Oscar-winning costume designer, Julie Harris, delighted generations of cinema goers with her fabulous designs. Today, the gift she left in her Will is providing help and hope to injured and sick Veterans who need our support.
From dressing screen icons such as Bette Davies, Deborah Kerr and Lauren Bacall, to epitomising the Swinging Sixties in her designs for The Beatles, Michael Caine and Julie Christie; Julie Harris was a costume design legend.
Living close to Shepperton Studios, she was captivated by film and glamour from a young age. After graduating from Chelsea Design School, Julie was working for a high society dressmaker when WWII broke out.
Like many young people in the capital, she would escape the terror of the Blitz by dancing the nights away in London’s West End nightclubs – such as the legendary Café de Paris. Famed to be “the safest restaurant in town, 20 feet below ground” it was there Julie came face to face with the horror of war.
On 8 March 1941, two bombs landed in the Café de Paris’ ventilation shaft and fell into its basement ballroom. At least 34 people were killed and more than 80 injured, including Julie: “The bomb appeared to almost roll down the staircase and explode” she recalled. “The chap I was dancing with was killed outright. It was the closest I’d come to death.”
After recovering, Julie joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and served for the rest of the war. When peace was declared she went to work at Gainsborough Studios to learn costume design.
In 1964 and ’65 Julie worked with The Beatles on Hard Day’s Night and Help! Describing them as “lovely lads”, she said: “I must be one of the few people who can claim to have seen John, Paul, George and Ringo naked”. When they learnt it was Julie’s birthday, the band surprised her with a cake and a song: “I dined out for years afterwards telling friends that I’d been serenaded by the Fab Four”.
Julie went on to win an Oscar for her work on ‘Darling’ in 1965 and she was recognised by Bafta two years later for ‘The Wrong Box’.
Julie passed away in May 2015 but her legacy lives on - not only through the silver screen but also through all those touched by her support of our work. By leaving a gift in her Will, Julie continues to help us provide life-changing recovery and support services to Veterans, Service Personnel and their families. She really was a star.