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fashion

Wrap (dress) party

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Diane Von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with festivities that include the new “Journey of a Dress” exhibition in Los Angeles. Jill Carey, professor of fashion history at Lasell College in Newton, said praise for this knit jersey genius is deserved.

“It’s a timeless classic,” said Carey, noting that the clingy silhouette showcases “feminine assets” with near perfection. “It shows cleavage. It cinches the waist, and the way it drapes regarding the skirt — it shows the curves of the hips.”

The wrap’s lack of any closures (it has no buttons or zippers) makes for brilliant construction, added Carey, allowing it to move with the body.

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“It’s pretty sensual,” she said. “While I think of it as being more flattering to someone who’s a smaller size, I believe it can work for any woman.”

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And it has. The wrap, which signifies, for many women, their first grown-up purchase, has found fans everywhere from the White House to the silver screen. In 2009, Michelle Obama wore a graphic black and white wrap on the family Christmas card. More recently, Amy Adams’s character sports a sexy green one in “American Hustle.”

“In that case, the wrap dress is for a woman who is bold and liberated,” Carey said.

But Sondra Grace, chair of the fashion design department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, said the allure of von Furstenberg herself and the wild Studio 54 era also helped define the dress’ success.

“What you wore at night, you wore to work the next day,” Grace said.

Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.