Tirelli Costumi: 40 years of experience serving film and theatre

The costumier Tirelli was established in 1964 and is responsible for the creation of costumes for films and well-known productions, including almost all of Luchino Visconti’s films (designed by Piero Tosi). It collaborated on the creation of costumes for Federico Fellini’s Casanova, with costume designer Danilo Donati winning an Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1973/74; Chariots of Fire, with costume designer Milena Canonero winning an Academy Award in 1982; Milos Forman’s Amadeus, for which designer Teodor Pistek won an Academy Award in 1985; Cyrano de Bergerac, for which costume designer Franca Squarciapino won an Academy Award in 1991; the Age of Innocence, with costume designer Gabriella Pescucci winning an Academy Award in 1994 and Marie Antoinette, for which costume designer Milena Canonero won an Academy Award in 2007. In addition to the Academy Awards, it has also received numerous Oscar nominations and a great many other awards (both in Italy and abroad) have been won by costume designers for whom Tirelli provided a creative contribution. Following the death of its founder, Umberto Tirelli, its prestigious work has been carried on by friends and heirs with Dino Trappetti at the helm.

Tirelli Costumi has created costumes for The English Patient, with costume designer Ann Roth winning an Academy Award in 1997; The Legend of 1900, for which costume designer Maurizio Millenotti won a “David di Donatello” as he did for The Passion of Christ and N.: Napoleon & Me. Costume design awards have also gone to Ann Roth for Cold Mountain, Gabriella Pescucci for The Brothers Grimm and Francesca Sartori for The Profession of Arms, as well as the costumes designed for The Golden Door by Mariano Tufano, Silk by Carlo Poggioli, Primo Carnera and Barbarossa by Massimo Cantini Parrini, The Viceroys (I Viceré) and The Wolfman by Milena Canonero. It has also collaborated on the films Titanic, for which costume designer Deborah Scott won an Academy Award in 1998; Elizabeth, with costume designer Alex Byrne; Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gabriella Pescucci; The Duchess, with costumes by Michael O’Connor, who won an Academy Award in 2009; Robin Hood, with costumes by Janty Yates and Alice in Wonderland, with costumes by Coleen Atwood.
Of equal significance are the theatrical pieces created by up-and-coming talents such as Massimo Gasparon and Stefano Poda.

Umberto Tirelli was an impassioned collector of old clothes which he initially dug out from the attics of aristocratic households and bought at flea market stalls anywhere and everywhere to study. Tirelli patiently put together an impressive collection that now numbers more than 15,000 authentic pieces and is without doubt one of the most important private collections of clothing anywhere in the world.

Umberto Tirelli did not just confine himself to collecting historical outfits but was always seeking to bring them to life by making them available to the costume designers with whom he worked. He made numerous donations to some of the most prestigious museums around the world such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Tokyo's Institute of Costume, the Institute of Costume in Kyoto and the Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The greatest donation of all, approximately 300 costumes, constitutes the heart of the Costume Gallery in the Museo degli Argenti in Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Along the same lines, the costumier Tirelli has organised exhibitions, both past and present, using authentic costumes from its own collection as well as those created for some of its most successful films and theatrical productions. Exhibitions such as the recent ‘Atelier of the Oscars’ organised in Gorizia in the historical surroundings of the Palazzo Attems Petzenstein have proved a resounding success with the public.

Umberto Tirelli launched his costume-making business in 1964 with two sewing machines, five dressmakers, a milliner, a secretary and a driver/storekeeper. Following a first theatrical production (a Tosca designed by Anna Anni and directed by Mauro Bolognini for Rome’s Teatro dell'Opera), during the first year of business the costumier Tirelli created costumes for three great works of prose, namely The Three Sisters and The Game of Roles (Il gioco delle parti) designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, under the direction of Giorgio De Lullo, and the The Cherry Orchard designed by Ferdinando Scarfiotti, under the direction of Luchino Visconti. Since then the costumier Tirelli has gone from strength to strength and its work has developed along two different yet complementary paths. The first is the one mapped out for it by the career of Pier Luigi Pizzi and peppered with the costumes thought-up for theatrical works of prose and opera, principally (but not only) in the name of invention and fantasy. The second is that mapped out by the career of Piero Tosi, whose first (but not only) preference was the cinema, in the philological reconstruction.

Tosi’s work was also decisively influential on Gabriella Pescucci, whose professional development grew under the guidance of Tosi and Tirelli and culminated in her winning an Academy Award in 1994 for Age of Innocence, as well as on Maurizio Millenotti, with the contribution of Vera Marzot and Maurizio Monteverde also being fundamental to the growth of the costumier’s prestige.
A great many costume designers learned their trade in the “Tirelli Studio” and a lot of them have now achieved international fame. These include names such as Maurizio Millenotti (nominated for two Oscars and winner of numerous Italian awards), Giovanna Buzzi, Alberto Verso, Carlo Diappi, Carlo Poggioli, Flora Brancatella, Alberto Spiazzi, Silvia Aymonino, Alessandro Lai, Mariano Tufano and Massimo Cantini Parrini. And a large number of foreign costume designers have also worked or are currently working with Tirelli Costumi. Names such as Hugo De Ana (director and costume designer on his own productions), Sandy Powell, Claudie Gastine, Ann Roth, Penny Rose, Yvonne Sassinot de Nesle, Francoise Tournafond, Olga Berluti, Deborah Scott, Jean Philippe Abril, Janty Yates and many more.