/Piero Tosi, Who Outfitted Stars of Italian Films, Dies at 92

Piero Tosi, Who Outfitted Stars of Italian Films, Dies at 92

Piero Tosi, a fancy dress designer whose cautious analysis and intuitive eye had been prized by main Italian administrators like Vittorio De Sica, Mauro Bolognini and particularly Luchino Visconti, died on Saturday in Rome. He was 92.

The Franco Zeffirelli Foundation introduced his demise on Facebook. Mr. Zeffirelli, who died in June, and Mr. Tosi had been pals since their scholar days in Florence, Italy.

Mr. Tosi dressed some of the largest stars of the day — Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni, Burt Lancaster. He was nominated for the costume design Oscar 5 instances — for the Visconti movies “The Leopard” (1963), “Death in Venice” (1971) and “Ludwig” (1973); for Édouard Molinaro’s “La Cage Aux Folles” (1979), sharing the nomination with Ambra Danon; and for Mr. Zeffirelli’s “La Traviata” (1982).

Although he by no means received that prize, in 2013 he did obtain an Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors, the primary costume designer to take action. The quotation known as him “a visionary whose incomparable costume designs shaped timeless, living art in motion pictures.”

Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a costume designer and historian and founding director of the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at the University of California, Los Angeles, recalled a story Mr. Tosi once told her about sitting at a train station in Milan, taking photographs of women as they got off trains, searching for the right look for Ms. Magnani’s character. One woman’s coat struck him; he approached her and offered to buy it. The startled woman balked until he explained that the coat would be for a film role for Ms. Magnani, one of Italy’s biggest stars.

“And she looked at him,” Dr. Landis said in a telephone interview, “and she took off her coat and said, ‘For Anna Magnani, you can have my coat.’”

Mr. Tosi would frequently be involved in hairstyles and makeup, unusual for a costume designer. Why? “Because the face is fundamental,” he explained in a 2006 interview with the journal Framework. “You know, you do a lot on the costumes, but then the whole scene is focused on the face.”

As for the clothes, he said, achieving the proper look involved melding cloth, actor and character.

“I gradually shape the costume on the actor,” he said. “I work on the actor, step by step. After that, one has to find the nature of the character. In the end the costume is not just clothing any more, but it becomes the skin of the character.”

This symbiosis, not simply designing and making clothes, was what interested him, as he acknowledged after his work on Mr. Visconti’s “The Damned” (1969), a film set in the 1930s, brought him a lot of attention.

“When ‘The Damned’ came out, a film which was successful in America, I was asked by a fashion company to design a clothes line inspired by the 1930s, but I could not accept that,” he said. “I could never design modern clothes for an anonymous person, something you shape on a mannequin.”

Mr. Tosi was a believer in costume authenticity “right down to the undergarments,” as a 2009 article in The New York Times put it, since foundation garments affect how people move and carry themselves. He often worked on period films that required him to resurrect underwear of yore.

Mr. Tosi racked up most of his costume design credits from the 1950s through the ’80s, but he continued to work on films into the last decade. All told, he served as costume designer on more than 65 movies, and would surely have worked on more but for his aversion to travel. When Ms. Cardinale accepted his honorary Oscar for him at the 2013 Governors Awards in Hollywood, she told the crowd that he had never been to the United States.

Source link Nytimes.com

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