Fave designers: Milena Canonero’s exquisite costumes for “The Affair of the Necklace” were on costume designer Powell’s mind when he chose Piero Tosi, another legendary Italian costume designer, as “most overlooked” by the Oscar-voting Academy. Like Canonero this past year, Tosi was nominated for a film, “La Traviata,” that lagged at the box office when it was released in 1983. Tosi lost the statuette that year to the designers of “Gandhi” because “the producers just didn’t have the cash to do promotion for the Oscars,” says Powell. “It was one of the biggest costume scandals as far as the Oscars went.”
“La Traviata” takes place in the 1840s, but Powell says Tosi took poetic license with the period, designing costumes drawn from the more elaborate 1860s when the opera was actually written. In this way, the lavish outfits “visually echo what the ear hears.” Tosi remains a god to Powell and numerous costume designers, many of whom have signed a petition asking the Acad-emy to bestow an honorary Oscar upon him. Though there is no precedent for a costume designer receiving such an award, his admirers press on.
Seminal influence: Lila De Nobili, a costume designer largely unknown in America but famous in Europe for her film, ballet and opera work, taught Powell “to look at designing in a completely different way.” Even though Powell says several of the projects they partnered on “fell by the wayside,” she showed him how period costumes “could be historically accurate, yet dif-fused with a poetic sense” that lifted them above the ordinary.