The brief history of the wrap dress

We’re stepping back in time to when Diane von Furstenberg launched her iconic jersey dress design, a silhouette that has persisted over the years since the stylish 1970s!

It’s hard to deny the wrap dress’ iconic status — for 40 years, it’s been one of the hardest working garments in any hard-working woman’s wardrobe. Reinvented by Diane von Furstenberg in 1974, the wrap dress is flattering, versatile, and easy to wear, pack and style. Of course wrap dresses already existed but DVF’s wrap was different because it was made from jersey.

Stylish separates

Did you know that in the beginning, the wrap dress wasn’t a dress at all? In her autobiography, Diane recounts that she originally designed a chic little wrap top like a ballerina would wear and a matching skirt, which sold out immediately. When she came to create the combined dress it was a little harder than she thought. She wanted a small waist, large ties, a bias-cut skirt, strong cuffs and a collar plus a sexy but not too revealing neckline. The first designs were available in animal print: snakeskin and leopard and were an absolute smash. By the end of 1975 production had reached 15,000 dresses per week.

Born Diane Halfin, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she was raised in Belgium, and married a European prince (hence the von Furstenberg) before moving to New York and creating her fashion house. Her brand – DvF – is now available in more than 55 countries all over the world. As director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, she is an active philanthropist and supporter of emerging female leaders and social entrepreneurs. In 2015, she was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People. Diane has also filmed two series of her reality TV show – House Of DVF – centred on finding a global brand ambassador for her company. She actually arrived in America in the 1970s with a suitcase full of jersey dress samples and little knowledge of how a fashion empire could be created.

From 1976 to 2013

When Cybill Shepherd wore a geometric print DVF wrap dress with red ties in Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver in 1975, few realised this was actually a dress she had brought in from home.

In the 2013 film American Hustle Amy Adams wears three Diane von Furstenberg dresses – two vintage and one contemporary. This included the green and white design that Diane herself was photographed in for the cover of Newsweek in 1976.

Following a resurgence of interest in her designs during the 90s, Diane relaunched her business and created updated blocks for her classic silhouettes.

DVF for Vogue Patterns

Vogue Patterns introduced Diane von Furstenberg patterns in the autumn of 1976. The designer wore one of her signature wrap dress on the accompanying magazine cover, and there was even a special sew-in label available with the patterns. Plus a clever tie-in with Cohama fabrics meant home sewists could get hold of authentic DVF printed jersey. The 1970s patterns were all in the Very Easy Vogue line, available in single sizes and most were for stretchable knits.

The long-sleeved Vogue 1548 can be worn in two ways, forward or backward. Look closely and you’ll see the young Rene Russo is the envelope model. We love the version www.fiftydresses.com has made using the bird print Cohama jersey. She remarks “DvF-designed Cohama knit fabric is a lovely cotton/rayon blend, very soft and surprisingly easy to sew!”

Karen Bjornson, better known as the model muse for the House of Halston, appeared as the envelope model for Vogue 1549. This wrap dress featured buttoned cuffs and an optional collar plus the design also works for woven fabric! We recommend taking a look at www.thanksimadethem.blogspot.co.uk for a vibrant version of this dress.

Vogue 1853 has full, cuffed sleeves in a choice of long or elbow length sleeves. There are inseam pockets and two hem lengths. Uptown Girl Christie Brinkley is seen here modelling the long-sleeved version but visit www.clevertinker.com to see a more recent monochromatic version with streamlined sleeves.

Neat neckline and armhole bands feature on Vogue 1610 that give options for working with contrast colours. Choose between a knee-length or floor-sweeping maxi skirt. Blogger www.lladybird.com has made both a psychedelic silk jersey and eye-catching red cotton jersey version of this pattern.

Vogue 1550 proved it wasn’t all about wrap dresses; this design included a flared sweetheart neckline dress and a belted over-jacket.

Oozing Diane’s confidence and style, the patterns were a hit with home sewists. Even the envelope flaps bore her inspiring mantra “Feel like a woman… wear a dress!”

But don’t expect a pattern reissue for one of these iconic designs – the DvF licence has long since ceased, having been originally negotiated over 40 years ago. Instead you will need to scour the internet for online sales of these limited edition patterns or choose yourself a modern incarnation of this classic silhouette. Visit uk.pinterest.com/mccallpatternco/wrap-dress-patterns for endless inspiration.

Share your story

As Diane tells it, “I was 26 when I created the wrap dress. Its success allowed me to become the woman I wanted to be. Women often tell me why the wrap dress has also been important to them. Now, DVF is collecting stories and photos from women all over the world.” So what are you waiting for? Share your personal story at www.dvf.com/wrapstory and become a part of the journey of the dress that started it all!

 

THAT’S A WRAP

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Categories: Great British Sewing Bee Series 5, Interviews Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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