NONFICTION

A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton

Thames & Hudson. 2016. 144p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780500518335. $50. DEC ARTS
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From an early age, photographer Cecil Beaton (1904–80) had clothes made to his specifications, to suit his willowy figure as well as his desire to stand out in a crowd. Outlandish ensembles were one way he connected with the bright young people he befriended in the 1920s, and though his style evolved throughout his life, sartorial flair remained a major part of his identity. More than a dandy, Beaton had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and details of garments, with a particular nostalgia for the Edwardian era that informed his designs for the film My Fair Lady. Using photographs, diaries, archival records from Beaton's tailors, items donated to museums or given to friends, and conversations with those who knew the man and his wardrobe well, fashion historian Wild analyzes Beaton's distinctive style alongside changes in 20th-century fashion. The author has written extensively on British historical dress; in this detailed chronological account, he ties social, cultural, and psychological shifts to their sartorial manifestations.
VERDICT Many books record Beaton's sharp-eyed views of what other people wore; this one examines his own wardrobe as another legacy of the prolific photographer, designer, and writer. For fans of the man and his style.

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