Barbra Streisand wore this vintage Fortuny Delphos dress in “Funny Girl’ (1965.) Irene Sharaff, who was the costume designer on the film found this dress for Barbra, and it remains one of her favorites. She loved it so much that she had Irene make a copy of it in pink for her Happening in Central Park concert in 1967.
Regarding the dress, Barbra says “I thought the Fortuny dress was gorgeous. Utterly simple-held together by a thin silk cord at the shoulders and very complex with that infinitesimal pleating. No one has ever figured out how he did those tiny pleats. It’s like Tiffany glass in a way. You can’t quite duplicate it, although many people have tried.”
Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) was born into a renowned family of artists in Grenada, Spain. At 18 he moved to Venice where he established his career. He began working in many areas of the arts including theatrical lighting where he invented cutting edge techniques like the cyclorama dome. He opened his couture house in 1906, and the first Delphos gown was created in 1907 as a collabortation between Fortuny and his wife & muse Henriette Negrin. The “Delphos” (names after the Greek statue Charioteer Of Delphi) was a direct reference to the chiton of ancient Greece, and meant to be worn without undergarments. It was originally intended as informal clothing to be worn solely around the home. These finely pleated silk dresses eventually became evening wear, and Fortuny’s most famous design. His method of pleating was a closely guarded secret involving heat, pressure and ceramic rods. The Delphos dresses all featured glass Murano beads strung on silk cord along each side seam. These beads are decorative but also serve the purpose of weighing down the silk for a smooth fit. These dresses began to be distributed in the USA in 1928 & were made until Fortuny’s death in 1949. Today, his gowns are extremely valued and collectable, selling for upwards of $10,000.