The Birth of a Unique Gown: The Delphos

Palazzo Fortuny

The most iconic creation of an eclectic artist

The greatest success of Mariano Fortuny's workshop was the creation, in 1909, of the Delphos, the iconic simple monochrome gown that took inspiration from the greek myths.

In terms of style, the dress was mainly inspired by the Hellenistic classical sculpture of the Charioteer of Delphi, discovered in 1896.

With an autograph note written in the margin of the patent, Fortuny recognises that the true creator of the Delphos was Henriette.

Some models, introduced in the market in the 1920s and commercialised under the name of Peplos, included a section of cloth, known in ancient Greece as the apoptygma, that was folded to cover the torso for about a third of the length of the upper side of the gown.

The Delphos, was a monochrome gown of a simple, essential form, a sort of cylinder initially consisting of four pieces of fabric (which by 1919–20 had become five) made in satin or silk taffeta sewn along the long sides in a vertical sequence and continuing to form short sleeves. 

The gown, shaped by internal tapes arranged at an angle from the armpit to the shoulder to define the armhole, rested on the shoulders and fell freely down to the feet. The neckline and the sleeves were adjustable thanks to drawstrings in silk cord, embellished with beads of Murano glass paste.

The pleating

The most important feature of the gown is the pleating.
At first, it was done manually using the fingernail of the thumb, then firmed with sewing and pressed. The dense vertical waves on each panel that made the vest could reach up to 450 foldings.

The pleating, realised only in the longitudinal direction, could be enriched with a tranverse wave motion, obtained with the aid of copper tubes or heated ceramic.

The tones of the fabric varied from more muted and neutral colours, such as apricot, mauve, pearl grey or pink, to bright colours like coral red, ultramarine blue, or Veronese green, to produce iridescent shades resulting from the silk and the movement of the pleats.

A number of femmes fatales established the trend for this refined and long-lasting fashion, with the Delphos gown being immediately recognised. The Delphos got to be worn by the famous aristocratic ladies and international nobility, as well as divine dancers and actresses, wore this revolutionary piece of clothing casually.

The Marchesa Luisa Casati was the first one to purchase a Delphos Dress in September 1909.

The Delphos dress was usually worn with a belt in printed silk satin or taffeta; it could be matched with other Fortuny creations like the Knossos shawl or surcoats in silk gauze with or without sleeves, or jackets, tunics or capes of silk or printed velvet.

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Museo Fortuny Venezia Palazzo Orfei

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