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Wrap Dresses

Malindi | Posted in Patterns on

With the return of the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses, and my recollection of the way the originals tended to reveal ‘all’, whether one was generously endowed or a ‘Twiggy’, would anyone care to comment on the their experience with the new patterns?


  1. Ralphetta | | #1

    I know what you mean.  The first thing I noticed was that in many cases the dresses are being worn with a tank top showing at the v neckline, which solves that old problem.

    1. Malindi | | #2

      That reminds me; I seem to recall reading an article about dressing in the 20s where, to maintain one's modesty, a lace hankie was draped across the chest and pinned to bra straps! Hmm, lace hankie? Must check out the antique shops!

      1. Ralphetta | | #3

        On the old Johnny Carson show they would frequently stick a clump of tulle in the neckline of female guests who were exposing too much.

        1. solosmocker | | #4

          When the original DV Furstenburg dress came out I could not wear them because of my bust. I still can't wear them and that goes for all those wrap tshirts as well. They are just not comfortable.

          1. Ralphetta | | #5

            They weren't flattering to me either because I don't look good in v-necks, but I'm thinking that the triangular pop of color from a tank showing a little at the neckline might be flattering to me and want to try one on.

        2. Gloriasews | | #11

          Ralphetta, you go back as far as I do!  I do something similar when I have a neckline that is too low (whether RTW or homemade) - I make a triangle of matching or contrasting material or lace, depending upon the garment, & attach it with snaps on the inside of the bodice, if the dress is front-opening.  If it isn't, I just sew it in, but make sure that you have enough headroom to put it over your head.  So far, this has worked well for me.

          1. tzipi | | #26

            I also have done this several times- sewing in triangles of fabric to fill up V- necks that are way too low for me. But alas, it often takes me hours and several tries to get them to lay just right, and not pucker or gap or sit cockeyed. Any tricks of the trade to suggest?



          2. Gloriasews | | #27

            It shouldn't take that long.  You should be wearing the garment when you decide how big a triangle you need.  When you have your triangle ready (hemmed & maybe embellished with lace or whatever), pin it into your neckline.  Make sure it's even (eyeball it), as, if you go by the grainline of your fabric, your shoulders may be at different heights, so it would look crooked.  Take off the garment & either sew in the triangle or attach snaps to it & to the garment.  Some people make buttonholes in the interfacing of the garment (if there is substantial interfacing at the neckline) & put buttons on the triangle top.  Whatever works.

  2. user-51823 | | #6

    being busty, i always avoided them too. but i bought a dress the other day that was too good to pass up, along with a coordinating camisole.
    along the lines of the bra/hanky thing, i have a vintage garment that served the same purpose. it's a kind of a jewel-neck "dickey". it was so delicate, i made a few new ones to wear under V-neck jackets that showed a little too much in warm weather (also great in a medium weight fabric to give the illusion that you are wearing a shirt underneath, but without the added bulk). the original was cotton batiste with delicate tucks, cutwork and embroidery. it was a front and a back with a hole for the head to go through and a wee opening at back neck that closed with hook and eye. the sides were open and had ties, but you could make buton tabs or use elastic. it stayed in place well as your ribcage taper keeps it from riding.

    1. Malindi | | #7

      These are great ideas! Thanks. A good way to use up fabric 'left-overs; one could become really creative, especially if worn with a plain jersey fabric.

      1. user-51823 | | #8

        yes, that's the beauty of the dickey- a free "top" made from scraps too small to make anything else, but just big enough that you hate to throw them away :-)
        it's also fun to embellish them to dress them up, or to coordinate them with multiple bottoms.

        1. dotty | | #9

          Maybe all you hardware store people can help me dredge up from my faulty memory the name of the tool used as a substitute for a velvet board. I remember reading somewhere about a cheap hardwear store item used for pressing velvet seams.
          edited note several minutes later:
          wHoops. Ihave no idea how I ended up posting this in this thread. It was supposed to go into the tips one where everyone is discussing their hardware store finds. Its really beyond me to transfer it!

          Edited 4/18/2007 12:07 pm by dotty

          1. user-51823 | | #10

            you can copy it, delete the message (click button in botom of message window near "edit", and paste into a new post.
            i'll have to check at the tip thread to see what answers you get. i don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds great! (although i own 2 small velvet boards)

        2. Josefly | | #14

          I'm really excited about this dickey idea. It seems so much easier to embellish a small thing like this than an entire blouse, and I could practice my skills on it. I have some left-over batiste and odds and ends of lace and have been wanting to do some pintuck stitching with double needle, etc. Yaaaay. Thank you. I have a great little white linen jacket to wear it under.

    2. Gloriasews | | #12

      The dickey is a great idea - thanks!  It would be lighter & cooler than wearing a tank top underneath a garment & could certainly be made from scraps.  I really like the ties around the rib cage, as most dickies keep popping out when you move.  You also could make it with varied necklines.  Thanks again!

