Designer Cecil Beaton

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DesignerCecil Beaton

In the different worlds of fashion,construction, and technological innovation, designers are known todevelop unique ideas and plans that enable them to become famous. Thediscoveries of the designers in their various professions result innew products and commodities that people use to satisfy their needs.The abilities of the artists are based on the nature of theirtalents, the level of creativity, their source of inspirations, andpersonal interests. One can argue that designer Cecil Beaton ideallyfits the description of a famous designer in the fashion world. Thepaper seeks to investigate the life, styles, and achievements ofCecil Beaton that shall include his contribution to the world ofdesign and how he may have changed or defined himself within it.

The life of Cecil Beaton began inHampstead, London in 1904 (Snodgrass, 60). He studied at Health MountSchool in London, Harrow School, later at St. Cyprian’s School inMiddlesex and Eastbourne respectively. In 1922, Cecil Beaton joinedSt. John’s Cambridge University to pursue a degree in history andarchitecture, but in 1925 he left the college without completing hisundergraduate studies (Beaton, 1). Before joining the University,Cecil Beaton had developed an interest in photography. He alwaysadmired the pictures on postcards that were displayed on the Sundaynewspaper showing the society ladies. Eventually at the age of 11,Beaton managed to have the first camera for practicing hisphotography skills, where he made his two younger sisters pose forpictures. He developed costumes from fish-scale tissues, imitationsof leopard skins, tinsel nets that his sisters wore during thephotography sessions. His nanny would then develop the negatives inthe bathtub to produce copies of the pictures. It can be argued thatthe early devotion to photography, before joining the CambridgeUniversity, contributed to Cecil Beaton’s little interest inacademics as he was more focused on pictures and theater design asopposed to his classwork. It was after quitting his collegeeducation, without acquiring the degree, that he began working as afreelance photographer in 1926 where he focused on fashion andportrait photography. Later in 1930, Cecil Beaton landed a contractwith Conde Nast publications and undertook commissions for Voguemagazine in New York and London. He then acquired another job withthe Ministry of Information where he worked as a photographer duringthe Second World War. As Cecil Beaton pursued his photography career,he was also interested in costume and set design that saw him developacting wear for various stages since 1925 and upgraded to films in1941. However, he retired from working as a designer in the 1970. In1980, Beaton suffered a heart attack after engaging in freelancephotography (Beaton, 1).

The styles of a designer are based on theirlevel of creativity, the level of expertise, and inspiration. Theability of an artist to be well known and considered an icon in thefashion industry relies on the uniqueness of their design style. Oneof the styles that Cecil Beaton used was a predictive approach wherehe wanted his subjects to appear comfortable and familiar with theirsurroundings as he believed it would portray originality. Forinstance, while working at Vogue, Beaton developed different stagingtechniques such as unusual backgrounds and unique style of posingsitters (Snodgrass, 60). Another style that Beaton developed was theclassic Beaton-esque poses that entailed having the subjects puttheir heads under glass domes others were wrapped in silver cloth,while some were photographed as statues against pillars and thrones.For instance, when Beaton was working at Vogue, he managed to conducta photography shoot of Victoria Beckham where he applied theBeaton-esque air style on the footballer’s wife. The distinctdesign style that Beaton used enabled the magazine to display thewoman as a member of the aristocratic society (Söll, 31). It can beargued that Beaton was inspired to develop the Beaton-esque stylefrom the desire to belong to the upper class. Cecil Beaton managed tojoin the elite individuals when he began taking photographs of highlyinfluential society ladies and the Royal Family.

was a multitalentedindividual who developed new ideas for photography and films. Forinstance, after the Second World War, Cecil Beaton managed to designthe stage and costumes for various plays and film musicals such as‘My Fair Lady’ in 1964 (Snodgrass, 61). His costume designs weremainly based on his childhood experience where he focused on what hisrelatives, family friends and the beauties in the picture postcardswore. The combination of the various elements enabled Sir CecilBeaton to develop a costume that portrayed simplicity. The designswere timeless and showed the future of the fashion industry wheredesigners would focus on producing uncluttered clothing lines. CecilBeaton had managed to develop models that integrated the past,present, and the future which was a new element in the fashionindustry. He ensured that his costumes remained attractive and highlyinfluential in the society.

One of the accomplishments of Sir CecilBeaton was becoming a costume and set designer. His interest incostume design also began after quitting college where he worked as afreelance fashion photographer. He managed to receive several awardssuch as the Neiman Marcus Award in 1956, Antoinette Perry Award in1957, Academy Awards in 1957 &amp1965, Chevalier Legion d’Honneurin 1960, and the Honorary Fellow and Honor Award of the RoyalPhotographic Society in 1964 and 1963 respectively, (Beaton, 1). Thetwo academic awards were for the Best Costume Design in the ‘Gigi’and ‘My Fair Lady’ films while the Tony Awards were also for BestCostume Design in the plays. The prestigious awards in the fashionindustry contributed to the world of innovation by encouraging otherpeople not to limit their level of creativity but focus on embracingdiversity as it leads to new ideas. achievement’s also included becoming an incredibly talentedphotographer. He managed to become an unofficial photographer of theBritish royal family where he took wedding portraits of the Duke ofWindsor, and later the Queen’s Mother and Queen Elizabeth IIportraits (Stoller-Lindsey, n.p). He developed ideas that heincorporated in his fashion photography that focused on unusualbackgrounds. His different sources of inspiration that focused on theVictorian and Edwardian photography enabled Cecil Beaton to combinedifferent techniques to generate a unique way of taking portraits. Hecontributed to the world of design by introducing a new method oftaking photos that focused on only portraying the beauty andeliminating any faults that the subjects might have. He was able toimprove the status of the photography profession because, in additionto being invited to take pictures, he would be welcomed to stay formeals by his clients (Söll, 31). Another significant achievement ofCecil Beaton was becoming an established war photographer. Whileworking at the Ministry of Information, Beaton got the chance tocover the Second World War (Stoller-Lindsey, n.p). The portrait of athree-year-old girl, who had been hospitalized, was even used as thecover page for a magazine. The image portrayed the effects of the waron its victims, and it enabled Cecil Beaton to contribute to theworld of design by showing how designers can present different themessuch as the conflict in the society.

In summary, the investigation of the life,style, and achievements of designer Cecil Beaton illustrates thesignificant contributions he made to the world of design and how hechanged it. Sir Cecil Beaton had various talents that included beinga photographer and costume designer. His career path focused on hishobby and personal interest as opposed to his academic standards. Hemanaged to advance in fashion photography at Vogue and later at theMinistry of Information in Britain. It is evident that fashionphotography exposed him to stage and theater design where hedeveloped an interest in costume design. His main styles inphotography included prescient and classicBeaton-esque approaches while in costume design he primarily focusedon simplicity and timeless designs. His major achievements includedthe awards for the Best Costume Design, taking portraits of the royalfamily, other fashion icons, and society ladies, and becoming anestablished war photographer.


Beaton, Cecil. “Cecil Beaton,illustrator, photographer and stage designer: scrapbooks, 1922-1980.AAD/1986/13. Retrieved from on 17/6/2016

Snodgrass, Mary E. WorldClothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and SocialInfluence. Routledge. 2015.Print

Söll, Änne. &quotPollock in Vogue:American Fashion and Avant-Garde Art in Cecil Beaton`s 1951Photographs.&quot FashionTheory: The Journal of Dress, Body &amp Culture13.1 (2009): 29-50.

Stoller-Lindsey, Nina. “Everything YouNeed to Know About Cecil Beaton.” TheCut. 2014. Retrieved from on 17/6/2016