Inside Cecil Beaton’s Impeccable Wardrobe

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Self-portrait, circa 1928.Photo: The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive

The British photographer Cecil Beaton won three Oscars for set and costume design: one for Gigi in 1958 and two others for My Fair Lady in 1964, the costumes of which inspired the dress code for Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball. Best known for his fashion and society portraits — of Audrey HepburnGrace Kelly, Coco Chanel, and many more — he was also a war photographer, the British royal family’s unofficial court photographer, a painter, and an interior designer.

He was fashionable in a way that transcended the dandyism of the time, wearing clothes from various countries and periods, but he loved vintage clothing: double-breasted jackets, antique waistcoats, and tailored suits. “If only people knew!” he wrote in his diary. “I spend comparatively little on clothes, an occasional good suit[,] but most of my suits are made in Hong Kong or Gillingham, Dorset or bought on quaysides during my travels abroad. I do not own a clean pair of gloves and my shirts are mostly frayed.” In fact, he had accounts with several of London’s Savile Row tailors (Anderson & Sheppard, Huntsman, Fagerstrom & Hughes, and others) and bought his shirts from Excello in New York.

The book A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton, out March 14 from Thames and Hudson, traces Beaton’s multifarious style, decade by decade, featuring self-portraits and candid shots at home, which show his impeccable wardrobe through the years. Click ahead to see him with Greta Garbo, on the set of My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn, and cooking in a Lanz of Salzburg jacket at home.