Woman's Dress, 1936

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Mrs. Bertrand Cohn purchased this "Delphos" dress in Paris in 1936. When she returned to New York, she wore it to the Metropolitan Opera with silver shoes and a diamond necklace. She later donated the dress to the Smithsonian.
The designer, Mariano Fortuny, was born in Granada, Spain, in 1871 to a family of artists. After his father’s death in 1874, the Fortunys lived in Paris and Spain and eventually settled in Venice, Italy. 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, 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. Named after a Greek classical sculpture, the Delphos dress was a simple column of vertical pleats permanently set in silk by a process never successfully duplicated. Fortuny considered his dress concepts to be inventions, and in 1909 he patented the pleating process and the machine he invented and copy-righted the design of the dress. These dresses were meant to be stored by rolling them lengthwise, twisting them into a ball and placing them 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.
Avant-garde American dancers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis wore Fortunys because of their interest in the body and movement. Originally made to be worn as teas gowns for entertaining at home, the gowns were seen outside the home by the 1930s.
This two-piece tubular cut tea gown is constructed of a finely pleated rose-colored silk. It is full length with openings at the side seams to form armholes. The wide scoop neckline has a drawstring encased along the inside edge, and there are two rows of stitching on either side of the shoulder seams. Silk cording evenly threaded with yellow glass beads with black and red stripes is stitched along the side seams and the armhole edges. The separate belt is made of rose-colored silk painted with a silver metallic pattern of trailing oak leaves and dots.
Currently not on view
Date made
Mrs. Bertrand W. Cohn
Fortuny, Mariano
used in
United States: New York, New York
made in
Italia: Toscana, Florence
Physical Description
silk (overall material)
glass (beads material)
center back: 58 in; 147.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Mrs. Bertrand W. Cohn
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Costume
Cultures & Communities
Artifact Walls exhibit
Clothing & Accessories
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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