If I Won the Lottery….

Peplos gown. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The first time I saw a photograph of a Fortuny dress in a magazine (Smithsonian magazine, I think) was enchanted with the wonderful fabric; it drapes so beautifully, and the tiny pleats are amazing. Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949) was born in Granada, Spain but moved to Paris when he was a young child with his mother. As a young man,  he moved to Italy where he lived worked and worked most of his life.

Fortuny created these gowns from 1909 until his death in 1949. He based the designs on ancient Greek clothing; the two piece dress is called a Peplos and the one piece is called the Delphos. They were originally designed as tea gowns to wear inside the privacy of one’s own home but Isadora Duncan and other daring women wore them out in public. To keep the pleats in the dress, you twisted it and stored it in its own little box. If the dress needed cleaning or needed to be re-pleated, you’d send it back to Fortuny’s atelier in Venice.  He took his secret processing of pleating the silk to his grave. What an amazing artist he was.

Gown twisted for storage. Smithsonian Institute.

If I won the lottery, I’d buy one of these lovely dresses at an auction. Then I’d have to create an event to wear it to…because it doesn’t really fit my current social life here in the Pacific Northwest!

Velvet coat and gown. Illinois State University/Lauren Lowell.

Fortuny gown. Milwaukee Public Museum.

Fortuny gown. Photo Thomas Griesel.

Hint: click on this photo, and when the larger image comes up, hover the cursor over it and click.

I relied on two sites for most of this information –Senses Art Nouveau and a thesis written by Amy Renee Dykes.


4 thoughts on “If I Won the Lottery….

  1. I believe Mary McFadden designed gowns with this type of material. She emulated his style and yes, the gowns were pretty much twist and store. These gowns are so opulent and beautiful 🙂

    • Yes, Mary McFadden created pleated gowns, but her pleating method seems more linear or geometric. They’re beautiful but I don’t think they drape quite the same as one of Fortuny’s.Mary McFadden gown

  2. The Legion of Honor in SF had a show recently, Pulp Fashion, and the Mariano Fortuny dresses were my definite favorites. Isabelle de Borchgrave is the artist making tromp l’oeil gowns from paper.

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