Wedding dress by Hollywood costume designer is star lot at auction

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A vintage wedding dress by Oscar-winning costume designer and celebrity photographer Sir Cecil Beaton is the star lot at a Cotswolds antiques auction next month.

Sir Cecil made his name photographing celebrities and socialites in the pre- and post-war years. A Hollywood photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue during the 1930s, he was recruited by the Ministry of Information shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, at the insistence of the Queen Mother, who was one of his favourite sitters.

He took an iconic portrait of Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street and the famous wedding pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He was also tasked with recording images of the Home Front during the Blitz, and his photograph of a three-year-old girl clutching a teddy bear in her hospital bed – an image that was splashed across the front pages of newspapers in the US – is said to be partly responsible for hastening America’s entry into the conflict.

After the war he designed sets and costumes for Broadway plays, noticeably My Fair Lady, and went on to design the costumes for the 1964 film of the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, for which he was presented an Academy Award.

The satin and lace dress that will go under the hammer at Moore Allen & Innocent in Cirencester on Friday, September 13 was designed by Beaton for his niece, who was married in June 1957. Beaton also took a portrait of the bride in the dress, which will be sold as part of the lot.

Sir Cecil, whose career spanned 50 years and included portraits of celebrities from Dietrich (1935) and Dali (1936) to Warhol (1967) and Jagger (1968), died in 1980 at his Salisbury home, aged 76.

But his work lives on: the Victoria & Albert Museum ran a retrospective of his portraits in 2008, and his photographs of the Queen were included in an official diamond jubilee exhibition in 2011.

The wedding dress – a size 8 to 10 – is likely to appeal equally to costume collectors, fans of Beaton’s work, and to any bride-to-be looking for a dress with a fascinating story behind it. Auctioneers are expecting bids of between £600 and £800.

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