That’s a wrap, DVF: Diane von Furstenberg’s dress and the icon it has become

When you see it on young girls, they look beautiful. It’s a great way to be proper and sexy

New York

This year, Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap-dress turns 40 – she celebrated it on Sunday night with a flashy, colourful, print-flecked autumn/winter 2014 catwalk show in New York, while there’s also an exhibition, “Journey of a Dress”, that opened in Los Angeles in January.

Yes, it’s quite odd to celebrate the anniversary of a specific dress, even in fashion. But DVF’s wrap – both Diane and her dress are almost-always abbreviated – is no ordinary garment. As the woman herself is quick to point out.

“You know fashion is a very mysterious thing because it is the reflection of your time,” DVF says. “Sometimes you think something is so important but it passes and you forget about it.

“Nobody ever thought that my dress would be important, even though I made $25,000 a week very quickly. Nobody paid me very much attention to it. People said ‘Well, she’s not really a designer.’ The truth is I made a dress that was immortal.”

However, the precise appeal of the wrap dress is that is it an ordinary garment – it’s accessible, a stretch-jersey slip that, as the name suggests, simply wraps around the body to tie at the waist.

DVF’s wrap dress is a  quintessentially American piece of sportswear. Which is what makes its ascendence to the status of pop culture icon quite so compelling.

The wrap first swathed von Furstenberg followers in 1974: today, it’s still dressing many of those original women, as well as their daughters and granddaughters.

“That’s a mystery,” says DVF. “That wrap dress thing is a complete mystery. It’s never happened to a dress before and it’s one of those things... I don’t know why but when you see it on young girls, they look so beautiful. It’s a wonderful way to be proper and sexy.”

In person, DVF is exactly what you want her to be. She’s feline, slightly haughty, perfectly preserved at 67.

She’s dressed in her own clothes, of course – why would she wear anything else? And she peppers her conversation with some eminently quotable bon mots.

“I wanted to be able to have a man’s life in a woman’s body,” she says of her start in the fashion business in the late Sixties, coinciding with her move to America.

She was married at that point to Prince Egon von Furstenberg, and the young, radiantly good-looking couple (DVF was so model-beautiful that she cannily fronted her own advertising campaigns) were fast fixtures on the social scene.

She’s stayed ever since: she’s now the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the governing body of New York’s rag trade. She said she’d do it for two years. It’s now been six, and counting.

DVF – the woman, not the label – is an American fashion institution. Just like her dress. In fact, she is the walking, talking embodiment of everything the wrap dress represents: America’s ascendance to become the cultural arbiter of the late 20th Century; the emancipation of women from the home and their move into the workplace; and the sexual revolution as epitomised by the louche disco decadence of Studio 54.

“I used to say always that you can get in and out making no noise,” smoulders DVF today, purring like Eartha Kitt. DVF – woman, and label – does sex very well.

There’s also a touch of fashion history to the dress, however, encompassing the decline of the rarefied world of haute couture and the rise of ready-to-wear. Basically, the wrap has ended up serving as a talisman of an entire period, the 1970s. It’s heavyweight stuff for a slinky bit of jersey.

DVF has built a tidy business around exactly those values. Her latest collection, punnily titled “Bohemian Wrapsody”, referenced “glamorous vagabonds” and Diaghliev’s Ballets Russes.

Really, it was pure Diane von Furstenberg: easy, poppy Seventies stuff, a mash-up of Art Nouveau and Art Deco prints, billowing chiffons, psychedelic embroideries and a finale of glitzy, glittery gold wrap-dresses.

The band St Vincent played throughout the show. At the end, DVF careened down the catwalk and danced with the models under a cascade of glitter.

The woman was the life and soul of Studio 54. Hence, she knows how to throw a party. And that’s sort of what the wrap dress is all about: the promise of a good time.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?