Dorothy Jeakins was born in California in 1914. She was educated at the Otis Art Institute. After the depression, she worked briefly at Disney Studios as an illustrator for $ 16 a week, until a strike left her unemployed. She then took work as a fashion illustrator for I. Magnin's department store, in the advertising department.
When a studio art director saw her sketches, he recommended her as co-designer for the film "Joan of Arc" starring Ingrid Bergman, which was her first major film. In 1948, she won an Academy Award for her work in this film. It was the first Oscar ever presented for costume design.
One of the most versatile costume designers to work at the studios, Jeakins was knowledgeable in all aspects of costume design. Having received a Guggenheim Grant as a student to study in the Orient, she kept a life-long interest in every aspect of ethnic and tribal costume and her film work reflects that passion.
She also won Academy Awards for "Samson and Delilah" and "Night of the Iguana". Between 1948 and 1987 she designed the costumes for numerous films.
Jeakins was the rare combination of costume historian and brilliant artist. Her costume sketches are works of art unto themselves.
In 1967, she was made Curator of the Textile and Costume Department of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She designed for the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut and she also designed costumes for ABC TV and CBS TV.
She died in 1995 at the age of 81.