Diane von Furstenberg's Wrap Dress: '70s Disco-Ready Feminist Fashion

By Kellar Ellsworth
Diane von Furstenberg on the cover of Newsweek, March 22, 1976. Source: Pinterest

The wrap dress created by Diane von Furstenberg is arguably the most important women's clothing item of the '70s and it remains fashionable today. It's simple, flattering and versatile -- women could literally wear it to the office and to a nightclub. With the wrap dress, women had a fashionable outfit that exuded confident femininity and feminist swagger. It was also easy and comfortable to wear -- and "easy" and "comfort" had always been a priority for men's clothing and a dream of women. It was empowering at a time when women were eager to toss the hassles and expectations foisted, by tradition and the patriarchy, upon their mothers' generation.

Much of the fashion, even professional attire, of the Mad Men era and earlier, was geared toward making women appealing to the male gaze, at any cost, whether it required complex, uncomfortable undergarments, cruel shoes, movement-restricting designs, or obsessive matching of components and accessories. Rather than presenting a woman as an elaborate and passive confection, Diane von Furstenberg placed the premium on what was best for the women who'd actually wear it, and their new assertiveness in the professional and social arenas. 

Von Furstenberg, who is still an active and influential designer today, rose to fashion eminence on the strength of the iconic dress. The hip-hugging dress that complimented ladies of all figures and fit in any social situation gained instant popularity and a strong celebrity following.