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What is a Wrap Dress?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 21, 2024
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A wrap dress is a great, versatile piece of clothing to have in your wardrobe. It is a v-neck dress designed with a slim-fitting top and a looser skirt, often with extra material across the bust and stomach, giving it the "wrap" look. This slimming cotton dress can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

The wrap dress was first designed in 1973 by Diane von Fürstenberg. That particular dress was a knitted jersey dress, and is part of the collection in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art due to its influence on fashion. This particular piece of clothing has been popular virtually since then, though it has come in various iterations in more expensive boutiques and more luxurious fabrics, like silk. A wrap dress is a great wardrobe staple that flatters many body types.

Wrap dresses look best on curvier, bustier women because it enhances the bust while accentuating and slimming the waist and flattening the stomach. The wrap dress does not always look as flattering on smaller women, though if you do want to wear a wrap dress in a smaller size, purchase one with less fabric on top and an adjustable waist tie to keep your torso in proportion. For more modesty in a wrap dress, you may choose to wear it with a camisole or a tank top underneath, or a blazer or cardigan on top.

Keep the print or pattern in mind when you are purchasing a wrap dress, and always try the dress on before you buy. Some prints look better or worse depending on your body type. Keep in mind that it doesn't matter how the dress looks on the rack or on the mannequin, only how it looks on you -- attempt to flatter your body.

You can wear a wrap dress to work and then dress it up for evening by putting on a pair of dressier shoes and some fancy accessories. Some women find that wrap dresses work well as maternity wear, as they are comfortable, stretchy, and forgiving without sacrificing style. Some women choose to wear leggings with the dress, for a more trendy look. You could also really dress it down and wear flip-flops, for example if you were going to a picnic or outdoor party. The jersey knit fabric often used is not prone to wrinkles, so it's good to wear on an airplane or to pack in your suitcase without having to worry about ironing.

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Discussion Comments
By ElbowTickle — On Aug 02, 2011

@zeak4hands - I see a lot of women who wear giant patterns on their dresses. It looks horrible. I don't think that anyone of any size should wear giant patterns -- they're very unflattering.

It's very weird to find a fashion that skinny people are discouraged to wear. Most fashions are specially designed for super thin women with no curves. Wrap dresses are made to flatter a fuller figure – short or tall. I'm glad that someone thought to make pretty fashion for women that aren't super models. As a average weight woman, I'm getting tired of dresses that are only available in size zeros.

By MedicineBall — On Aug 02, 2011

@Almita - so you had a literal wrap-around dress? I don't see those very often. I never really like dresses myself. I prefer skirts and blouses. I like wrap around skirts. They look great with tights and heels, just like wrap dresses.

A lot of women would rather wedge themselves into clothing that is way too small then admit that they aren't the same size they were in high school.

I remember a funny scene in the movie "White Chicks" where the hero has to ask for help from a woman on what size of clothes to wear when on an under cover mission as a supposed woman. She laughs when he states his actual shoe size and asks for shoes that are two sizes smaller.

I tried cramming into tight dresses and I have to tell you – I felt like I was plastic wrapped. It was terrible! You should always wear the right dress size. Getting a wrap dress that is too big or too small will just cause it to hang badly.

By Almita — On Aug 01, 2011

@zeak4hands - I used to hate wrap dresses. When I was younger, I wore them all the time and I thought that they made me look fat. It was really just that I was wearing one that was too small so it had trouble wrapping around me.

Once I admitted my real dress size, I realized that all that time I was wearing the wrong size -- it was just making me look like I didn't know how to dress myself.

I love wrap dresses now. They help slim out my tummy a lot.

By zeak4hands — On Jul 31, 2011

Wrap dresses are my favorite summer attire. The ones I buy are cotton so they breath in the summer heat. I have wrap skirts too and they go great with tights and sandals for parties.

Paying attention to what looks good on you isn't that hard. Heavier people should avoid bigger patterns and people who are super thin should avoid dark colors. The big patterns make you look like a billboard and dark colors make you look thinner.

If you're anorexic already -- black is your mortal enemy. You should wear brighter colors -- preferably warm ones if you're pale.

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