|Type||A garment with wrap over front closure|
|Place of origin||Asia, especially influenced by China and Japan|
|Introduced||Europe and United States|
A wrap dress is generic term for a dress with a front closure formed by wrapping one side across the other, and is fastened at the side or tied at the back. This forms a V-shaped neckline. A faux wrap dress resembles this design, except that it comes already fastened together with no opening in front, but instead is slipped on over the head. A wrap top is a top cut and constructed in the same way as a wrap dress, but without a skirt. The design of wrap-style closure in European garments was the results of the heavy influences of Orientalism which was popular in the 19th century.[note 1]
See also: Chinoiserie in fashion and Japonisme
Wrap-over neckline which closes to the right side originated in China and can be traced back to the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 B.C) before spreading to other countries (such as Korea and Japan) while wrap-over neckline which closes to the left were basic styles of garments which were widely used in Central Asia and East Asia, as well as Europe, from West Asia.
See also: Garment collars in Hanfu
The traditional clothing of the Han Chinese, Hanfu, are traditionally loose, wrap-style garments; these include wrap-style robes, such as the ancient shenyi (which sews a top and a skirt to form a dress), the zhiduo, the daopao, and the jiaoling pao (a one-piece dress), etc., as well as wrap-style upper garments, such as the chang'ao and ru, etc., and as short-sleeved or sleeveless wrap-style upper garment such as banbi and dahu, etc.[note 2] The Chinese wrap-over neckline typically closes on the right side like the alphabetic letter《y》and is referred as jiaoling youren (Chinese: 交领右衽; lit. 'intersecting collar right lapel') but can occasionally close on the left side under some circumstances in a style known as jiaoling zuoren (Chinese: 交领左衽; lit. 'intersecting collar left lapel').[note 3]
The jiaoling youren was adopted by the Japanese in 718 AD through the Yoro Code which stipulated that all robes had to be closed from the left to the right in a typical Chinese way.
Wrap-style garments which were tied with sash have very ancient origins in China and were later introduced in Japan influencing the design of the Kimono.: 122 The kimono originated from the Chinese jiaoling pao, which gained popularity in the 8th century Japanese court.
European clothing with wrap-style closure were heavily influenced by the popularity of Orientalism in the 19th century.[note 4] In the 20th century, Chinoiserie in fashion gained popularity and impacted many fashion designers of the time, including fashion designed based in the United States. According to the Ladies’ Home Journal of June 1913, volume 30, issue 6:
Interest in the political and civic activities of the new China, which is more or less world-wide at this time, led the designers of this page [p.26] and the succeeding one [p.27] to look to that country for inspiration for clothes that would be unique and new and yet fit in with present-day modes and the needs and environments of American women [...]— Ladies’ Home Journal: The Chinese Summer Dress, published in June 1913: Vol 30, issue 6, p. 26
Chinoiserie continued to be popular in the 1920s and was a major influence in the dress feature and fashion design of this period; simultaneously, Japonisme also had a profound impact by influencing new forms of clothing designs of this period; for example, the use of wrap top and obi-like sash as an influence of the Japanese Kimono.
During the Great Depression, house dresses called "Hooverettes" were popular which employed a wrap design. Wrap dresses were designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s and by Claire McCardell in the 1940s, whose original 'popover' design became the basis for a variety of wrap-around dresses, which was made out of denim.: 105 Fashion designer Charles James also designed a wrap dress.
In the early 1970s, Orientalism re-emerged as the West officially expressed eagerness towards the Far East. Oriental fashion, thus, re-surfaced in American fashion wear; American designers also showed these Oriental influences in their creation designs.: 112 The wrap-around lounging wear, which was inspired by the native Chinese dress, gained popularity among women during this period.: 112
Although it is often claimed that Diane von Fürstenberg 'invented' what is known as the wrap dress in 1972/73, Richard Martin, a former curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, noted that the form of Fürstenberg's design had already been "deeply embedded into the American designer sportswear tradition," with her choice of elastic, synthetic fabrics distinguishing her work from earlier wrap dresses. Her design is actually a two-pieces dress where a wrap top is sewn to a skirt,: 105 similar to the making of the Chinese shenyi.
The Fürstenberg interpretation of the wrap dress, which was consistently knee-length, in a clinging jersey, with long sleeves, was so popular and so distinctive that the style has generally become associated with her. She has stated that her divorce inspired the design, and also suggested it was created in the spirit of enabling women to enjoy sexual freedom. The wrap dress that she designed in 1974 was a design re-interpretation of the Kimono.: 105
Wrap dresses achieved their peak of popularity in the mid to late 1970s, and the design has been credited with becoming a symbol of women's liberation in the 1970s. They experienced renewed popularity beginning in the late 1990s, particularly after von Fürstenberg reintroduced her wrap dress in 1997; she, among others, has continued to design wrap dresses since then. The wrap dress's popularity and its quick disrobing, and perceived feminist significance have remained current into the mid-2010s. In 2004 a book dedicated entirely to Fürstenberg's wrap dresses was published.
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Revived in 1997, the dress again sold in the millions.