Tirelli Costumi: the history of cinema in the pleats and seams of a dress
When Umberto Tirelli founded Sartoria Tirelli in 1964, he could count on no more than two sewing machines, six seamstresses, one milliner, one secretary and one warehouse worker. But over the past fifty years, Tirelli has become a leader in cinema costumes – making amazing clothes for top international movies, thanks to the visionary talent of its costume designers who’ve won, altogether, over 17 Academy awards.
The company’s 5,000 square meters have a rich inventory of more than 160,000 costumes of all kinds and from all periods, plus 15,000 authentic samples from the 1700s on. This incredible repertoire reflects Umberto’s deep passion as a collector and expert in critical and historical reconstruction of different periods’ clothing– to the point he has been described as a “fashion archaeologist” for his ability to reproduce costumes from any age. His archives include sketches and designs, as well as historical pieces by Italian and international fashion houses that we all consider iconic today.
For years, Tirelli has collaborated with the best costume designers in theater, cinema and opera: Piero Tosi – with whom a great synergy has developed – as well as Academy Award winners Milena Canonero (awarded for “Marie Antoinette” in 2007), Gabriella Pescucci (“The Age of Innocence” in 1994), Ann Roth (“The English Patient” in 1997) and Teodor Pistek (“Amadeus” by Milos Forman in 1985).
The company has created costumes for movies that are now part of the history of cinema: Cate Blanchett’s access to international stardom, “Elizabeth the Golden Age”, and Tim Burton’s visionary “Alice in Wonderland”, “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” by Terry Gilliam and Matteo Garrone’s “Il racconto dei racconti”, but also “La Migliore Offerta” by Giuseppe Tornatore, “Cold Mountain”, “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson and “The Legend of 1900” (for which costume designer Maurizio Millenotti won a David di Donatello Award). And also “Maleficent”, “The Beauty and the Beast”, “Anna Karenina”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and dozens of other films and TV shows, such as Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope”.
The number of nominations and awards this magical place has achieved is staggering: a success that can be traced back to Italy’s strong tradition and flair in costume design – the art of reconstructing dreams with fabric and details. It bears testimony to the incredible know-how that generations have built and passed along, with amazing talent and a passion able to balance between the great imagination required in creating theater costumes and the incredible precision needed to remake period pieces. It is also thanks to this wonderful work that anything the world’s greatest directors can imagine becomes a little more believable on the silver screen.
Today, Umberto’s legacy lives on in the work of the friends and collaborators at Tirelli, led by Dino Trappetti. The company has made donations to some of the most prestigious museums in the world, from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The most impressive donation consisted in no less than 300 pieces (including dresses and accessories) for Palazzo Pitti, which are now the core of the Gallery of Costumes at the Treasury of the Grand Dukes. Furthermore, Trappetti has founded the Tirelli Trappetti Foundation, with the clear goal of preserving historic costumes made by the company, as tokens of the all-Italian expertise in costume design.
by Barbara Palladino