      1. Ralphetta | | #13

        My mother used to buy really, really cheap blouses or shirts that had a decent looking collar and were in the right color and then just cut off the sleeves, the back, etc. and make a dickey really fast for very little money. It's surprising that you can pick one up for $3-4 and not have to make a collar and put in buttonholes, etc.

        1. Gloriasews | | #15

          Another great idea!!!  That would be a real quickie, too, to not have to sew the collar, etc.  Thanks, muchly!  What a font of information you are!

          1. Ralphetta | | #16

            She sometimes used Men's shirts 'cause peeking out of the neck of a sweater, etc., few people would notice it buttoned the other way. 

          2. user-51823 | | #17

            it's also a good way to salvage favorite tops that have a small stain or other booboo

          3. Gloriasews | | #19

            I did have a pretty blouse years ago with a big rust stain from a belt buckle (I think), but it was noticeable.  Wish I knew then what I know now & I would have used it for a dickie.  I ended up saving pieces from it for quilting, though, so all was not lost, but I  threw out the rest.  Live & learn.  From now on, I'll rethink the possibilities before throwing out anything.  I do save buttons & zippers, though, & good parts of the fabric for quilting, before I throw them out.

          4. dotty | | #20

            I had a dickie at some point in my adolesence. I don't remember why, but it must have some bad assosiation with puberty because I shudder every time I see one of those things. I must have worn it with those Go-Go boots I made my mother buy me.

          5. user-51823 | | #21

            dickies were in wide use when i was growing up too, in the '60's, but i also remember they were considered very uncool. mainly i suppose because they were sold by places like montgomery ward and sears. dickies screamed "my parents are too cheap to buy me a whole sweater!". i didn't look at it as a wardrobe expanding tool then, lol

          6. Gloriasews | | #18

            Another good idea - you are on a roll, eh?  The button thing wouldn't matter at all, as I have been known, in my much earlier days of sewing, to put the buttons on the "wrong" side of a men's shirt (I had to quickly make buttonholes on the other side & move the buttons, so all turned out well - it was my son's shirt, so I didn't lose too much face & it stayed in the family).  I could do the same with a man's shirt if I found one in the thrift store.  I have had RTW, though, that had the buttons on the "wrong" side for women, & it was really annoying.  It happens with the fly front on jeans, too, but too much work in altering those.

  3. Teaf5 | | #22

    The new patterns seem identical to the old ones; I just wish my body were identical, too! Back in the day, I sewed either a snap to the bottom of the v-neck or top-stitched for about 4 inches down the upper layer where it overlapped the bottom layer to keep it from unwrapping. That is, I tried it on, pinned the overlapping area at the bottom of the vneck and then pulled the dress off and stitched it closed--only about 4 inches or so. That way, I could pull it over my head and still adjust the waist, but the v-neck stayed decent, an important feature for an active teacher who didn't want her dress to unwrap during an active class!I have also used the lace-scrap-as-a-triangle in low v-necks, but sometimes they look a little overly prudish out here in the Wild West. Nowadays, I prefer a lovely, coordinated scarf around my neck and carefully tied just above the v-neck for more modesty and more style.

    1. Ralphetta | | #23

      When bell-bottom pants returned to fashion a few years ago, I remember reading something that that stuck in my mind.  It said, "If you were old enough to have worn a style the first time, you probably shouldn't be wearing it this timearound." I don't think that applies to the wrap dresses, do you?

      1. user-51823 | | #24

        it definitely applies to hip-huggers. blechhh

        1. Ralphetta | | #25


  4. nisee | | #28

    Hi, its been awhile and I came looking for advise on another subject but I wanted to say Sandra Betzina has some great tips in her book Power Sewing step by step. I have sewn for years and am now more endowed than when I started.  This book and the one on fast fit solutions have helped me address all kinds of fitting issues.  The wrap dress is covered in the step by step book.  I have found a v neck to be to revealing but when I followed her steps and eliminated gaping, made room for my bust I liked the style.  This may be true of the wrap dress, I have not tried it yet.

  5. tmorris1 | | #29

    Malindi;I have recently made a wrap dress from the patterns that my great grandmother gave me circa 1930. I have a small chest, but found that I had a lot of gaping. To fix this, I made the inside tie strap about 2 inches wide instead of 1/4 inch that the pattern called for, wrapped it right around my waist snugly, fashioned a small belt loop for it to guide through, and used small snaps to affix it to itself. On the outside, I sewed these same small snaps to the other flap and its corresponding seam. This really stabilizes the waist of the dress and holds those criss cross flaps where they should be. Also, I put a small weight in the corner of the hem where the dress crosses to keep the wind from opening it up.

    1. solosmocker | | #30


      1. tmorris1 | | #31

        I am so glad you think so Solo, most of my friends just call me a sewing geek LOLThe other solution is to get a stretch fabric and make a faux wrap dress, sewing the sides down so that it will slip on over your head, and put a panel on the inside to hold things together and in place of course.

