Seductive and body hugging, the Delphos gown debuted in 1909 with a simplicity and timelessness that has made it permanently up to date. Created in Venice by Mariano Fortuny in collaboration with his wife Henriette Nigrin, it was inspired by the Greek statue of the Charioteer of Delphi whose tunic comprised deep vertical folds.
The ingenious fine pleating and dying processes created by the Fortunys, remains a tantalising mystery, one that they have taken to their graves. It is believed the pleating was secured by hand stitching rows of small folds together, the fabric then was heat set and the stitching removed later.
The garments were closed by means of hidden pulleys, involving lacing. The edges were finished off with strings of small Venetian beads that worked as ornaments and weights to hold the dress down, giving it its distinctive drape.
These exquisite creations quivered with light, their liquid colours forming a blend of style, mystery and sophistication.
The gowns first gained notoriety when adopted by Sarah Bernhardt and dancer Isadora Duncan and before long they were eagerly sort by elite Americans. The age of opulent ocean liners and the desire to make a grand entrance provided the perfect setting.
The wardrobe master for the much acclaimed Downton Abbey’ television series, was afforded the use of a handful of Fortuny designed pieces that included an original Delphos gown worn my Lady Mary to stunning effect.
Like fine works of art, these dresses have become the most incredibly desirable. They exist in museums, art collections and closets of the most stylish and wealthy women in the world.
Seductive and elegant, these magnificent gowns remain timeless in their classical beauty.