The Delphos Gown – Classic Fortuny

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.

IMAGE: L / Delphos and Peplos Dresses, 1910-1930 Venice, Museo Fortuny © Archivio fotografico Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia/Paolo Utimpergher.

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.

Fortuny Delphos dress. Pleating was designed to cover the feet and pool on the ground. IMAGE: Museum of Applied Sciences

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.

Fortuny Delphos dress. IMAGE: Museum of Applied Sciences


Fortuny pleating with beading attached. IMAGE:

These exquisite creations quivered with light, their liquid colours forming a blend of style, mystery and   sophistication.

Detail printing and dying IMAGE: Pinterest

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.


Isadora Duncan’s three adopted daughters (Lisa, Anna and Margot) in Delphos dresses c.1920 IMAGE: Pinterest

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.

Lady Mary in a gorgeous original Fortuny Delphos gown for the series 6 Christmas special of Downton Abbey IMAGE: Pinterest

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.

Gloria Vanderbilt modeling her Fortuny dress and Rita Delisi necklace. Photographed by Avedon for Vogue (US), December 1969

Natalia Vodianova wears Fortuny to the British Fashion Awards 2009 IMAGE: Pinterest

Seductive and elegant, these magnificent gowns remain timeless in their classical beauty.