Wrap Dress

AKA: wraparound dress, wrap-front dress

How to say it: rap dres

Traditional Features: Wrap dress

  • formed by wrapping one side of the dress across the other and fastening at the waist
  • usually v-neck
  • can wrap at the front or back, but the front is more common
  • closure is usually achieved by knotting the attached ties but it can also be done with buttons, zips etc.
  • usually made from a jersey or stretch fabric and hugs the hips

21st Century Wrap Dresses

The wrap dress pretty much instantly became a classic and is available in absolute abundance in the modern marketplace. From the iconic Diane von Furstenberg original, in various lengths and colours, to the more modern style by designers and brands who have taken the design and made it their own.

DVF Haute Hippie

Diane von Furstenberg, Haute Hippie

Marc Jacobs See by Chloe

Marc Jacobs, see by chloé

Origins…

…of the style: The iconic wrap dress will forever be linked to designer Diane von Furstenberg, who is widely attributed with introducing the design in 1974. However, while von Furstenberg definitely popularised the style and made it a fashion classic for women everywhere, she did not, in fact, invent the wrap dress.

Wrapping clothing around the body is an ancient form of dressing and a style that predates sewing, so it has obviously been around for a long, long time. In the more recent fashion history, Elsa Schiaparelli released a wrap dress in the 1930s as did Claire McCardell in the 1940s, and Betsey Johnson and Yves Saint Laurent in the 60s, so Diane von Frustenberg was certainly not the creator of the wrap dress style. However, it is von Furstenberg’s dresses, in slinky, body-hugging jersey, that have become ubiquitous with the style.

Perhaps it is the fact that the von Furstenberg dress speaks of the era in which it was released, when women’s lives were changing for the better – the birth control pill had been released and the Equal Rights amendment had been passed, and women sought a feeling of freedom in their lives and their clothing. They could all wear the pants if they wanted, but sometimes a woman needs to feel feminine and pretty and that is what the wrap dress provided. It was sexy, assertive, feminine and revealing without being too revealing, and could be worn to a classy lunch meeting or to drinks at Studio 54.

Other designers released wrap dresses during this time – Oscar de la Renta, Anne Klein and Halston just to name a few, and while these designs were heralded at the time, the names of their designers have not been inexplicably linked to the design like Diane von Furstenberg has.

The wrap dresses popularity waned at the end of the 1970s as power suits of the 80s working woman took over, and Diane von Furstenberg stopped producing the style that had made her a household name. However, the style experienced a renaissance in the 1990s and the label began producing the iconic wrap dress once more.

In the 21st century the wrap dress continues to enjoy its status as a fashion classic. Almost every woman has a version of the universally flattering style (although they aren’t all necessarily Diane von Furstenberg dresses) and revels in the sultry sexiness and female strength that the style still emanates.

…of the name: The dress wraps around the body, hence the name.

Random Facts

  • Diane von Furstenberg arrived in New York in 1970 to start her fashion career with 12 jersey dresses in a suitcase.
  • von Furstenberg has stated that the wrap dress what inspired by her divorce.
  • she also said, in regards to the wrap dress – “They’re comfortable, so you’re comfortable, you act comfortable, and you get laid.”

For more info on Wrap Dresses try Voguepedia, Wikipedia, WMagazine or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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