Fortuny Revived With Lady Mary’s Downton Abbey Movie Gown

Anna Mary Scott Robbins began work as the costume designer for Downton Abbey during season five, and continued through the shows finale in season six, both of which earned her Emmy nominations. She picked up where she left off three years later when the Downton Abbey film was green-lit for production. “It was just like coming home” Robbins said. “I know the characters inside and out. It’s in my bones now, so that process is quite easy.” 

One of the most outstanding looks in the film was Lady Mary’s blue Delphos gown, which was so perfectly done it could be easily confused for a vintage Fortuny. Regarding the look, Robbins told The New York Times “I wanted to dress Lady Mary in a Fortuny Delphos gown. Mariano Fortuny didn’t design dresses with a V-neck, but I wanted to do something that felt contemporary and relevant so I reimagined the shape of that original dress and played around with various necklines and settled on this one, which is more dynamic, edgier and a bit cooler for Lady Mary. So that’s how I modernized something that was very much of its time.”

The Prussian blue gown looked especially authentic because it was produced in collaboration with the textile house of Fortuny, who have unlocked their founders famous secret pleating technique. It was completely hand sewn and features Fortuny’s famous glass Murano beads strung on silk cords down each side seam. These beads are decorative, but also serve the purpose of weighing down the silk for a smooth fit. 

Anna Mary Scott Robbins sketches

The first Delphos gown was created in 1907 as a collaboration between Fortuny and his wife & muse-Henriette Negrin. The “Delphos” (named 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. These dresses began to be distributed in the USA in 1928 & were made until Fortuny’s death in 1949.