I often wonder about the concept of “forever” clothes.  What are the things in my wardrobe that will stand the test of time and be considered to have cultural (and perhaps monetary) worth and be thought of as valuable further down the line when no doubt, should I have children, they’ll probably want to get rid of my dusty mountain of clothes.  A Mariano Fortuny “Delphos” gown is most definitely a forever piece.  Unlike other designers of his era, this one pivotal silk shift dress, marked by its permanent finely spaced pleats, has been photographed on different woman, decades after its debut in 1909.  Natalia Vodionova wore a vintage pink one on the red carpet as recently as 2009.  As a noted artist and lighting designer, Fortuny was less a fashion designer and more of a fine-tuner of a singular garment, as he eschewed the normal cycles of fashion.

You could say that by being inspired by Fortuny in their latest haute couture collection for Valentino, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, are echoing that same “forever” factor.  Chiuri and Piccioli rarely wavers from their floor-length, inherently feminine and poetic gowns, invariably accompanied by Pre-Raphaelite tresses and a neo-classical soundtrack.  For some, one collection might blur into another with their steadfast allegiance to the sort of beauty that goes beyond trends.  However, this haute couture collection in particular with its interpretations of the Delphos, its replication of Fortuny’s painterly colour palette, and sumptuous aged velvet and hand-painted textiles, created in conjunction with the present day interior textiles company Fortuny, somehow transcended to another level of beauty.

Fortuny’s ‘forever-ness’ is one thing.  But evoking bastions of un-corseted, expressive and free movement like Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Loie Fuller and Ruth St. Denis (any chance Chiuri and Piccioli might have also seen BBC4’s excellent Dance Rebels documentary?), added another dimension that, in particular spoke to women directly.  Harking back to an era when boundaries were being broken and a woman’s sphere of influence was fast changing, coupled with the open-referencing of a designer, who also played his part in the liberating of women’s bodies, is a winning combo for Chiuri and Piccioli to reach new heights in their oeuvre at Valentino.

The transparent Grecian gowns seem more nymph-like, allowing the female form to flourish.  You want to associate those eclectic patchwork of painted silks and free-flowing velvet with minds that were shaping culture.  These sumptuous gowns mastered in Valentino’s atelier aren’t just vehicles for pure surface, but communicate a great deal more because there’s technical as well as emotional depth to them.  They’re in their own category of ‘forever’ pieces, should you be lucky (or rich) enough to afford them.







henriettefortunyHenriette Fortuny, wife and muse of Mariano Fortuny





anna-pavlova-wearing-fortunyAnna Pavlova wearing Fortuny

clarisse-courdet-wife-of-conde-nastClarisse Coudert, wife of Condé Nast, in a Fortuny Delphos and long mantle, c. 1919

regine-flory-1910-in-fortunyRégine Flory in a Fortuny Delphos dress c. 1910



TJM_Rubinstein_12retouched-MuraywtmkHelena Rubenstein wearing a 1923 Paul Poiret dress c. 1924

peggy-guggenheim-fortunyPeggy Guggenheim in a Fortuny Delphos in her Venice palazzo, c. 1979



fortunysilksdyedColour palette of dyed silks of Fortuny dresses

tina-chow-with-collection-of-fortunyTina Chow with her collection of Fortuny pieces




paulpoiret1911Paul Poiret design 1911

542412979Ladies in Paul Poiret designs in a garden in Paris, 1910




Mishkin.Ruth_.St_.Denis_Ruth St Denis dancing in ‘Egypta’



030-martha-graham-theredlistMartha Graham in 1930s





shizukashiraShirabyoshi – female dancers in the Japanese Imperial court that dressed as men






loie-fullerLoie Fuller




madeleinelaf1Asian-inspired robe by Madeleine Laferriere from 1912

paulpoiretPaul Poiret harem trousers and sultana skirt c. 1911



knossosFortuny “Knossos” dress



iduncan_3Isadora Duncan

IsadorablesThe “Isadorables” – Duncan’s adopted daughters




tumblr_mphgd6PMkC1r1p7nfo1_1280Colette Alliot-Lugaz in a Fortuny Delphos and velvet mantle stenciled in silver and gold, with a motif inspired by Cretan art

tumblr_mpjt1uVjM51r1p7nfo1_1280Fortuny short jacket in lavender velvet stenciled in silver


fortuny02Countess Elsie Lee Gozzi wearing a Fortuny Eleanora dress, 1920s






Comments (14)

  1. Claire says:

    An exquisite collection of imagery here, I loved the concept of freeing the female form too, an ideal that exploded during the 20th Century likely inspired by such bohemian designs.

    The pleating in the Fortuny style is delightful and reminds me of Japanese design, like Issey Miyake (perhaps these are his inspiration) and Junya Watanabe (specifically the Skin and Bones collection).

  2. Karen Farber says:

    These make me feel like I went back in time


  3. Cca says:

    I was first introduced to the history of the Delphos gown in the Spanish drama “A Time in Between, the Delphos gown becomes very important in this series, you will love the fashion, available on netflix

  4. Isn’t it ironic that Valentino collection comes out just weeks away from the Fortuny biography book? As if by magic.. 🙂
    Admittedly, I am not a fashion historian to know the ins and outs of his designs and the most fascinating part of his legacy for me has always been the simple pleated dress (especially when captured by Avedon as backdrop for stunning jewellery) and the fact that the technique (and machine used to make pleats) was lost. I think, what Valentino did, even with all the inspo behind the collection, is still very Valentino and, if I didn’t know about the inspo, would always remind just Valentino for me. Especially considering that the man himself designed pretty much every dress, pleat and embroidery imaginable.
    Loved the collage of past and present! x

  5. Sophie says:

    Gorgeous dresses <3

    Thank you for such informative post

    xoxo, Best Bags For Women 2016

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  7. […] Vous pouvez voir les photos de ce défilé sur les site internet Vogue et Style Bubble. […]

  8. Raina says:

    Such an informative & inspiring post. 🙂
    I Lovebold Fashion Styles

  9. Seriously I am in love with the fabric that is used. It really looks so regal… We try our best to make similar stuff but cannot come close to making it.. 🙁

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