The iconic wrap dress marks 40 years of classic style

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

In a fashion world full of changing trends, the wrap dress hasn't unraveled.

This one-piece statement dress, created by one of the world's most successful fashion designers, Diane von Furstenberg, is timeless. As it celebrates its 40th birthday in 2014, the iconic wrap dress still looks as fresh and modern as ever.

“The wrap dress has survived 40 years because it is the most classically inspired garment in today's world,” says David Zyla, Emmy Award-winning stylist and author of “Color Your Style: How To Wear Your True Colors.” “There is something powerful and sensual about it. Knowing that something can wrap, we also know it can unwrap. It also has a wonderful knack for accentuating a woman's body, because it moves with a woman's body.”

In 1970, von Furstenberg arrived in New York with a suitcase full of jersey dresses that she made at her friend Angelo Ferretti's factory in Italy. Encouraged by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, von Furstenberg began to make her everlasting print on the fashion world.

In 1974, she created the wrap dress, which launched a liberating style for women around the globe. By 1976, she had sold more than a million of her signature dresses.

“I was 26 when I created the wrap dress,” von Furstenberg says in a news release. “I had no idea it would become such a phenomenon.”

The beauty of the wrap dress is that you can customize it to fit your figure, says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director. Fit is one reason a lot of women avoid buying dresses, but the wrap dress will look good even if you go up or down in size — the dress will go with you, Andrews says. It's a style that fits well across the bust and on the waist and hips.

A woman can add a little bit of her own personality to the dress by wearing favorite footwear or accessorizing with key pieces, Zyla says. “It fits so well that it becomes about the woman and not the dress,” he says.

The wrap dress also is feminine, but not girly, Andrews says. It's very sophisticated. The V-neck is flattering on most women, and the fabric usually has a little bit of draping and stretch. “The wrap dress is timeless, which is why it has not gone out of style in 40 years, and it most likely won't go out of style in the next 40 years,” Andrews says.

It is a dress women can wear year-round, because it is usually made from a medium-weight fabric. It's easy to layer with a blazer or jacket for cooler weather. The wrap dress also can go from weekend to the office to an evening out, because you can dress it up or down, Andrews says.

A good look for spring is a wrap dress in a small- to medium-size geometric pattern, which gives the dress texture, he says. Designers who have been inspired by the wrap dress have created versions of it, but the one to own is a true Diane von Furstenberg, Andrews says.

“It will be worth the investment because of its versatility,” he says. “It's like a (Emilio) Pucci print or a Burberry trench coat. It's the real thing.”

Von Furstenberg's message has always been, “Feel like a woman. Wear a dress!” And there is nothing more feminine and graceful than a wrap dress, says Suzanne Mauro, a stylist from the East End who is producer of “Style Everyday with Suz,” on PCTV Pittsburgh. The wrap dress hugs, skims, conceals and reveals your curves, all so effortlessly, Mauro says. “(It's) an easy throw-on for those days when you're looking to add a bit of spring to your step.”

The wrap dress provides an incredible silhouette, says Dana Avidan-Cohn, senior market editor and digital correspondent for InStyle magazine.

“It's the perfect power dress that every woman can wear, because it is easy to wear and looks great on a lot of different body types,” Avidan-Cohn says. “Cinching the waist helps this dress show a woman's curves. Cinch right below the rib cage, which usually is the narrowest part of a woman's body. It's the perfect chameleon closet piece that always looks good.”

Silhouettes change, but the wrap dress is like the perfect pencil skirt — it's always going to look good, Avidan-Cohn says.

“It's also a silhouette that your mother wore or your sister wore, and there is some emotional attachment to it, because there is a story behind it,” she says.

Carmella Heverin, design director of eShakti, an online women's apparel company, says women search for the perfect dress that allows them to feel confident as well as accentuate all of their best features, and the wrap dress accomplishes that. “The wrap dress has sex appeal on its own, so when it comes to accessorizing, less is more,” she says.

A simple, long-stranded necklace draws just the right amount of attention to your neck without drawing attention away from the dress, Heverin says. Additionally, pair this classic style with a classic pump. Avoid chunky heels, as a thinner heel will elongate your legs and dress up the look, she says.

“I think what makes the wrap dress so popular is that it's a classic and flattering cut with endless options to modernize through color and pattern,” says Nancy LeWinter, editorial director of, a women's fashion website. “Whether it's a figure-flattering, orange, patterned dress perfect for spring, or a classic black-and-white pattern that can transition from work wear to weekend, there is something for every size, shape and style.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7889 or

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