A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton

When Cecil Beaton died in 1980, it was not surprising that one of his tailors was telephoned with the news before Buckingham Palace, despite his close association with the Royal Family. From the moment he arrived at Cambridge University in 1922 wearing an evening jacket, red shoes, black-and-white trousers and a large cravat, to his first meeting with Greta Garbo ten years later in ‘pristine white kid coat, sharkskin, and new white shoes and socks’, to his appearance nearly forty years later at Truman Capote’s 1966 Black & White Ball, Beaton expressed a flamboyant sartorial nonchalance – a sprezzatura. Using records from his tailors, unpublished photographs and a close study of Beaton’s surviving clothing in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, I to explore Beaton’s carefully curated character from a different angle by studying his ever-changing wardrobe, which reveals new insights into his personal and professional lives.


A fresh fashion read. MARIE CLAIRE

Benjamin Wild writes with the verve the subject himself would surely applaud. WORLD OF INTERIORS

His flamboyance and nonchalance is unraveled and decoded. CENT

The first study to chronicle Beaton’s own impeccable style through the decadesJOCKS & NERDS

Beaton’s sartorial adventures have been lovingly curated by writer and fashion historian Benjamin Wild in A Life in Fashion, featuring previously unpublished archival material, conversations with Beaton’s former tailors (of which, unsurprisingly, he had many) and a foreword by renowned fashion photographer Tim Walker. ESQUIRE

Sheds light on the personal style of the renowned photographer and costume designerAESTHETICA

Journalism (select)

‘L’imitation dans la mode’ Sciences Psy, June 2018. 

‘Dressing Up: The Clothing & Curation of Cecil Beaton’ Scala Regia, 3, Summer 2017.

‘Through a Glass, lightly’ History Today, 66:9, September, 2016.

‘Outrageous!’ Article Magazine, 7, May, 2016.

‘Who was the best-dressed Briton in History?’ BBC History Magazine, October, 2013.

Academic (select) 

‘Clothing Royal Bodies: Changing attitudes to royal dress and appearance from the Middle Ages to Modernity’ The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. E. Woodacre et al., Routledge, c2019.

‘Romantic Recreations: Remembering Stuart Monarchy in Nineteenth-Century Fancy Dress Entertainments’ Remembering Kings and Queens in Early Modern England and France: Reputation, Reinterpretation, Reincarnation, ed. E. Paranque, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

‘Imitation in Fashion: Further Reflections on the work of Thorstein Veblen and Georg Simmel’ Fashion, Style and Popular Culture, 3:3, 2016.

‘To Have and To Hold: The Clutch Bag & Masculinities’ Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, 2:1, 2015.