Mariano Fortuny, the Spanish artist-designer who worked in Venice, created pleated gowns that have come to be surrounded by myth. His simplest sheath style, derived from the chiton, was called the "Delphos." Highly secretive about the processes employed in all his designs, Fortuny left only one document related to the development of his jewel-toned gowns-a patent for heated ceramic rollers through which the silk was passed to set the pleats. The use of the rollers, however, was probably a final stage in the creation of the dresses. Photographs of his earliest delphos gowns reveal a wavelike regularity to their pleating rather than the later irregular and disrupted creases that characterize these examples. It is likely that the panels of silk were stitched loosely by hand, selvage to selvage-the width of the fabric-with a thick basting thread. When the stitcher reached the edge, the needle was reversed about three-quarters of an inch above the last line of stitches, and a new row was made. This process then continued back and forth in a zigzag pattern, through the entire length of fabric. At the end of the panel, the thread was pulled in tightly, creating a narrow hank of cloth that was then passed through the heated rollers. The process did not set the pleats permanently. Clients would have to send their dresses back to Fortuny to have the pleats reset if they were inadvertently dampened or if they were flattened out at the seat.
Marking: [label] "Fortuny Déposé"
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style," December 9, 1993–March 20, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Goddess: The Classical Mode," May 1, 2003–August 3, 2003.
Benaki Museum. "Ptychosis (Pleats and Folds): From Ancient Greek Dress to 21st Century Fashion," June 22, 2004–October 17, 2004.