Who would have thought that I would spend 25 June researching the history of the Wrap Dress. Well I have (because everything is a form of wrapping to me) and what a treat!
Many people attribute the invention of the Wrap Dress to Diane Von Furstenberg, whose signature dress first appeared in 1974 as a wrap top and skirt, before morphing into a simple and sexy dress. Fashion historians have noted the existence of the Wrap Dress before Von Furstenberg. I guess nothing is new under the sun – it’s the way things are re conceived and reinterpreted that bring us new art, design and technology.
According to Start Up Fashion the wrap dress’ true origin began about back to the 1930’s. when designer Charles James was producing garments that, at the time, were verging on obscene. He created what many believe is the very first iteration of the wrap dress- a clinging sheath that “spiraled” around the body, clasping at the hip or zipping across the torso. I can’t go on without mentioning that a few years ago, my sister and I went to a Charles James exhibition at the Met in NYC and it was stunning. Not only that but Tim Gunn from Project Runway was there wandering around taking it all in and my sister had to be restrained.
Elsa Schiaparelli also designed several wraps during the 1930’s and by the 40’s, a version by Clare McCardell called “the popover dress” gained popularity. But it was Von Furstenberg who perfected the silhouette. Everyone from J Crew to Alexander McQueen has one now. Remember the Issa dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to announce her engagement?
My thoughts first turned in earnest to the Wrap Dress a couple of weeks ago, when I bumped into a business colleague called Christine Moody (pictured above) fresh back from NYC. Actually I saw her at a distance first and was admiring her dress and only then did I noticed it was her. After complimenting her on her dress (while seriously coveting it) she told me she had started a business called The Wrap Dress.
Given Christine is a Brand Expert, Designer Advocate, Experienced Entrepreneur but not, to my knowledge, a seamstress nor tailor, I knew there would be a story to this dress and soon enough she shared the secret sauce. It’s her fabric – she uses high-tech fabrics woven in Italy. The same fabrics used by leading swimwear and leisurewear manufacturers. This means the garment falls beautifully, provides sun protection and you simply bung it in the washing machine when it needs a wash. As she says “Kind of like wearing active wear to work so you can dance through the day”. Genius!
She said he concept grew from a corporate sewing group she started a few years ago—affectionately known as ‘Stitch ’n’ Bitch’! The Wrap Dress style was chosen as the first garment for its simplicity and versatility and as something that would suit the busy, outgoing women in her group.
“I chose a stretch fabric that I later discovered was typically used in swimwear. As it turned out, it perfectly suited the everyday/everywhere/everybody style of garment. I was wrapped in a great idea. Then a friend wanted one. Then another. Then friends of friends. Then people I’d never met. I’ve kept refining the design and make over the years”.
Given I am fascinated by anything that you can wrap (including the human form), I asked Christine how she wraps her wrap dress prior to its dispatch to customers. She said she had a practised/tried and true way of folding the dress prior to wrapping it. There’s a video of her folding her facebook page – a useful resource for any wrap dress you might have because they can be slippery little devils and you don’t want them to crush in transit.
Now to the all important wrap of the wrap…Christine explained. “I use crisp white tissue paper to line the inside of the wrap before wrapping in three layers of outer tissue wrap. Tucked inside the parcel is “Helpful Information to keep your wrap happy ☺” which covers care instructions. A white ribbon is used to add the personal touch along with a handwritten, thank you note! I want to make sure the recipient feels like they are receiving something special and personal. All wraps are worn by me before they go into the online store. I have to be 100% happy. I wear wraps every single day!”. Amen. And by the way, I’ll be getting a navy one.