Costumes in Fellini’s Satyricon


The most remarkable aspects of the Fellini’s film “Satyrycon” are the costumes by renowned designer Danilo Donati. These glorious constructions are astonishing in their intricate, picturesque design. 

Capucine in Satyricon Fellini, 1969

Fellini had asked fashion models to act in his films. In particular, in Satyricon (Fellini – Satyricon) (1969), Donyale Luna and Capucine
play the parts of Oenothea and Tryhaena, the wife of Trimalchio. Capucine, besides starring in some films in France, was a well-known model who worked for Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Balmain. The dress worn by Capucine in Satyricon, an example of how costume and fashion are interrelated and now held in the archives of the sartoria Farani in Rome, is a masterpiece in its nuances of pale blue and its hundreds of pleats à la Fortuny (the Delphos gown) .

Delfos by Mariano Fortuni

In the scenes in which Capucine wears this costume, along with the
appropriate visual effects and make-up, the film takes the form of a very
sophisticated fashion photo shoot. The body of the model performs the
spectacle of the timeless quality of the dress. Costume here becomes
fashion, while at the same time transcending it. In this historical adaptation, the geniality of costume designer Danilo Donati comes to the fore.

Satyricon was the first collaboration between Fellini and Donati, who went on to work with him on several films such as I Clowns, Roma, Amarcord, Casanova, Ginger and Fred, Intervista (Tosi Pamphili 2014: 16). As a costume designer and art director, Donati was eclectic, but he could never be called a philologist of costume adaptation. Rather, his aim was to reinvent historical dress, reframe history and costume through the contemporary eyes and with a poetry that was relevant for the character and the story in question. Gianfranco Angelucci commenting on Donati’s work states that he was interested more in the interior landscape of an epoch than its reconstruction (2014: 54). Donati even affirmed that ‘Il vero è l’amico degli amanti della filologia che come si sa è la morte della creatività’: truth is friend with lovers of historical accuracy, which, as we know, is the death of creativity (Angelucci 2014: 66).

Truth is friend with lovers of historical accuracy, which, as we know, is the death of creativity.

But how does this act of reframing history through dress and costume
work? [Eugenia Paulicelli Reframing history: Federico Fellini’s Rome, fashion and costume // Film, Fashion & Consumption 2019, Volume 8, Number 1].



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