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The Wrap Dress: The Most Figure-Flattering Piece of Clothing for Every Woman Out There

Updated on February 9, 2011

Wrap dresses: a one-piece outfit that's oh-so-easy to wear

Wrap dresses flatter slender figures by creating the illusion of curves
Wrap dresses flatter slender figures by creating the illusion of curves

Wrap dresses are versatile and timeless--you'll be wearing yours for years to come!

Plus size ladies can rock a wrap dress--the garment plays up your curves
Plus size ladies can rock a wrap dress--the garment plays up your curves
Wrap dresses can also come in crisp cotton--ruffles around the neck create the illusion of a bust and are a fun way to express a flirty personality
Wrap dresses can also come in crisp cotton--ruffles around the neck create the illusion of a bust and are a fun way to express a flirty personality
Wrap dresses are a comfortable and chic clothing option for expectant mothers
Wrap dresses are a comfortable and chic clothing option for expectant mothers

Skinny, Curvy, Busty, Flat, Even Pregnant--the Wrap Dress is Right For Every Woman

If there's one dress in your closet, let it be a wrap dress. Not only is it versatile--acceptable at work, baby showers, weddings, on dates, and at the grocery store--it's flattering on almost every body type. The wrap dress also comes in a range of fabrics, prints, and colors, and it will easily become the go-to and grab item for mornings when you're in a hurry to get out of the door.

What exactly is a wrap dress?

A wrap dress is basically like a fancy robe--you tie it closed on your right side over your hip. There is no worry about the tie being too long or too short--whether you're skinny or have more to love around the middle, you can just tie it more tightly or more loosely to achieve the desired fit. The "wrap" creates a V-neck and accentuates your curves and the smallest part of your body (the area right under your bustline), making you look more slender.

However, a faux wrap is a much better alternative to the traditional wrap dress, and most stores today will only carry faux wraps. Faux wraps are already fastened for you, and you just slip the garment over your head. Everything else is still the same--you just don't have to worry about the skirt slipping open while you walk.

Why is a wrap dress right for me?

No matter what your perceived figure flaws are (and we're always more beautiful than we think!) a wrap dress will accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. The deep V creates an illusion of height and length on petite women and can also accentuate curves, but the coverage is full enough on the sides that even very busty ladies can pull it off (though you might need a camisole underneath for work or church!). Wrap dresses are also generally made of a jersey knit fabric, a stretchy, breathable fabric that doesn't cling to problem areas and wears very well--you won't have to worry about the fabric pilling or becoming dingy. Due to the wrap dress' cut, the skirt will flow away from your stomach and hips, hiding problem areas. Wrap dresses are also a great option for pregnant women--while the dress is curve-hugging on top, it flows comfortably away from your growing baby bump.

There's also a wrap dress to fit every personality. Wrap dresses can be short-sleeved, long-sleeved, or cap-sleeved, so you can tailor your look to the season and your comfort level; they come collared, without out collars, or with cascades of ruffles; and they come in a variety of prints and hues. (Please note: if you're petite, stick with a small pattern. Big, bold patterns will overwhelm your frame.)

You can also take a wrap dress from a day at work to a dinner out at night. At work, you can layer a cardigan over or wear a camisole under the dress to keep any cleavage under wraps (pardon the pun). At night, switch out the cardi or cami for a chunky, funky necklace, throw on some killer heels, and add a clutch, and you're ready for a dinner date. The look can go from professional to sweet or sassy with just a quick change of accessories.

Finally, a wrap dress is an investment--it's just as chic and appropriate on a twenty-year-old as it is on a fifty-year-old, and it's been hot since the seventies (except for a lull in the eighties, which was a seriously dark time for flattering feminine fashion). It's not going anywhere, and you won't be looking at it in a year and wondering what you were thinking.

Who invented the wrap dress?

While it is a common misconception that Diane von Furstenberg created the wrap dress, Claire McCardell should actually get the credit for its invention. She designed the "popover" wrap dress in 1942, about 30 years before Diane von Furstenberg, marketing it as a versatile garment that could be used as a party dress, a house dress, or a robe.

However, Diane von Furstenberg undoubtedly popularized the wrap dress after introducing it into her design line in the 1970s. She's the one who first used the jersey knit fabric we all know and love today, and her design is recognized as having an immense impact on women's fashion--in fact, one of her wrap dresses is included in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Where can I find a great wrap dress?

You can find a wrap dress every season of the year. While Diane von Furstenberg's remain the gold standard, they're kind of pricy, and unless you're willing to shell out $300 or more, her line may not be for you. Luckily, other lines make equally great wrap dresses in a range of colors and patterns. Nine West and Maggie London both put out a line of wrap dresses every year, and around spring and summer you can find wrap dresses at New York & Company, Banana Republic, and even Target. For those of you who are expecting, maternity stores carry wrap dresses all year long.


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