Re-creating the fashion of ancient ''Rome'' -- HBO's new period drama went out of its way to make its costumes true to the era

By Lynette Rice
Updated August 26, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

While HBO’s period drama Rome may evoke memories of the classic I, Claudius, the costumes do not. Unlike the stark white togas and tunics worn in the 1977 miniseries, HBO has done what the Romans did circa 52 B.C. and cloaked both their patricians and plebeians in color. ”We wanted to make it as authentic as possible,” says Rome historian Jonathan Stamp. ”If you recycle the clichés, you’re not giving the audience anything new.”

HBO hired the Oscar-nominated April Ferry (Maverick) to design the 4,000-plus costumes needed for the 12-episode series. Ferry made several trips to India, Tunisia, and Morocco to find silk, wool, and cotton that would be true to the era, then hand-dyed everything back at Rome’s home base at Cinecittà Studios in Italy. ”[The fabrics were] aged to make them look old and funky,” says Ferry, who also used her own form of Fortuny pleating on the silks. ”Everything’s darker at the bottom because it’s closer to the ground.” Leather masters Augusto and Giampaolo Grassi (Troy) handcrafted the cuirasses and helmets worn by Julius Caesar (Ciarán Hinds) and other principals, while Luca Giampaoli (Hidalgo, Troy), the son of an Italian jeweler who used to design trinkets for the Vatican, created fancy adornments for Rome’s ladies. ”All this stuff is highly researched,” Ferry explains. ”As a costume designer, you hope for a job like this. This is a dream.”

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