Costume Designer Piero Tosi

Death in Venice

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, I used to watch movies on T.V. that played into the wee hours of the morning. Many were melodramatic foreign films with fantastic sets and period costumes starring actors I had never heard of. They were usually badly dubbed or had that weird echoey sound like the actors were talking into a jar, but they were mesmerizingly beautiful films.

Ludwig

There was a time from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s when period costumed films were sumptuously detailed – sure, the actresses almost always wore too much eyeliner and mascara, but the costuming often had meticulous recreations by designers like Piero Tosi – one of the best period costume designers ever (IMHO).

The Damned

Tosi was born in Florence in 1927, and in 1951 he became a costume designer for the film Bellissima, directed by Luchino Visconti. Tosi often worked with Visconti and some of his films, done in the 1960s and 1970s, were stunning. The Leopard (1963) set in Sicily in 1860; The Damned (1969) set in Germany in 1934; Death in Venice (1971) set in Venice in 1912; Ludwig (1973) set in Bavaria between 1864 and 1886; The Innocent (1976) set in Rome in the early 1890s… All of them were beautifully costumed.

Tosi never won an Oscar for a specific film, although he was given an honorary Academy Award in 2013, which he didn’t pick up in person because he fears flying. He did win many other awards for his work, mostly in Europe. Tosi is still with us, but he hasn’t worked in film since 2004.

The Leopard

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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