After completing his studies at Hawtreys, a boarding school in kent and at the Slade School of Fine Arts, university college, Messel became a portrait painter soon after he began with theatre and designing the mas
ks for a London production of Serge Diaghilev's ballet Zephyr et Flore in 1925. Many of his creations such as mask, costumes and sets have been preserved by the Theater Museum, London.
Oliver Messel designed many costumes for many broadway productions, in 1955 Messel won the tony award as best scenic designer for house of flowers. He also received three other Tony nominations in 1959, as best scenic designer and best costume designer for "Rashomon;" and in 1974, as best costume designer for "Gigi". Messel also made many costume designs for films, such as "Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)", "Romeo and Juliet" (1973) , "The Private Life of Don Juan" (1934), "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940). For some films such as "Romeo and Juliet", Messel also served as a set designer. He was also an Art Director on "Ceasar and Cleopatra" and "On Such a Night" (1956) and as Production Designer on "Suddenly Last Summer" in 1959 in which he was nominated for the Academy Award.