Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress, which launched in 1974, is celebrating its 40th anniversary at DVF’s “Journey of a Dress” Exhibition.
In the exhibit, 200 mannequins have been styled in the dresses, covering the ground floor of the former May Company department store on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
When Diane shot her first ad for Women’s Wear Daily dressed in the iconic wrap, she was her own model. She sat on a white cube, which Diane had written on in blue pen: “Feel like a woman, wear a dress!“ It has since become her slogan and can be see in neon letters at the exhibit.
DVF designed the wrap dress shortly after marrying a German prince, Egon von Furstenberg, at 26 years old.
It’s the dress that gave me my freedom, paid all my bills, gave me my fame and allowed me to be free. When I heard it’s studied in sociology classes, I realized this dress deserves to be honored. I had never honored it. I was grateful, but I took it for granted. Sometimes I even resented it, because I thought, ‘I do other things!’ But this year, when everyone was telling me to do something for the anniversary, I said ‘OK. Now is the moment to honor it.’
Forbes has also listed Furstenberg (born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin) as the 74th most powerful woman in the world and the 10th most powerful Jewish female. A self-proclaimed “real Jewish princess,” von Furstenberg’s estimated net worth is $1.3 billion.
DVF is the child of a Greek Holocaust survivor, Lily Nahmias, who was caught and sent to Auschwitz and weighed just 49 pounds as the war ended. Lily married a Romanina Jew, Leon Halfin, and got pregnant against her doctor’s orders that her body would not be able to handle the trauma of a pregnancy. Diane was born in 1946 and believes she is a testament to the Jewish will to live. Von Furstenberg recalls her mother saying:
I was born on New Year’s, and every year my mother would say, ‘G-d saved me so that I could give you life. You are my flag of freedom.’
Von Furstenberg admits to finding her way back to her Jewish roots only later in life, after the Anti-Defamation League honored her with its Women of Achievement Award in 1981. She recalls:
I don’t really think they knew anything about me, they probably just gave me the award because they knew I would bring a large group. But when I got up that day to speak, I heard the words of my mother being a Holocaust survivor come out of my mouth, and these were words that I never said and that I never actually thought, and I started to shake. It was a major revelation because I realized that it was my heritage and I hadn’t realized how deeply connected I really felt.
“Journey of a Dress” runs Jan. 11 to April 1 at Wilshire May Co. Building, 6767 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 10 am to 5 pm, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 11 am to 8 pm Friday; 10 am to 7 pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.