It’s a wrap! Like her ubiquitous, ever-modern wrap dress, designer-muse-influencer-icon Diane von Furstenberg has been a part of many cultural phenomena, from famed Studio 54 and Andy Warhol’s Factory scene to her new installation, Journey of a Dress, celebrating 40 years of her staple garment. The 67-year-old designer collaborated with a curatorial dream team — renowned exhibition designer Bill Katz, set designer Stefan Beckman and fashion curator Michael Herz — to tell her larger than life, rags to riches story in an intimate gallery setting inside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art complex’s landmark Wilshire May Company Building. Here are three reasons the fashion set is flocking in droves, and why you should too.
The exhibit was an instant hit
For its debut on January 11, plenty of A-list stars were in attendance, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Rooney Mara and Allison Williams, who visited the 198-dress exhibit in the historic building that housed the venerated May Company department store until it was shuttered in 1985. Fashionistas and curious tourists alike continue to enjoy the free installation, featuring an elegant army of wrap dress-clad, lithe white mannequins (custom designed by Ralph Pucci), in color-coded groupings. It’s a fitting public response mirroring the runaway success of an iconic dress that’s been selling like hotcakes since its 1974 debut.
This 40th anniversary exhibit is also a quick study in influential contemporary art, with more than 70 original works depicting the beautiful von Furstenberg as a muse in paintings and photo works by heavy hitter visual artists, including Warhol, Helmut Newton, Chuck Close, Francesco Clemente and Annie Leibovitz.
There’s an ever-evolving history behind the dress
The most arresting aspect to this tiny installation, in the scope of adjacent LACMA’s other big exhibitions, is the layering of stories of the wrap dress, its creator and those who’ve worn it. The hot pink entrance walls are outfitted in movie stills, fashion magazine pages and news stories, which feature buzzed about women wearing the dress. From Madonna and Michelle Obama to famed ex-political prisoner Ingrid Betancourt and Amy Adams in the Oscar-nominated American Hustle, this simple article of clothing is an established part of women’s history and represents its original aim of being every woman’s go-to dress. The vintage black and white wrap dress that anchors the exhibit (it’s the lead dress in the sea of mannequins) belongs to a customer who happened to overhear von Furstenberg talking about her search for these dresses at a DVF boutique in Florida a few months before the opening. She had purchased it when the line originally launched, and donated it to the cause.
For American Hustle, director David O. Russell and costume designer Michael Wilkinson were hot on the hunt for authentic, 1970s versions of the dress, from the green and white dress von Furstenberg wore on the cover of Newsweek found at an online vintage dealer to a chocolate wrap dress with a graphic feather print dug up at an L.A. costume rental house. The last of the three dresses worn by the actress in the film is a contemporary DVF number, splashed with black and a red jumbo leopard print.
Journey of a Dress is on-view only until April 1, but there are other ways to get in on the action. In collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, a limited edition collection of Pop Wraps — think a mash-up of von Furstenberg’s and Warhol’s famous prints — is currently available for purchase online.
The exhibit is interactive
The creators of the show made sure that the experience is highly interactive, beginning simply with the floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls in the mannequin room to wallpapers emblazoned in bold, signature wrap dress patterns. You’re encouraged to take selfies against the kaleidoscope of backdrops and post on social media in the pop-up shop, where you’re gifted with prints from an Instagram booth. The mini-boutique also stocks pretty notepads, candles and scarves. And you can buy a wrap dress of your own on one of the iPads set up to shop the special edition styles. Not only does art meet commerce quite effortlessly at Journey of a Dress — but the curators also seem to have the sequel in mind. In a campaign called, “Tell Us Your Wrap Story,” women worldwide can submit narratives of special moments when they were wearing a wrap dress on DVF.com.
Photos Courtesy of DVF