If I said to you “wrap dress”, what would be the first thing that sprang to mind? Would you think “sleek and versatile”, or would you think “sack of spuds”? Whichever it is, the name Diane von Furstenberg probably also popped up, or DVF if you prefer the shorter, catchier version.
The dress that suits any woman of any shape and size, allegedly. I say allegedly because I have never really found it suited me except very fleetingly when I was toned and muscular from training and I was body-confident enough to wear a dress that felt as though modesty was only third on its priority list.
Personally, I find that the fluid jersey construction – “it made every woman look like a feline” – is the very thing that turns me into Grizabella the Glamour Cat. I clutch, I fidget, I pin and I tape; I substitute a substantial leather belt for the skinny tie; and on one occasion I have actually sewn myself into one. You can’t say I haven’t tried. A tailored wrap dress in a fabric with structure is an entirely different proposition, neatening my outline and feeling secure.
I’ve worn the A-line since I was about five. This, to my mind, really is a shape that can be worn by any woman, although I think it suffers a bit from being thought of as slightly dull. That said, there are several A-line dresses in my cupboards. As long as the fabric has some structure to it, an A-line dress fits neatly over the bust but then skims everything else, because it’s A-shaped, and it’s very flattering.
Empire line is another one that has been a good do-er. The difference between empire and A-line is that the empire line is seamed under the bust and then falls to a flared, gathered but always a fuller skirt. I’m not keen on much gathering, which only adds bulk.
Vintage or retro styling of the 50s sort has always been a thing for me, and given that one of my earliest memories is of my mum’s swishy skirts, I suppose that’s hardly surprising. Of course, this means full skirts and full skirts make the waist look smaller (tiny even) and cover hippier hips.
A couple of summers ago I took to wearing a black linen, full-skirted shirt waister with my own layers of petticoats underneath and, as is often the case with favourites, I wore it until it finally disintegrated, but I always felt good in that dress. I need a (wider) belt to help define my waist. Femininity is something I’m keen to hang on to but I would rather do it without frilliness (which isn’t the same thing at all), although I do permit the “right” sort of frills in my wardrobe in moderate quantities.
The “right sort of frills” sounds like a topic for another conversation, which might be a good place to leave this one and ask what dress shapes have always worked for you?