Fashion

Diane von Furstenberg: The woman behind the iconic wrap dress

It's a style loved by Catherine Middleton, Hilary Clinton and Madonna. But who is the woman behind the dress?

Throughout history, changemakers have reinvented the clothes we wear, from the beginning of France cementing itself as the fashion authority with the Robe a la Française to the scandalous flapper dresses of the ‘20s and Mary Quant’s daring mini skirt. When Diane von Furstenberg designed the wrap dress in the early 1970’s, she inadvertently revolutionised the concept of a dress altogether.

This was the sentiment echoed in the teaser of the upcoming documentary, Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge. The documentary, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, begins with a clip from David Letterman’s late-night show where he introduces Diane as “The woman who reinvented the dress.”

Mirroring societal expectations, women’s fashion before the 70s was restrictive and rigid. But towards the end of the 60s, things like corsets and bodices were rapidly going out of fashion and comfortable dressing took its place. Enter the wrap dress. It was immaculately flattering, cosy to wear and became emblematic of female independence.

Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress became emblematic of female independence. Getty

Inspired by the wrap tops worn by ballerinas, Diane designed a dress with a similar upper and a low cut and a slinky, playful skirt. The early iterations were made of a jersey fabric and featured vivid patterns and designs.

Not only was the wrap dress chic, but it was utterly affordable which made it accessible and an instant hit in the fashion world.

Despite the ebbs and flows of trends throughout the decades since its inception, the wrap dress has remained a popular dress silhouette. It transcends age, income and status with everyone from Catherine Middleton to Madonna.

The wrap dress has been worn by the likes of Catherine Middleton. Getty

“It was a basic uniform for work and a signature of independence and liberation,” Nicolas Lor wrote in Diane von Furstenberg: Woman Before Fashion. “This free and independent state of mind would never leave her; it has continued to inhabit her personality and career to this day.”

The New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman echoes this sentiment in the documentary, per The Hollywood Reporter “Diane’s dress exists in the middle of the history of women’s rights and women in the workforce and women finding their own voice.”

The documentary, which will hit screens in the US on June 25, also touches on Diane’s vibrant personal life. It follows her first marriage to Prince Egon von Furstenberg and assimilating into an aristocratic German family as the child of a Holocaust survivor.

Diane shares her life and the story of the wrap dress in the upcoming documentary, Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge. Getty

“When I went to the Furstenberg castle, I thought ‘Maybe they will poison me.’” she recalls in the documentary.

She also on the craziness of her jet-setting life, her second marriage to business tycoon Barry Diller and her family.

“At 77, what I’m the proudest of is the family,” she said. “They’re definitely my best samples, and I’m very proud of that.”

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