jean Patchett was a leading fashion model of the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. She was famous for being one of the first high fashion models to appear remote, because previously models had appeared warm and friendly. Irving Penn, was an American photographer known for his fashion photography, portraits and still lifes. His career included work at Vogue and independent advertising for clients such as Issey Miyake and Clinique. He describes Jean Patchett as “a young American goddess in Paris couture”.


This photograph was specifically commissioned to replace the color illustrations Vogue had used on its covers since 1909. It is stable, dignified and balanced. Only Jean’s sidelong glance breaks the symmetry a little bit.

Vis Comm: MENT Movie

We spend this semester designing logos, booklet, and movies under the theme empathy and advocacy. My visual designs are inspired from the empathy for mental illness groups and advocate for noticing, embracing and curing. As our class has finished the logo and booklet, the last project is to design and make a film that works or reports for the association that each of us has designed.

For this movie project, I structured my main frames and proposed an ideal outcome for my movie. But unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to finish every scene from my storyboard.

But I cut some short experiments to explore the possibility of accomplishing my initial idea as well as use as many platforms as possible. During the process, I mainly used Premiere Pro to edit the motions and frames. After finishing the structure, I exported my movie and used iMovie to add subtitles. Personally, iMovie is more user-friendly than Premiere. I wanted to create animated gifs for my frames in Photoshop, but my friend recommended me another website to create gifs faster and easier. So I used Raw and created 2 animated gifs.

Earlier in this semester, I read an article about time and music parallel montage in filming and editing techniques. So I also made this experiment using my theme. If I have more time, I would definitely finish this whole movie and added in my work.


Vis Comm: In Class Drawing 2

Vis Comm: Book

My whole project starts with this paper mockup, by building this mockup, I have a clearer and more organized idea of how to build my artboard in Illustrator and InDesign.

The spreadsheet below is the printing layout for my booklet project. Because I designed my book’s binding as accordion style, the process of making the actual book has been more complicated than I expected. Most plotters could not support double sided printing. And regular printers were not able to print 40*24. 

Also, I met another problem while uploading my project on the canvas. As the single pages of each page of my book show the expected color. My layout file’s color has been changed a little bit after I upload the file onto canvas which I haven’t figure out how to fix this problem. As the picture below indicated that it looks normal on the regular screen.

Then I printed out the layout and glued two sides together. The process of making the actual book has been difficult. Because the two oversized sheets need to be perfectly lined up. Cut lines need to be clean. So I tried 2 times to reach the better result.

Vis Comm: Layout Research


Vis Comm: In class Drawing

For 1-2 minute quick sketches, I used iPad and Apple pencil in Photoshop. Chose Acrylic Round Brush and Acrylic Paint for the lines.

For 5-10 minutes sketches, we had more time focusing on the details.

For this one above: I tried to capture all the details for the female model’s dressing. Bazinga!

Vis Comm: Empathy and Advocacy

Before starting to construct my ideas, I looked into successful organizations and firms’ logos. It turns out that, throughout time, visual identities has been more graphic and modern edited. So I decided to cohere my logo styles modern and clean.

Mental health affects our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Its stability contributes to how we think and act, helps us handling stress, and ensures our decisions making. Mental illnesses can be caused by biological factors such as genes, brain chemistry, family history of mental health problems as well as people’s life experience such as trauma or abuse. In the United States, 1% of adults live with schizophrenia, 2.6% live with bipolar disorder, 6.9% live with major depression and 18.1% live with anxiety disorders. Worldwide, 450 million people suffer from mental health conditions but shocking only 40% of them are receiving proper care and therapy.

Traditionally, people hold negative attitudes and prejudice towards people with mental illness. “Crazy”, “Weird”, “Dangerous”, “Weak” are often used to refer them and this results in social rejection and social isolation to the group who needs actual help. And for those who sought for help often felt ashamed to admit their problems due to the stigma and judgment.

To another section of the population, mental illness is only considered as the downside of mood swing cycle which unnecessarily needs any treatment. Anyone who suffers from mental illness is either too weak to hold any stress or incapable to self-adjust from sadness. In this case, schizophrenia is considered untreatable insanity.

Recognizing the cruciality of mental health, reducing of the potentiality of mental illness and improving diagnostical consulting for the mentally ill group are crucial to the social stability. Meanwhile, it is also significant to eliminate the bias for mental illness group by implementing mental health education to the mass population.

My visual designs are inspired from the empathy for mental illness groups and advocate for noticing, embracing and curing. Noticing people around you who suffer from mental disease and providing proper help, embracing the sadness, the flaw by accepting the fact and elimination social bias to prevent isolation and stigma; curing the group by providing treatment advice and education.

I have encountered 3 major decisive points in my process of advocacy for the importance of mental health.
1. Whether should I call my organization ‘MENT’?
When we “usually” say someone is mental, we are indicating that the person is not emotionally or mentally stable. However, MENT is also a suffix that forms nouns expressing the means or results of an action. MENT can mean stability. So I decided to keep the MENT to break the stigma of mental illness.

2. My first design outcomes look a bit Hitlerite, should I change it?
Yes, I should. That was my first instinct. Because the logo represents the brand identity. It should avoid any negative impressions that it may possibly convey. So I change my design into a more fluent line that is constructed by trangles. Triangle also means stability.

3. Whether I should keep the black outline for my 3 sub-icons?
With the black outlines, my graphics look more classic and conspicuous. And it looks modern without the outline. I like them both, and until now, I haven’t decided yet.