Irene Sharaff studied at New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, Art Students League of New York and Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. She originally worked as a fashion illustrator for Vougue and other magazines.
Sharaff progressed to costume design when she was employed by the Civic Repertory Theatre. The theatre worked on a small budget which meant she had to be creative with resources, she used unusual fabrics and trimmings; lampshade fabrics for gowns and toilet chains for necklaces that she sourced from off-beat shops. She created a trend in fashion and interior design when she used Thai silk as a fabric for costumes in the movie “The King and I”. Thailand began a great trade in exporting silk.
Her great mind, intuitiveness and vision made Sharaff a very sought after costume and set designer for movies, the ballet and stage shows, this enabled her to costume for “West Side Story”, "Sweet Charity", "Funny Girl", "On Your Toes" and many others. She won a Tony Award for the stage show "The King and I" and an Academy Award for the movie; she also won 5 Academy Awards for other movies.
Irene Sharaff's signature was a dress with snug-fitting curvy bodice with a very full skirt. Sharaff died in 1993 at the age of 83.