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Wrapping the Svelte
The New Standard (Demember 6, 1997)
by: Francine Parnes, The Associated Press.

Diane Von Furstenberg's wrap dress, a slinky symbol of the '70s, is being embraced once again by svelte figures from SOHO to Southern California.

And Von Furstenberg isn't the only one creating simple, sexy dresses that easily wrap in front and tie at the waist. Cynthia Rowley's wrap dresses are styled with black sequins. Giorgio Armani's bloom with lilac and green floral beading. Calvin Klein's are minimalist, in basic black.

"Magazines and runways were full of other wraps, so I decided to revisit the best seller that started it all," says Von Furstenberg.

It was her high-profile daughter-in-law, Alexandra Von Furstenberg, creative director of the company, who sparked much of the interest in the dress.

The daughter of Robert Miller, the duty-free tycoon, and the fashionable Chantal Miller, Alexandra, at 25, is the same age as Diane when she embarked on the business. Alexandra is married to Alexandre Von Furstenberg, son of Diane and Egon Von Furstenberg.

And it doesn't hurt, of course, that Alexandra has a coterie of hipster friends who are routinely photographed sipping champagne at some of New York's swankiest spots ... wearing The Dress.

"The return of the wrap dress is a very new thing as well as revival of an old thing," says Alexandra, who owns "several dozen" and calls it one-step dressing.

So old, in fact, that in the mid-1980s, Von Furstenberg had licensed it to another manufacturer, Puritan. Subsequently she bought back the license and took to selling on QVC, blatantly defying the notion that if you've worn a trend in one decade, you shouldn't revisit it in another.

"This time it's really three generations -- the daughters, mothers and some of the grandmothers who are wearing it," she says.
But the main customer is "the young, hip, active woman who wants to be sexy," she says.

Think Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Kelly Lynch.

"And that's why the sizes two, four, six are the first to go."

Keep that in mind next time the eggnog tray comes your way.

The timing couldn't be better, as revivals such as Lilly Pulitzer's floral shifts and Halston's slinky gowns make a successful bid for the return of the dresses of two decades past.

It was then that Von Furstenberg originally anticipated a need for "a little bourgeois dress, easy, pretty, sexy, the extension of a T-shirt."

"Fashion then was either very far-out hippie or drip-dry polyester," she says. "There was nothing in between. I thought there was need for a little dress."
She was right. By the mid-1970s, Betty Ford, Aretha Franklin, Cheryl Tiegs and Cybill Shepherd were among 5 million women who lined up to buy the dress that landed Von Furstenberg on the cover of Newsweek in 1976.

The cotton/rayon jersey print dress has been reinvented in all-silk knit that runs about $200 and comes in new colors and prints. Downsizing led to narrower lapels and a hemline at the knee, rather than mid-calf.

The dress is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue under the new Diane label. At its launch, the store sold out of 1,500. It's also at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and specialty stores.
Then again, you still might snag a golden oldie at a flea market.
What's next?

"Wrap halters, wrap jumpsuits, every way you can possibly wrap," Von Furstenberg says. "It's a dress without a button or zipper that you can get in and out of so easily."