Fortuny Peplos tea gown, c.1920
Lady Bonham-Carter: "Everyone went to Fortuny then. I think everyone I knew had a Fortuny dress."
Mariano Fortuny created his signature Delphos gown in 1907, repeating the design with minor changes until his death in 1949. The Peplos version features a tunic attached at the neckline, falling in points to the hip, giving the appearance of a two-piece garment.
Our lightweight gown is based on the pleated linen chitons worn by Greek maidens 2500 years ago and seen today on Delphic Greek sculpture. The Fortuny Delphos and Peplos gowns have preserved the poetry of line of the Greek robe. During the Classical period (5th-4th centuries B.C.E.), Athenian women often wore the peplos in public as a body length garment.
Fortuny used a thin silk satin more finely pleated than anything ever seen in costume. The resulting garment is incredibly soft and liquid, molding to the curves of the body. The richly modulated color of original antique Fortuny gowns, achieved by a series of dye baths, has a mysterious, enchanting depth that cannot be found in modern textiles. The hue of this Peplos is a lovely pastel shade of pink with hints of darker rose and lighter peach.
The gown is weighted on the sleeves and on the tunic hem with strings of blue Murano glass beads. It comes with a hand-stenciled sash signed Fortuny DSE. The gown is completely hand stitched with matching silk thread. To keep the pleats in place, the dress should be stored twisted like a skein of yarn.
From the early 1920s, Fortuny's timeless clothing has been treasured by the cultured elite. The novelist Marcel Proust described Fortuny as "faithfully antique but powerfully original." In the section of Remembrance of Things Past entitled The Captive, Fortuny constitutes an entire leitmotiv. He is the only character in all of Proust's work who retains a real life identity, a testimony to Fortuny's cultural importance.
Proust wrote: "Of all the indoor and outdoor gowns that Mme. de Guermantes wore, those which seemed most to respond to a definite intention, to be endowed with a special significance, were the garments made by Fortuny...Is it their historical character or the fact that each one is unique that gives them so special a significance that the pose of the woman wearing one while she waits for you to appear assumes an exceptional importance?"
Actresses and top models like Julie Christie, Lauren Hutton, Geraldine Chaplin have been devoted to Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. The Peplos is an extraordinarily beautiful collectible of proven value. It also represents the ultimate in high style glamour for the woman who has the figure and status to wear one.
Fortuny's contemporaries described him as "an alchemist" because he did not reveal the secret techniques used in his atelier at the 15th century Palazzo Orfei in Venice. He created magical color effects by means unfathomable to outsiders. His luminous and subtle hues have never been reproduced.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, self-portrait painted shortly before his death.
He was also a painter, photographer, set designer, and architect. In the field of design, he personified the Renaissance man who could do it all. As a young man he stated, "Art is my life's aim." His work is a living testament to that ideal. He rightly occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of great design.
Fortuny's famed Peplos gown is even more rare than the Delphos gown. Here is the green Peplos gown that resides in the permanent collection of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, that Peplos is not on display.
The condition is almost excellent. The gown is beautifully preserved with tight pleats. The only minor problem is slight fraying on the neckline drawstring cord.
The gown is 57" long from shoulder to hem.
The sash is 2 5/8" wide by 45" long.