    2. Malindi | | #32

      That is a really good idea. Thanks. This hint reminds me of one for preventing large square necklines gaping. Attach a piece of elastic to one side of the facing and run round ones back and fasten with a press stud or hook to the other side and this keeps everything in place when bending forward. I don't want to appear to be a prude, but quite frankly I do no think many of the current fashions are suitable for anywhere but the beach, some of them only for a nude beach! What is wrong with a little mystery? Much more intriguing!

      1. tmorris1 | | #33

        I was hoping that you would send a reply. Balancing fashion and modesty is a problem nowadays, but I do really like some of the silhouettes. I find that many fitting techniques are passed over in the newer patterns (when was the last time you saw a current pattern with a waist stay in it?) and going back to the older ways has allowed me to achieve better fit (nothing peeking.) A combination of this, and rising some of the necklines, widening arm straps or adding sleeves where there were none helps me to achieve a more modest garment that still has a current silhouette.The other thing that you can do to make a more modest garment fashionable is to add very current accessories. Shoes, bags, scarves, and jewelry can make a dress from the 40's look like you just picked it out of a store.

        1. Fruzzle | | #34

          What is a waist stay, exactly? I looked it up on google and I can see a few "how tos", but I'm not getting a feel for what it is. A length of ribbon around the waist that has a closure independent of the garment closure? Is it enclosed in a casing?

          1. tmorris1 | | #35

            A waist stay is used to keep the seamlines from stretching. It is usually made of grosgrain ribbon.Cut the ribbin to length from placket to placket. It is set along the waistline, and tacked down at the seam intersections. Then hook and eye closures are used to hold it shut. This method can also be used to help reduce stress on a zipper in a close fitting garment be it skirt, dress or bodice garment.Waist stays are very good to help hold the waist of a garment in place so that you do not have to keep tugging and repositioning it.

            Edited 5/1/2007 6:36 am ET by tmorris1

          2. Fruzzle | | #36

            Thank you!It's not something I would have ever discovered looking at ready to wear garments.

          3. tmorris1 | | #37

            Fruzzle;No it is not anything you would ever see in RTW clothing. That off the rack junk is made cheaply, and fit is just a crap shoot. The best old technique that I have found, however, is the little loop and snap at the shoulder seam to hold your bra strap up. Mine always fall down, no matter what I do, and these little beauties keep me all held up.

      2. fabricholic | | #38

        I like the idea for the square neckline. I don't want to flash anybody at work, if I have to bend over and pick up something. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I was young, but goodness, I'm 51 and I think I would make men wince. LOLMarcy

        1. Ralphetta | | #39

          Years ago I had a long-sleeved crepe dress with the low, square neck cut so wide that it almost reached the armpits.  Like the other writer suggested, it had elastic attached to each side of the neckline and the ends hooked in the back.  It always looked sleek and I didn't need to fret about flashing anyone.

          1. fabricholic | | #41

            It sounds pretty.

        2. Malindi | | #40

          It was while at work that I appreciated the stay on a square neckline. I noticed that whenever I wore a particular dress my boss would come and stand just beside me while dictating. Now it wasn't a low neckline but I suddenly realised that he lived in hopes! After discussing with a friend we devised the stay and somehow after that he was able to remain (disappointed?) behind his desk during dictation sessions! I should mention that this was many years ago, in Kenya, long before John Malloy and his "Dressing for Success" era: where we wore cotton dresses all the time, and also before anything known as "sexual harassment". Yes, that was at a time when we sat for hours taking down letters in shorthand, transcribing those brilliant words using manual typewriters, and carbon paper to make copies (and having to re-type the whole letter when the boss decided to make a minor change). Ah, those were the days.

          1. fabricholic | | #42

            It makes you appreciate Microsoft Word, doesn't it. You can see a lot more cleavage looking over, because I would look down at myself and think, oh my gosh but, then look in the mirror and I would be o.k. I know where I work, if you report sexual harassment, they will put you through the ringer, also.

          2. Gloriasews | | #43

            Back to the wrap dresses, Sandra Betzina has a wrap dress in Vogue (V8186) that might be worth a try.  For a change, it has a princess seamed front & an action pleat in the back bodice.  These two design features just might make all the difference in fitting the dress & keeping it in place.  Has anyone tried it?  The neckline finish is a bit different, too, but I think the dress could be made without the flounces if they didn't suit.  What do you think?  As you can tell, I would really like a wrap dress! 

            I had a "happy accident" a couple of years ago when I made a cotton princess dress (designed with front buttons neck to hem, V-neck, flared skirt), but, when I sewed it together (after careful pattern fitting, I thought), it was way too big in the front.  Rather than take it apart, I overlapped the front wrap-dress style, trimmed the edge with contrasting color, & sewed the bodice closed to 8" below the waist.  It looked like a wrap dress.  I ended up, though, having to sew the skirt down much further,  as it blew open all the time (too bad I didn't know about putting the weight in the hem).  I get many compliments on it, anyway, & it fits really comfortably, so guess that's what counts.

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