Deadline contributor Elizabeth Snead files this Emmy report:
Gabriella Pescucci the costume designer and costume supervisor Ulivia Pezzetti are nominated for their painstakingly detailed costumes for the lavish Showtime series The Borgias starring Jeremy Irons, Francois Arnaud, and Holliday Grainer. Nominated for Outstanding Costumes For A Series for the episode “Lucrezia’s Wedding”, this is the first Emmy nod for Pescucci, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards (The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) and won an Oscar in 1993 for The Age Of Innocence. Pescucci says she approached the Showtime series as she would a feature film like The Name Of The Rose, another of her credits. “Never did I think of the costumes for the TV. The color, embroidery, jewelry, this was on such a grand scale. Never in my long years of doing this job did I ever have this number of costumes. Maybe 3,000 costumes, if you count the actors, hundreds of soldiers, all the priests, plus doubles and more costumes for the stunt people.”
The Borgias is set in 1492 and details the intrigue, sensuality, and murderous antics of the Vatican and the Rome nobility along with the calculated rise of the Borgia family. Her research was aided by the portraiture of the time. “A lot of painters’ work from that period are in museums and online. Little by little, we made photocopies to get the women’s faces, hairstyles, clothing, also the clergy and the soldiers. There are also a lot of paintings of crowds, people working in the streets, maids and cooks. Lots of cooks!” But the research often surprised her. “If you are looking in the right way, you are always surprised by something you find, something you didn’t think would be in that period. A button or a sleeve. Even the men’s underpants in that period were so small. They really look like normal underpants of men today.”
Most of the liturgical costumes for the series were rented from outlets in Rome where they still make uniforms for the Vatican. But many of the ecclesiastical costumes had to be made. “It was very difficult to find old factories that made the fabrics in the old way,” admits Pescucci. “We found some factories in northern Italy, a factory in Sicily and one in London that specializes in fabric typical of that age.”
And as with all period shows, after the design and construction of the costumes, the aging, dying and distressing of them took weeks and weeks. “Knees, elbows, also hemlines. Even for Lucretia’s gowns, there was a bit of aging,” explains Pescucci. “Nothing could look brand new.”
Pescucci particular likes the episodes with weddings. “There are two major weddings in the series, Lucretia’s and Sancia’s. So we had to have two completely different color palettes. At Lucretia’s it was hot colors like pink, orange, red and gold. Lucretia herself wears a gold and white gown. But at the Sancia’s wedding, the colors were cooler, lots of greens, blues and silvers. With all the female wedding guests having to have the embroidery, nets, and hair décor match their dresses, it was a lot of work.”
All of actors had to get used to the weight and fit of the heavy constricting period costumes. “Some of the women have never worn that kind of costume. But little by little, they got used to the layers, the corset, then underwear, another petticoat, then another petticoat.” It wasn’t just the ladies who had to endure. When Jeremy Irons did the big coronation scene he was wearing four layers of costume. And they were shooting in August. “The big cape weighed about nine pounds. The hat was about 11 pounds because it was heavy metal and stones, nothing plastic, all real. And it was so very hot.” Irons sang the praises of Pescucci’s Borgia costumes to the press recently. “It’s sumptuous, I mean really sumptuous. And you can freeze frame and there’s painting after painting after painting.”
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