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Every month, LuxuryActivist will highlight one special focus on fashion. We call it Fashion revolutions, a great way to talk about fashion history. This month, the highlight goes to the famous Delphos dress by Mariano Fortuny.

Ms Condé Nast with the Delphos dress

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was born in 1871 in Granada – Spain. He opened a Fashion house in 1906 and continued until 1946. After a career as Lighting engineer for theaters, he and his wife, Henrietta, started a fashion business. Influenced by different ballets and dramas played at the Theater, Mariano Fortuny had a specific taste for classical aesthetics although he believed that artists and designers should always look ahead and innovate.

For many years, Mariano and his wife lived in a Palazzo in Venice, a place which brought a great inspiration for his fashion. And in a perpetual engagement towards the future and a certain idea of avant-gardism, Mariano Fortuny completely refused the style of this beginning ofthe century. Women were still linked to a certain idea of classicism and the corset, completely abandoned in the 20’s was still around. Blouses and dresses were full in front and puffed into a “pigeon breast” shape of the early 20th century that looked over the narrow waist, which sloped from back to front and was often accented with a sash or belt. Necklines were supported by very high boned collars.

It was also the rise of Haute-couture in Paris and some names like Poiret was already trying to move away from this sort of classic bourgeoisie allure. The beginning of the 20th century opened a new door to elegance and taste. The universal exhibition of 1900 in Paris celebrated the new dreams that the new century had to offer.

And the same was with Mariano Fortuny. His aim was to propose a new feminine look, free from all the 19th century patterns. His inspiration ? Mostly his Palazzo and also a great admiration for ancient greek clothing. For him, this hellenist style was considered as airy and that accentuated the natural curves of women’s body.

So against all trends of that time, he invented the famous Delphos gown. If you think that at the same time all artists of that time were influenced by the arrival of Art Nouveau, you can see easily this influence on the Delphos dress. Inspired by natural shapes that underline the feminine curves of a woman’s body… this is totally Art Nouveau.



What was the great idea behind? While Poiret was destructuring the women’s allure, Mariano Fortuny was reshaping it thanks to the Delphos dress. A shift dress made of finely pleated silk weighed down by glass beads that held its shape and flowed on the body. The pleating that he used was all done by hand and no one has been able to recreate pleating that is as fine as his or has held its shape like his dresses have for many years.

Detail_Delphos_Dress Detail_Delphos_Dress_2 Detail_Delphos_Dress_Fortuny_label

The Delphos dress became a reference in the fashion industry and today many designers are still getting their inspiration from this dress.

Lanvin – Pleats top
Issey Miyake – Pleats Please


So now you know the Delphos Dress and the story about Mariano Fortuny.


Info sourced at wikipedia, Leicestershire County Council, Powerhouse collection and All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available.