Lately I've been seeing women in wrap dresses everywhere. I mean, it is the time of year (and we are experiencing a merciful autumn warm patch, to counterbalance the miserable wet, cold summer that just finished). But, I'm talking 50 wrap dresses this week if I've seen one. And, I regret to inform you, anecdotally, this apparently "fool-proof" style looks fairly wretched on about half of the bodies it confidently sheaths. Hence this "How To" post, this ode to the wrap.
For starters, let me concede that I own 4 of this style of dress. One is zebra-print and sleeveless, another has this insane brown, orange, pink and black pattern. One is the most perfect shade of green. The fourth, a simple black. I love to wear them with boots, dainty shoes, big jewels, bolero shrugs. Let me also suggest (feel free to disagree, of course) that mine is an apt figure for this style: fairly symmetrical, narrow in the waist, hour-glass, slim-calved. Oh, trust me, there are 8000 other looks I'd be thrilled to say are all mine, looks I can't pull off to save my life (translucent silk blouse with necktie, anyone?) but this one seems to work on me. How fortunate that I also find it appealing.
Ms. Von Furstenburg would like you to believe that every woman can experience her inner glamazon simply by wearing a wrap dress. I'm inclined to disagree. To wit, the following is a list of figure attributes that don't work optimally with the wrap:
- An extremely narrow waist against a rather wide derriere: It makes the skirt of the dress hang as if on a shelf.
- A soft mid-section: If the belted area of the waist is fleshy, one tends to look lumpy.
- A flat chest: Sorry lovelies, while the flat chest is de rigeur for just about every sexy fashiony look, this one is an exception. Unless you happen to be taller than 5"8, angular and without body fat anywhere else. Then you work the ballerina angle.
- Untoned, broad arms (though, the right fabric can suck it all in and mitigate this problem)
- Breasts of observably disparate sizes: Most women have one larger breast but the wrap, which highlights the tits, reveals aysmmetry in the most unforgiving manner. If you fall into this camp and you want to wear a wrap, make sure your bra can solve the problem (put a little padding in the smaller side / wear a molded cup).
Furthermore, few garments rely as heavily on the perfect underpinnings as this piece. Please, please, please heed these guidelines:
- Your bra must fit precisely (see this previous post for some clarity). In brief (ha), the band needs to adhere to your chest at the centre valley, the cups have to fit snugly (but not too snugly) over the breasts. When you remove the shoulder straps, while the cups may slip off the breasts, the band around your ribcage should not budge. You must wear something that lifts the tits. No drooping allowed!!
- The bra should be a nude colour (to be invisible) or black (under something dark) and should be seamless and smooth so that the wrap fabric glides against it.
- Wear a thong, end of story. This look is about ease (and power). I'm sorry, but I don't think Spanx work well under these circumstances. They are too restrictive, at odds with the subtext of the style. If you'd like something to control "dimplage", I suggest a sexy silk slip. Note: My friend Sandra, a wrap dress wearer from way back, disagrees with the thong. She feels it leaves a line at the hip. I say that doesn't happen with a well-fitting thong having a wide-ish band. Maybe this depends on one's unique physiology? What do you believe?
- If the pluge is deep, or if your midsection isn't tremendously toned, wear a cami. Otherwise you may look lumpy or louche.
And, if ever there were a style requiring good posture, this one is it. Find your inner book-balancer. Lift your crown. Let your shoulders release and roll back for a long neck. Drop your tailbone as if a weight were suspended from it while you lift the breastbone up. That's what will draw your abdomen in and lengthen any waist.
The semiotic subtext of the dress (may I be so bold?) is fertility. Its structure and drape is all about highlighting the fertility touch points of the female form: breasts, hips, waist. Amongst those Biology sorts, symmetry is time and again associated with (re)productivity. Amongst the fashion designer sorts, it's associated with easy sex appeal. I've spoken with many women about the wrap dress, all of whom utter variations on the theme of: "Every time I wear the thing at least 8 guys try to get with me."
In my opinion, the reason the look is powerful is because it cuts to the chase. It says look at me. Not at my outfit. Look at me. Next time you wear one, all decked out and confident, look back. I have a strong feeling you will like what you see.