Started in the 70’s, recreated in the 90’s, and still popular today, the wrap dress is a huge part of Diane von Furstenberg’s (DVF) iconic brand.
How often can you find the same dress in your closet as well as your mother’s? Wrapping one side across the other and fastening in the back at the waist, the wrap dress forms a sexy V-shaped neckline while hugging a woman’s figure. While living in Paris, von Furstenberg married Prince Egon of Furstenberg. She decided to work in Italy as an apprentice—learning fabric, cut, and color from Angelo Ferretti, a textile manufacturer, where she designed and produced her first jersey dresses. In the 1970’s, a young and divorced Diane von Furstenberg, determined to be “someone who could decide her own destiny,” arrived in New York with a dozen knitted jersey dresses to introduce to the fashion world her signature “wrap dress.”
“Usually, the fairy tale ends with the girl marrying the prince,” von Furstenberg recently told W Magazine. “But mine started as soon as the marriage was over.” Quickly, her dresses were noticed by the famed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland who declared, “I think your clothes are absolutely smashing.” This was the beginning of a wonderful journey for von Furstenberg and her wrap dress, a symbol of the newly liberated women excelling in business without losing her femininity.
“Simplicity and sexiness, that’s what people want. At a price that’s not outrageous,” the designer told Vogue in 1976, the year she landed on the cover of Newsweek wearing a slinky, printed wrap dress. Her rise to fame was undeniable, making her “the most marketable female in fashion since Coco Chanel” and possibly the most beautiful. In 1983, at the height of her fashion career, she sold her company and moved to Europe, where she started a French publishing house called Salvy.
Upon returning to the states in the 1990’s, von Furstenberg noticed a new generation of young, stylish women buying the 1970’s wrap dresses from secondhand shops or finding them in the back of their mothers’ closets, and decided to relaunch the DVF brand with the iconic wrap dress. With great demand from career-minded women, von Furstenberg opened more than 50 DVF boutiques from New York to Paris to Singapore, truly a global brand today. Celebrities like Amy Adams looked amazing in the sexy wrap dress in the Academy Award nominated film, American Hustle. And how about Princess Kate Middleton photographed wearing a blue and white printed wrap dress in Australia earlier this spring? That sold out within minutes at DVF.com. How popular is the dress? Simply google “celebrity wrap dress”… the dress seems more popular than the A-list celebrities wearing it.
At LACMA, the celebration began with the exhibition “Journey of a Dress” in Los Angeles. “The 40th Anniversary of the wrap dress is in 2014,” von Furstenberg said, explaining why she commissioned Dustin Yellin and other artists to address the legacy of her signature creation. “It’s never happened to a dress before—for the same style to have survived so many generations and still appeal to young people. So we wanted to celebrate that.”
In the exhibition, Diane’s mantra of “Be the woman you want to be” is echoed off the walls with “an army, like the Terra Cotta in China” of mannequins dressed in the wrap dresses from the 70’s to today. Immortalized in the Yellin sculpture, the original print dress, with a black and white chain linked pattern, was reissued in recent years and worn by Michelle Obama for the White House Christmas card. In another room, the work of Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and Zhang Huan was displayed featuring von Furstenberg’s portraits, as well as vintage photographs of the wrap dress over the past 40 years.
Happy birthday to the wrap dress… still looking great after all these years!
See more exclusive photos of these gorgeous dresses in our Aug/Sept 2014 issue!
“The Wrap is Back” was originally published in Cliché Magazine’s Aug/Sept 2014 issue
Photography: Terry Check @ www.terrycheck.com, Modeling: Kirsten Nappi of Click Models, Amanda Eden of SBT Models, Fashion Stylist: Desiree Griffin, Makeup and Hair: Christine Amelie Saint Louis, Retouch: Alyssa June