Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Costume Collection - Women's Dresses

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Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Dress, 2-Piece - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Dress, 2-Piece

Catalogue number: CS*322625.002

Date: 1936

Maker: Fortuny

Designer: Mariano Fortuny


Teagown; DRESS-rose-colored finely pleated silk; full length; wide scoop neckline with drawstring encased along inside edge; sleeveless; two rows of stitching on either side of shoulder seams; silk cording with multicolored glass beads threaded through cord and stitched along side seams and armhole edges. BELT-rose-colored silk with silver metallic stencil of trailing oak leaves and dots.


The donor, Mrs. Bertrand Cohn, purchased this "Delphos" dress in Paris. When she returned to New York, she wore it to the Metropolitan Opera and accessorized it with silver shoes and a diamond necklace.

The designer Mariano Fortuny was born in Granada, Spain, in 1871 to a family of artists. The Fortunys lived in Paris and Spain and eventually settled in Venice, Italy, after his father's death in 1874. Inspired by his surroundings and encouraged by his family, Mariano became a painter. Fortuny's artistic interest covered a range of creative endeavors, from sculpture, photography, and interior design to stage and set design and stage lighting. His interest in dyes and chemistry led him to textile and costume design, and areas for which he is best known today.

Influenced by Orientalism and neoclassicism, Fortuny created lush and decorative fabrics. Using a mixture of hand and screen printing to decorate the fabrics allowed him the freedom to experiment and design. His most famous design was the "Delphos," a classic pleated tea gown he began making around 1907 and continued until his death. He considered his dress concepts to be inventions, and in 1909 he patented the pleating process and machine he invented, and copyrighted the design of the dress. These dresses were meant to be stored by rolling them lengthwise, twisting them into a ball and placing it in an oval miniature hat box (we have the one that came with this dress), thus preserving the pleats and keeping the shape of the dress.

Credit: Gift of Mrs. Bertrand W. Cohn