Handmade and Fabulous: The Wrap Dress

I do think the Daily Mail got it wrong. In its November 1, 2010 issue it listed 8 glamorous greats – fashion classics that every grown-up should own: the Trench Coat, the Chanel Suit, the Perfect Trousers, the White Shirt, the Cashmere Cardigan, the Maxi, the Little Black Dress, and Boots that Suit. But where, oh where, was the Wrap Dress?

If there is one fashion classic that every sensible woman should have in her wardrobe, it is the wrap dress. Designed by the great Diane von Furstenberg and introduced in the early 70s, this piece of clothing has spawned a revolution and has become a cultural phenomenon. Everything about the wrap exudes femininity – the waist-cinching cut, the flattering décolletage, the glimpse of a shapely leg with a gust of wind. It also came (mostly) in jersey, a fluid wrinkle-proof fabric that drapes beautifully and moves with the body. And  the fact that a knot is the only thing keeping one decently wrapped in a wrap dress adds to the sexiness of it all. As the designer enthused in a March 2008 interview, “The wrap dress made women feel what they wanted to feel like… free and sexy… It also fitted in with the sexual revolution: a woman who chose to could be out of it in less than a minute!”

All Wrapped Up: The different faces of the wrap dress. Photo courtesy of http://www.kaboodle.com

Well, none of the wrap dresses I own make me feel that way. And I own quite a few of them – from the casual high street version to the vintage Nicole Farhi faux wrap that I uncovered in a second-hand dress shop. Either the ‘V’ of the bodice is too low, the skirt is the wrong shape or the dress feels like it’s going to unwrap all by itself. So when I saw some new colourful jersey knits in my local fabric store last week, I knew what my next project would be.

But first, a bit of research.

The Wrap has undergone reincarnations since its 70s heyday. DVF’s The Wrap Shop now carries it in different sleeve styles (sleeveless, cap sleeves, short sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, long sleeves, kimono style), various cuts ( A-line, straight cut, bias) and lengths (mini, knee-length, maxi). Colours and print choices are just as varied – floral, tribal, safari-inspired, abstract, solid, bright, dark. Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Catherine Malandrino – to name a few – have their own interpretations of the wrap floating around. It would seem that there is a wrap dress for everyone out there – that is, everyone who has hundreds of dollars to spend. Not me.

So off I went to my local fabric shop. There were 10 fabric designs to choose from, all pretty and reasonably priced. After much deliberation (which, at some point, saw me on all fours examining a bolt of fabric rolled out on the floor), I chose a black-and-grey leopard print and an orange-and-brown fabric with animal spots and chains. The second fabric sounds like a scary mess but it really isn’t that scary in reality. Mmmmaybe just a little but it had that retro look I was aiming for.

And so my journey to owning a piece of feminine revolution began. Even before I bought my fabric, I knew I wanted a bias-cut bottom half, to give the dress some fluid movement. Fortunately, the jersey knits in the shop are all 60″ width, perfect for dresses cut on the bias. For the top, I decided to use and modify the bodice block I drafted months ago.  With a few adjustments, several hours of sewing, and a sore thumb thanks to a pair of  ridiculously blunt scissors (my shears was in a bag 300 miles away) , my wrap dress was ready. And here it is, in all its animalistic glory.

It’s a Wrap: Jersey wrap dress in leopard print

I finally have a wrap dress that makes me feel free and , er, sexy. And yes, I could be out of it in a minute if I chose to! If this inspired you to make your own, do come back in a few days for the tutorial.

Thanks for hanging around!

You may also like:

Tutorial: Wrapping up a Wrap Dress
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