Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Colossus of Delphos

Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949).
This time our little piece of history about vintage fashion is not located in Paris (there is more world beyond the city of lights), but it takes place in the beautiful Italy where Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) opened his workshop in 1906 at the Pesaro degli Orfei Palace (nothing more and nothing less than a palace) located in decadent Venice. It is well known that this genius not only became a fashionable designer, but that he was also a painter, photographer, engraver and a long et cetera more; a tireless spirit with yearning to create without limits. But since our blog is about fashion, let's focus on what is undoubtedly the highlight of Mr. Fortuny: his Delphos dress (it is familiar to you, right?).

Delphos dress (1930).
Photo courtesy of MET
Our friend Mariano traveled to Greece and he was fascinated by the beauty of Antiquity that he absorbed and embodied in his creations. Like I said, the Delphos dress was the most representative of his work and so he patented this design in 1909 which was basically a long tunic made of silk (easily recognizable by any vintage fashion lover). The process to reach the final result was impressive and certainly very novel. The pleating of this jewel was done manually, and then a machine with a system of pulleys and rollers was used to get the transversal wavy in the dress. To give an old touch, this Spaniard (Oops! I forgot to say he was born in Spain) invented techniques of dyeing obtaining unique colors, impossible to repeat. Each Delphos was bathed in a layer and a layer in several dyes making each dress unique. All his  techniques were secret and even today, they are still unknown. After his death, no color created by Fortuny was left, since his afflicted widow threw them... into the canals of Venice (that's it!).

Lillian Gish wearing a Delphos (1910).

It was not only the originality of the Delphos dress, as far as the techniques of pleating and dyeing, was obvious, but also they were the first dresses in which the use of the, always, oppressive corset was stripped. In the beginning, they were used only indoors since nothing was worn under them (yes, what I said… nothing!) until the crazy 20s arrived and the women of high society, always in the vanguard, dared to wear them in public. Fortuny brought ancient Greece to the closets and now the Delphos are part of the History of Fashion with capital letters. There is no doubt that traveling is good because you always learn something, do not you think?

See you next week, vintage lovers!

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