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Courtesy of DVF
Installation view of DVF "Journey of a Dress" exhibition at LACMA
Courtesy of DVF
Courtesy of DVF
Art

The Evolution of the Wrap Dress

By Susannah Tantemsapya

February 5, 2014

Diane von Furstenberg’s “Journey of a Dress” opened last month in Los Angeles. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of DVF’s iconic wrap dress, it showcases 200 of the most important dresses from her archives. The customized mannequins were designed by Ralph Pucci, making up a self-described Terracotta Army resembling DVF’s strong nose and bone-structure while posed in the same style as Michelangelo’s David.

The Studio 54 atmosphere has DVF prints from floor-to-ceiling executed by exhibition designer Bill Katz. There is a timeline of DVF’s life alongside the evolution of her signature wrap dress as a cultural phenomenon. DVF’s confidence, humor, and humility were evident as she addressed the crowd during the opening. When asked, “Why Los Angeles?” she responded that the city is “very much popular culture and this dress is popular culture… my life is a movie, life is a movie, that’s why we love Hollywood.”

Open Gallery

Courtesy of DVF

There are numerous portraits of the designer by Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, Chuck Close, Francesco Clemente, Helmut Newton, and Annie Leibovitz. Artworks by Anh Duong, Zhang Huan, and Li Songsong are featured alongside a new piece by Dustin Yellin entitled A Ghost May Come.

“It’s from a Ginsberg poem… it’s like a floating apparition of a dress floating in space like a ghost,” said Yellin. “I used a lot of found objects. I cut up books and magazines, which is what I always use for a lot of the work I do. I also went into Diane’s archive and pulled stuff that I can hide inside to tell a hidden story for people who want to look deeper, find out things about her life and her past.” Whitewall spoke with Fashion Curator Michael Hertz about his involvement in “Journey of a Dress.”

Open Gallery

Installation view of DVF "Journey of a Dress" exhibition at LACMA

WHITEWALL: What was it like when you first went into the DVF archives? MICHAEL

HERTZ: I read Diane’s autobiography about two weeks before I went to the archives. Already it was quite intimidating. When I got there, immediately I was so welcomed. She was so warm and lovely. And then she took me down to the basement into the archive itself. Of course, I was just giddy, so excited to be allowed in to see all these things. And then, once that had all been digested, it was like, ‘Where do you start?’ Because there were so many things other than wrap dresses already down there. There was lots of visual and archive imagery, but then I couldn’t find the dress. Which is why a few of them have been remade, but they were remade from photographs of dresses I found in the archives. For whatever reason, either Diane didn’t have one or we couldn’t source one from someone else, so we remade them for the exhibition.

Open Gallery

Courtesy of DVF

WW: Diane mentioned you tried on some dresses?

MH: That was quite funny because Diane was reading to me. She said, “Come here!” She was sitting down and reading a chapter from her new biography. I’m listening to this and I’m distracted by the dresses, and I put a palm print long gown on. She looked up and said, “Now I see you in the dress, I know you get it” [laughs]. But, no I couldn’t resist, I would only do it in private. That’s how relaxed and comfortable I felt, straight away in her presence. She’s a very, very generous person. I wrote a list of things to help me, I’m quite methodical. I wrote it all down, what I was thinking about Diane, about her work and the word I kept coming up with is “freedom.”

The material was a sense of freedom, it’s jersey, you move really easily in it. It was at a time of Women’s Liberation. Certainly in America, as opposed to what was happening in Europe, women are having jobs, not just jobs, but high profile jobs. They were becoming heads of companies, running their own businesses, and they were mothers, the drivers, the cook… It was a great moment in freedom. And she was allowing me the freedom into her home, archives and saying, “Okay, you put your ideas together.” It’s always a conversation with Diane. She never bulldozes you into a corner and says “You’ve got to do this.”

She gives you that freedom to be creative. If she doesn’t like something, she’ll tell you. She’s also open to be persuaded the other way around. I think the only way I’ve managed to do this, is that it never occurred to me how big it was going to be. In my mind, it was just a little thing that she was doing, so I just kept doing it, little by little. It was only until I got here and thought, “This is huge.” I was looking at a little scale model. Even the sound of 200 dresses didn’t sound a lot, but it is when you have to categorize them and lay them out. I’m glad I didn’t have all of that in my head. It was literally, enjoy yourself, look at the stuff and play! We had so much fun doing it.

This free exhibition is located in the historic Wilshire May Company Building and on view until April 2014. The Instagram Booth on site gives viewers a print of their post by using #journeyofadress. Everyone can share their experience with the iconic wrap dress at DVF.com/WrapStory.

Andy WarholAnh DuongAnnie LeibovitzBarbara KrugerBill KatzChuck CloseDiane von FurstenbergDVFFrancesco ClementeHelmut NewtonLi SongsongRalph PucciZhang Huan

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