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
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future