Every woman should have a wrap dress in her closet. This item is a mainstay in every fashion publication’s yearly trend list, which makes owning one mandatory at this point. In fact, Harper’s Bazaar includes wrap dresses in their ‘21 Classic Fashion Pieces That Go Way Beyond Trends’ list, further noting that wrap dresses are investment pieces that never lose their allure. Here, we’ll take a deep dive on the wardrobe staple that is the wrap dress.
What exactly is a wrap dress?
Wrap dresses are cut in a way that the front closure is constructed to wrap around you. On the waistline, there’s a belt that’s knotted to secure the two fronts in place. With this belt-in-the-waistline mechanism, a plunging V-shaped neckline is produced, slightly exposing your chest and décolletage area. Meanwhile, the bottom half of the dress creates a front slit — one that’s sufficiently sexy without being too dramatic.
How did wrap dresses become so popular?
Before we talk about the modern wrap dress, it’s important to give credit to the designers who pioneered similar pieces. In the 1930s, designer Charles James was disrupting the then conservative values in clothing. James’ obsession with sensuality was further actualised when he made the first iteration of the wrap dress, which he called the ‘taxi dress’. The ‘taxi dress’ had a clinging sheath that spiralled around the body, making it possible to slip and slide out of it in the back of a cab.
But other than helping women embrace their figures, another early variation of the wrap dress had utilitarianism in mind. In the 1940s, Clare McCardell crafted the ‘popover dress’. Pulling inspiration from functional sportswear, the ‘popover dress’ was McCardell’s answer for busy housewives at the time: It was usually fitted with a huge side pocket and buttons to hang tools and items with. What’s more, author Sally Kirkland reports that the dress was sold for a low price of $6.95, a factor that drove the sales of the dress at the time.
Fast forward to the 1970s, when Diane Von Furstenburg arrived in the United States with her Belgian charm and a suitcase filled with bold jersey dresses. While she didn’t think much of her wrap dresses at the time, little did she know that the modern wrap dress will always be tied to her name. Unlike previous wrap dress versions, hers didn’t have any clips or buttons, and instead used a cloth belt to close the dress at the waist. Her wrap dress was an instant sensation — selling over a million pieces by the end of the 1970s. Von Furstenburg credits it to the perceived traditionalism of her wrap dress, comparing it to a toga or kimono. Women couldn’t believe that such a simple design could make them feel practical and sexy at the same time.
Why wear wrap dresses?
If you’re not sold yet on the wrap dress hype, we’re here to tell you that it’s never too late! The modern iteration of the wrap dress appears in every fabric and colour imaginable — making the style universally flattering for every size, shape, and skin tone. What’s more, style writer Chrizelle Diaz writes on Pretty Me that wrap dresses define your waist and showcase your body’s curves. The style is able to elongate your neck, enhance your middle, and showcase your legs — so what more can you ask for?
You can try a midi wrap dress for a more formal occasion, or a mini wrap dress with florals for a nice day out in the sun. And if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can wear a wrap dress over a Kim Kardashian-inspired look complete with bike shorts and a tube top. The great thing about wrap dresses is that you can gauge how tight or loose you want to wear it, so if you want to wear something under it, you can do so with ease. This makes this wardrobe staple easy to adapt to your own style. Whether it’s sexy, modest, or a little ditzy, we’re sure that you’ll easily find a wrap dress that screams ‘you’.