Journey of a Dress

On Jan. 11, “DVF: Journey of a Dress” opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The exhibit, which has traveled throughout Asia, the Middle East and South America, celebrates 40 years of Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress.

In the early 1970s, the Belgian-born designer rocked the fashion world by creating a drip-dry, cotton jersey dress that wrapped in the front and tied at the waist. Without zippers or hooks, the innovative design represented women’s changing societal roles. As increased numbers of women entered the workforce, DVF’s wrap dresses provided an ideal balance between stylishness and practicality.

As described in the exhibit’s informational brochure, “the wrap dress epitomized not only the spirit of women’s liberation but of sexual liberation, too: in two minutes flat, a woman could be dressed and out the door; in even less time, she could be undressed.”

The exhibit chronicles the evolution of the wrap dress and gives viewers insight into von Furstenberg’s fascinating personal history.

Upon entering the building, guests walk through a long hallway that serves as a timeline. Blown-up images of advertisements, magazine covers, and celebrities decorate the hot pink walls, highlighting key moments in the dress’ history. At the end of the timeline, a neon sign boldly asserts an overarching theme: “Feel like a woman, wear a dress!”

The main showroom features hundreds of mannequins clad in wrap dresses from throughout the decades, including pieces created exclusively for the fortieth anniversary celebration. Vivid prints, bold colors and sophisticated cuts define the brand’s aesthetic.

Mallory Kugler, a junior majoring in critical studies, appreciated the design’s timelessness.

“I think it’s interesting that when you look at the dresses up close, you can’t pin-point which ones are from earlier times and which ones are more recent. This really shows that she [DVF] nailed it from the beginning,” Kugler said.

Women of all different ages admired the displays and compared their favorite patterns, attesting to the dress’ universal appeal.

“DVF’s dresses are accessible to women of all ages. The cuts are so figure flattering and women of all shapes and sizes can wear them,” said Kugler’s mother, Robin.

In addition to the dress gallery, an art salon pays tribute to the designer herself. Many of the works on display were gifts given to DVF by her friends, current and former. Included are portraits by influential artists such as Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Helmut Newton and Annie Leibovitz, among others.

The pieces portray Von Furstenberg as a strong, beautiful woman with a personality just as vibrant as her signature prints.

“When she [DVF] started her career, she didn’t think that all of her friends would become famous. This whole section of the exhibit is dedicated to the relationships she had with them,” explained Annette Kafati, a student studying product development at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

Von Furstenberg also commissioned Dustin Yellin to make a life-size sculpture of the wrap dress, entitled “A Ghost May Come.” To create the breathtaking piece, Yellin embedded tiny newspaper and magazine cutouts in more than 4,800 pounds of layered glass.

As guests explore the exhibit, they are encouraged to post snapshots of their favorite moments on Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtags #wrap40 and #journeyofadress. They can get their photos printed in the gift shop, which also offers some pieces from DVF’s special anniversary collection.

Warhol’s iconography inspired the limited-edition collection called “Popwrap.” Von Furstenberg combined the artist’s famous emblems–the flower and the dollar sign–with some of her best-known patterns. The end-result is garments that are both playful and polished, encapsulating the spirit of two individuals who pioneered their respective fields.

“Journey of a Dress,” runs until April 1 at the Wilshire May Co. Building, 6767 Wilshire Blvd. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Thursday;11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.