We tend to give the costume designer all the credit for creating what the actors wear in a film or TV show. But that’s just shorthand and we know it’s not the full picture. Most any designer will tell you they depend on a team of professionals to build everything, and that the designer absolutely couldn’t do it alone. There’s everyone else listed in the flick’s credits and on IMDB.com as the Costume and Wardrobe Department, which can be 10 to several dozen people. This can include seamstresses, tailors, cutters, dyers, milliners, wardrobe supervisors, buyers, extras fitters, assistants, and more.
But costume designers also work with standalone costume houses to have their designs built by makers at that house. Plus, these businesses have vast warehouses of rental costumes that designers can pull from to outfit productions, as well was collections of extant historical garments and other resources for research.
I toured one such costume house, Angels Costumes in the UK, and I’ve visited another British house, Cosprop, in the past. In the US, Western Costume is a biggie. And in Italy, Tirelli Costumi is the queen of all costumes. Founded by Umberto Tirelli in 1964 as a tailor’s shop with just two sewing machines, five seamstresses, a milliner, a secretary, and a driver-warehouse clerk, Tirelli Costumi has grown to a vast warehouse with over 200,000 costumes, plus a collection of 15,000 authentic historical garments.
Umberto Tirelli’s career started as a tailor in Milan, and he loved collecting and studying antique clothing. He was drawn into theater where he began working with costume designer Piero Tosi, who introduced him to film directors Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli. Tirelli was convinced to move to Rome and work on historical costume for theatre, film, and TV. Tosi hired Tirelli for tailoring work on Visconti’s film The Leopard (1963), and it was this project that convinced Tirelli to start his own business.
Now Tirelli Costumi counts 17 Best Costume Oscars for itself, and you’ll undoubtedly recognize their work over the years. Many Italian costume designers have gotten their start working at Tirelli, such as Milena Canonero, Daniel Donati, Maurizio Millenotti, Massimo Cantini Parrini, Gabriella Pescacci, and Carlo Poggioli. Designers from around the world work with Tirelli because they know this house excels at delivering gorgeous historical details, just as founder Umberto Tirelli wanted. He died in 1992, and the house has been managed by film professional Dino Trappetti since then.
It’s nearly impossible to list every movie and TV show that’s worked with Tirelli — almost 500 movies and 200 TV shows are listed on their website, plus more are mentioned on their social media accounts, and many designers have name-dropped the house in interviews. Sometimes Tirelli builds the original costumes for lead characters of a production at the direction of the costume designer, and often the costume designer rents pieces from Tirelli’s vast warehouse. In this guide, I’ve highlighted historical productions that Tirelli had a hand in and that I can find good pix for. So that’s a just a taste of their amazing work. Enjoy!
The Leopard (1963), costume design by Piero Tosi
Death in Venice (1971), costume design by Piero Tosi
Ludwig (1973), costume design by Piero Tosi
Federico Fellini’s Casanova (1976), costume design by Danilo Donati
L’Innocente (1976), costume design by Piero Tosi
Lady of the Camelias (1981), costume design by Piero Tosi
Amadeus (1984), costume design by Theodor Pištěk
Once Upon a Time in America (1984), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
Out of Africa (1985), costume design by Milena Canonero
Valmont (1989), costume design by Theodor Pištěk
L’Atlantide (1992), costume design by Maurizio Millenotti
The Age of Innocence (1993), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
Sparrow (1993), costume design by Piero Tosi
Immortal Beloved (1994), costume design by Maurizio Millenotti
The Scarlet Letter (1995), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
The English Patient (1996), costume design by Ann Roth & Gary Jones
Anna Karenina (1997), costume design by Maurizio Millenotti
The Legend of 1900 (1998), costume design by Maurizio Millenotti
Marcel Proust’s Time Regained (1999), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), costume design by Ann Roth
Rosa e Cornelia (2000), costume design by Alessandro Lai
The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), costume design by Maurizio Millenotti
Marie Antoinette (2006), costume design by Milena Canonero
Silk (2007), costume design by Carlo Poggioli
The Borgias (2011-13), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
Penny Dreadful (2014-16), costume design by Gabriella Pescucci
Reign (2014), costume design by Meredith Markworth Pollack
In an interview, Markworth Pollack said that for the show’s season two costumes:
“I jumped on a plane to Rome and went to Tirelli. I knew that was the best house for men’s costumes of the period. That was a dream. I was blown away.”
Tale of Tales (2015), costume design by Massimo Cantini Parrini
The Witch (2015), costume design by Linda Muir
In Bright Lights Film Journal, Muir said:
“I contacted a large costume rental company in London, England, to estimate a price for costuming the Meeting House scene, including the shipping/cleaning costs, which entailed emails with huge photo attachments to show them the desired look. Ultimately we chose a different costume house, Tirelli Costumi of Rome, Italy, to supply our background costumes and augmented them with coifs, aprons, collars, cuffs and falling bands of our own making.”
Radioactive (2019), costume design by Consolata Boyle
Bridgerton (2020), costume design by Ellen Mirojnick
Harpers Bazaar noted of season one:
“For the background wardrobe, the team had to create their own costume house with clothing from companies from around the world, including Angel Costume Company in England, Peris Costume Company in Spain, Tirelli Costumi in Italy, and even some manufacturers in New York. They used this stock to dress the background characters, secondary players, and, if needed, quick-changes for principals.”
Dickinson (2021), costume design by Jennifer Moeller
The Gilded Age (2022-), costume design by Kasia Walicka Maimone
On Tirelli’s social media, they mentioned making over 100 dresses for the first season, including this orange gown worn by Cynthia Nixon, above. And the LA Times said of the series:
“The designers relied on workshops from Brooklyn to Budapest, Hungary, including Rome’s Tirelli Costumi, Poland’s Hero Collection, Madrid’s Peris Costumes and London’s Cosprop and Angels Costumes.”
The Law According to Lidia Poët (2023-), costume design by Stefano Ciammitti
What creations by Tirelli Costumes have you noticed? What are your faves?