The highs (and lows) of wearing a wrap dress

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They’ve been declared the dress of the season, but are wrap dresses really a good idea? Stacey Duguid mulls it over 

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By Stacey Duguid on

Last month, when three Vogue editors Instagrammed themselves at the office, wearing the same green and white graphic-print wrap dress by Danish brand Ganni, I took a screenshot and emailed it to a friend. "Look, the Vogue girls are wearing the bloody wrap dress – it’s back!" 

"It’s back?" some of you may ask incredulous as, I’m sure, for many of you, it never went away. It’s always been there, like jeans, T-shirts and biker jackets – it’s not a trend thing; it’s just a clothes thing. Millennials may not know (or care) who “invented” it, unless they ask Google, in which case up would pop: “In 1974, a 26-year-old Diane von Furstenberg created the iconic wrap dress. It's a dress made of often colourful and elaborately patterned jersey material that wraps around the body, crosses at the chest and cinches at the waist.” 

Over the past 43 years, the wrap dress has had moments of being very “in” and very “out”. I remember its last “in” moment vividly. It was 2004 and the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress was all anyone at my magazine office wore. I remember trying one on, wrapping the surprisingly heavy fabric across my body, looking in the mirror and feeling a bit "sexy" (crikey). It was the most expensive thing in my wardrobe, but I justified the price by wearing it to work with either knee-high boots or high heels come rain, snow or shine. The beauty of the wrap dress is it can be worn over polo necks and tights in winter, or on its own with bare legs in summer.

Originally designed for women to wear to work as a sort of feminine office uniform that "enhanced curves" (so 70s), Diane sold so many back in 1974 that wrap-dress sales kept her business afloat. Why? And why do they continue to sell today? My theory is colourful jazzy prints are good for hiding lumps, bumps and everything else. Sounds like the perfect dress? Well, sort of, but not really – like all things, there are pros and cons. I think it would be easier if I made a list:

Wrap dress – the cons

  1. The fabric and the cut makes the wrap dress surprisingly body-skimming. Regardless of whether you’re a size six or 22, you have to be mentally OK with not hiding away in the background. For me, this mindset can change daily. There are days when my confidence is low and I want to disappear – the jazzy-print wrap dress is not for those moments.
  2. I apologise for the word I am about to use – it’s only so you get the picture. The wrap dress can look "mumsy", especially worn with ballet flats, court shoes and nude tights. Try flatforms, sandals or knee-high boots instead.
  3. If, like me, you’ve never been into showing off your cleavage, this can be a challenge, but it depends on the cut of the neckline.
  4. Finally: leg flash. Oh, good God, I remember walking down the street and a gust of wind blowing my wrap dress apart. Needless to say, everyone on Oxford Street saw my big pants.

Wrap dress – the pros

  1. A heady combo of a belt, all-over print and bright colours, and the wrap design will distract from body parts you’re not so keen on. 
  2. It’s a very simple design, therefore making it perfect for work. As in, as comfy as slippers. Seriously.
  3. The wrap dress can be easily folded, making it the perfect holiday dress. 

Oh, God, that’s four quite long cons versus three short pros. Should you buy one? Not necessarily, but you should definitely try one, if you haven’t already done so. Is it a wrap for the wrap dress and me? I honestly don’t know. The jury’s still out but, just looking at the below, the case is definitely not closed.  

Click here for the wrap dress edit


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Photo: Getty Images
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