Dear Dixie, I want to look professional at work, but I also want to look smoking! Plus, I often need to go directly from work to a professional event or cocktails with co-workers (including some rather cute ones)! Sometimes I go directly from work to a date. What’s a good solution?
First of all, be careful about dating co-workers. Or anything-ing with co-workers. And now that we got that out of the way…
If you want to dress for success – or any kind of success (nudge nudge wink wink), I suggest the wrap dress as an easy go-to all-star that can be a true MVP in your wardrobe. And that MVP is largely thanks to DVF, Diane Von Furstenberg, the ultimate Boss Girl!
Let me interrupt this column for a little Boss Girl herstory…
Why hasn’t Diane Von Furstenberg won a Nobel Prize?
If ever there was someone who has made significant contribution to womankind it is she. Her wrap dress has withstood the test of time, and the test of unpacking. The impact of this ingenious invention cannot be underestimated. Forget diamonds being a girl’s best friend; a jersey wrap dress is a BFF that always has your back. (Don’t get me wrong, diamonds are nice too. And if my husband is reading this I should mention they just happen to be my birthstone. I’m just saying.)
Waist-whittling, hip slimming, bust-showcasing, the wrap was an immediate hit when Miz Diane introduced it in 1972. As an instrument of glamour technology the wrap dress actually existed back in the 1940’s. But DVF innovated and updated what had once been primarily used as a housedress. She made her wraps out of silk jersey and soft acrylics, in what appears now to be a limitless palette of prints and colors. The wrap dresses were simple and elegant. “It’s more than just a dress; it’s a spirit,” said Von Furstenberg. “The wrap dress was an interesting cultural phenomenon, and one that has lasted 30 years. What is so special about it is that it’s actually a very traditional form of clothing. Its like a toga, it’s like a kimono, without buttons, without a zipper. What made my wrap dresses different is that they were made out of jersey and they sculpted the body.”
The wraps were soft and versatile and flexible, just like the women they festooned and empowered. Easy to pack, easy to put on, easy to take off, and the dress’ wrap technology meant that one could still wear if one (inevitably) put on, or took off, some pounds. Their easy elegance and fashionable functionalism made them the go-to uniform for the newly liberated sophisticate: running about town, dating about town, spending all working her ass off, and then spending all night dancing it off at Studio 54.
Diane and her iconic dress made the cover of NEWSWEEK on March 22, 1976, cementing the dress’s place in fashionista herstory. “The wrap dress made women feel what they wanted to feel like… free and sexy,” said Von Furstenberg. “It also fitted in with the sexual revolution: a woman who chose to could be out of it in less than a minute!”
The wrap dress fell out of favor during the dark days of the “dress for success” craze and the power-suit-mad ‘80s. But in the late 90’s Diane burst again upon the scene, and the wrap ascended to its rightful place on the fashion throne.
Curve-accentuating but classy, the DVF wrap makes young women look chic and sophisticated on the job and at a job interview, but can also be a sexy and elegant choice to wear on a date. You just need to make sure your cleavage is kept in check, which you can do by wearing a camisole or bodysuit underneath. (Or you can do what I do and add some snaps to the neckline.) With the right underwear, the dress can take a woman to work, dinner, a date, a business conference, a wedding, a cocktail party, a cabinet meeting, the witness stand (or even the defendant’s table).
In addition to it being flattering, easy to care for (no ironing!), and appropriate for nearly every occasion (except maybe combat or lumberjacker-y), the dress is so versatile it can be accessorized every which way from Sunday. Here are some tips to help you get your wrapture right:
Fit Comes First.
Flatter what you got, flaunt what you want, and hide what’s nobody’s business. As the ancient Greeks said, “Know thyself,” and by “thyself” I mean your boobs, your butt, your legs and your torso. There are different styles of wrap dress so choose one that work best for your individual frame. DVF dresses typically run smaller than the size you might usually wear. Make sure there is no gaping, pulling or way too much boobage.
Speaking of Boobage….
The DVF wrap is notorious for its lack of chest coverage. No worries — many women wear their dresses with a tank or camisole underneath to keep from letting it (well, them) all hang out.
Underneath It All, It’s All About the Underwear.
There’s not much the right underwear can’t fix. (OK, world peace, climate change, maybe.) While we’re handing out Nobel Prizes we really should include the good Samaritans who invented shapewear to eliminate (well, hide) those unsightly lumps and bumps. Brands like Spanx and YummieTummie make us all look smooth and svelte under our clothes – including soft, clingy DVF wrap dresses.
Are Prints Charming?
YES! There is such a variety of wrap dress prints out there it can be overwhelming. From zebra and leopard to florals and geometrics, there are patterns for every taste. Pick colors and patterns that speak to you. (And yes, a few prints are just plain fugly. Don’t wear those.)
Dress Them Up, Dress Them Down.
The wrap dress isn’t only versatile in that you can wear it anywhere. It’s also versatile because you can wear it with any thing. You can wear it over tanks, turtlenecks, camisoles or even a funky T-shirt. You can wear it over opaque tights in the winter and bare-legged in summer. Wraps look great with heels, and they also look good with flats, boots, sandals, even flip-flops.
Choose accessories based on whether your aim is to dress up the wrap, or dress it down. Wraps are easily dressed-up with jewelry and a luxury bag, or dressed-down with black leggings, casual shoes, heck – I’ve even worn my DVFs to great effect over dark rinse jeans. (What won’t I do to avoid shaving my legs?) You can jazz up a wrap with loads of necklaces and bangles, or wear it simply and let its simple elegance do all the talking.
You Can Look Expensive Without Spending Too Much.
Many retailers sell wrap dresses now, and many of them are well-priced. (Amazon (see below!), Zara, H & M, Forever 21, lots of stores have really nice ones.) And if you have your heart set on old school DVF wrap dresses you can find them in stores and all over the Web. (I’ve found great ones while thrifting at Goodwill and at outlet stores.) eBay is also a great source for getting wraps, especially older designs, at good prices. In fact, eBay and vintage stores are great places to look for those original 70’s wraps. (Look for “Made in Italy” on the label.)
The upshot is, even Boss Girls have the occasional what-to-wear crisis, but with a wrap dress it’s hard to go wrong. The wrap dress is almost always the answer to any wardrobe quandary. What do I wear to a conference? What do I wear to a business cocktail party? What should I pack? What do I wear when meeting my ex and his new girlfriend?
I’m thinking of launching a write-in vote campaign for Ms. Von Furstenberg’s Nobel Prize – who’s with me?