Irene Sharaff

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Irene Sharaff
Born(1910-01-23)January 23, 1910
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedAugust 16, 1993(1993-08-16) (aged 83)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materNew York School of Fine and Applied Arts
Académie de la Grande Chaumière
Partner(s)Mai-Mai Sze

Irene Sharaff (January 23, 1910 – August 16, 1993) was an American costume designer for stage and screen. Her work earned her five Academy Awards and a Tony Award. Sharaff is universally recognized as one of the greatest costume designers of all time.


Sharaff was born in Boston to parents of Armenian descent. She studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, the Art Students League of New York, and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.


Design for Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (1969)

After working as a fashion illustrator in her youth, Sharaff turned to set and costume design. Her debut production was the 1931 Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland, starring Eva Le Gallienne. Her use of silks from Thailand for The King and I (1951) created a trend in fashion and interior decoration.[1]

Sharaff's work was featured in the movies West Side Story (Academy Award, 1961), Cleopatra (Academy Award, 1963), Meet Me in St. Louis, Hello, Dolly!, Mommie Dearest, The Other Side of Midnight, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Academy Award, 1966), Guys and Dolls, The Best Years of Our Lives, The King and I (Academy Award, 1956), An American in Paris (Academy Award, 1951), Funny Girl and Porgy and Bess.

She also designed sets and costumes for American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and contributed illustrations to fashion magazine's such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Among her Broadway design credits are Idiot's Delight, Lady in the Dark, As Thousands Cheer, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Virginia, Flower Drum Song, and Jerome Robbins' Broadway.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award was named for Sharaff. She was its first recipient in 1993. The award is now bestowed annually to a costume designer who, over the course of his or her career, has achieved great distinction and mastery of the art in theatre, film, opera or dance.[2][3]


Sharaff died in New York City of congestive heart failure, complicated by emphysema, at the age of 83.[1] She bequeathed her collection of books, along with that of her partner, Mai-Mai Sze, to the New York Society Library.[4]


Royal robe design for Yul Brynner in The King and I (1956), for which Sharaff won an Oscar.
Headdress for Elizabeth Taylor in the title role of Cleopatra (1963), which won another Oscar for Sharaff.

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b Howe, Marvine. "Irene Sharaff, Designer, 83, Dies; Costumes Won Tony and Oscars". The New York Times, August 17, 1993
  2. ^ Hetrick, Adam.Irene Sharaff Awards to Honor Robin Wagner and Lewis Brown" Archived February 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, February 22, 2011
  3. ^ Sharaff Award Archived December 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, accessed February 22, 2011
  4. ^ "Sharaff-Sze Collection | New York Society Library". Retrieved November 2, 2016.


  • Sharaff, Irene. Broadway and Hollywood: Costumes Designed by Irene Sharaff, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co (1976)

External links[edit]