The costume designers who worked with Italy’s Tirelli Costumes are famous for both meticulous historical recreations and fabulous flights of fancy. Danilo Donati (April 6, 1926 – December 1, 2001) created movie and TV costumes that were both historical and fantastical, often at the same time. His work is always incredibly detailed, and though he eschewed reproducing specific portraits or garments, his knowledge of the history of fashion shines through. While some of the films he worked on are dated or uncomfortable to watch by today’s standards, the costumes he designed for them stand up as stunningly creative works of art. Let’s admire!
Vanina Vanini aka The Betrayer (1961)
Apparently set in 1820s during early Italian unification.
Can’t find any full-length pix, but I like the shoulder treatment here.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Filmed in black & white, this movie was the first time Danilo Donati worked with director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
A TV miniseries that I can’t find too much about but this pic looks good.
Madamigella di Maupin (1966)
Vaguely 18th-c. story & costumes.
El Greco (1966)
Heavy eye makeup aside, this looks like quite a well-costumed biopic of the Spanish artist.
Her gown is right out of a portrait!
LOVE that white & silver gown too, & the mens’ outfits look snazzy with good ruffs.
Elizabeth Taylor wanted Irene Sharaff to design her gowns, but the director insisted on a using Danilo Donati. They split some of the work, & Richard Burton was particularly impressed with Donati’s designs. Donati had the edge of working with Tirelli Costumes, which built the pieces.
Photo by Sartoria Farani.
On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who… (1967)
Surprisingly detailed medieval gown for a comedy about a chastity belt.
Another excellent Zeffirelli adaption of Shakespeare.
Juliet’s red gown at the ball.
The red dress on display.
Danilo Donati won the Best Costume Design Oscar for this film.
Subtle shine for the death scene.
The death scene gown on display.
The Lady of Monza (1969)
Googling this flick turns up a lot of … uh … partially-costumed pix, so I’ll just mention that it’s supposedly about a 17th-century nun.
Fellini Satyricon (1969)
The first of Donati’s collaborations with Federico Fellini, who made this impressionistic film set in imperial Rome.
The elaborate costumes were inspired by Fortuny gowns, among other things.
The Decameron (1971)
The first of director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s historical sex romps, this one based on the 14th-c. collection of novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio.
Submitted for your amusement.
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
Flashy papal stuff!
The Canterbury Tales (1972)
Another of Pasolini’s historical sex romps, this one based on Chaucer.
I think this is the Wife of Bath, & the costume is amazing.
Then there’s these dudes who are just out looking to get laid.
Fury aka One Russian Summer (1973)
Something gritty set in 1700s Russia.
Bawdy Tales (1973)
Can’t find more pix (clothed or not) for this movie set in 1850 Rome. I like the hat though.
Arabian Nights (1974)
The last of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s historical sex movies, this one is based on One Thousand and One Nights. Beautifully filmed in Iran, Yemen, & Nepal, this one seems to be a bit more serious & dramatic.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
This controversial & extremely graphic ‘art-horror’ film is set during World War II & was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final work.
Danilo Donati created costumes that reflect period styles as well as the drama of the story.
Fellini’s Casanova (1976)
Another collaboration with Fellini & another riff on historical designs, starting with 18th century & then going wild.
Danilo Donati won a second Best Costume Design Oscar for this film.
Not sure if this is the same black suit, but that hint of gold looks like it’s the same waistcoat.
The back of this yellow & red dress can just be seen in this banquet scene.
Malcolm McDowell stars as the Roman emperor in this graphic flick produced by the founder of Penthouse magazine.
Helen Mirren plays Caligula’s wife & stands by the movie, calling it an “irresistible mix of art and genitals.”
Flashy costumes though!
Ginger & Fred (1986)
After all that sexytimes in the ’70s, Danilo Donati only did a handful of movies in the ’80s, most notably Flash Gordon (1980). While Ginger & Fred is a contemporary film, the characters are recreating dance routines in the style of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in the 1930s. Donati recreated this lovely gown in a period style.
The costumes on display.
This TV miniseries was Danilo Donati’s first full historical production in ages, but I can’t find many screencaps.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
This sweet, sad, charming film by Roberto Benigni is set before & during World War II.
Early in the movie, there are some lovely period outfits, like this pink gown.
Catalog image of the gown.
The rest of the costumes are rather grim, being in a concentration camp, but that’s accurate.
What’s your favorite historical costume design by Danilo Donati?