Lauren Hutton collects Fortuny gowns, so when the Costume Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art saluted the late Italian fashion designer, the model-turned-actress made a surprise appearance on the runway. Clowning on stage amid other models who approached the presentation all too seriously, Hutton brought life to gowns that were designed as early as 1906.
A standing-room-only crowd in the Bing Theater viewed a slide presentation of Mariano Fortuny's designs--the first 20th-Century dresses to be classified as works of art, said Edward Maeder, curator of costumes and textiles. In addition, there was a show of contemporary re-creations of Fortuny's work.
Known for Pleating
Known for his unique heat-set, hand-pleating technique that creates tiny, accordian-like folds in silk fabric, Fortuny's gowns have not been sold since 1952, when a plain white version retailed for $125. Today, the Venetian Studio of Venice, Italy, pleats fabric and makes dresses to the late Fortuny's specifications, but the prices reflect a 36-year inflation factor. The new gowns sell for $1,300 to $3,200.
The pleated dresses look virtually shapeless until they are worn, when the fabric expands to conform to the shape of the body. Rather than being hung in a closet, Fortuny gowns are designed to be stored twisted and loosely knotted in small hat boxes. While on stage, Hutton turned the twisting and knotting of one of her favorite gowns into a minor modern dance.