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Is the Wrap Dress Universally Flattering? Real Women Put It to the Test

Any Internet search for “wrap dress” reveals almost exclusively positive headlines. “I Promise You’re Going to Love These Wrap Dresses,” or “Why the Wrap Dress Is the New LBD.” But are wrap dresses really that amazing?

The wrap dress’s history has been recited ad nauseum since the 1970s, when a young Diane von Fürstenberg popularized the style that “allowed women to go to work and still feel like women,” resulting in “a climax to the American sportswear wrapping tradition.”

While the wrap dress has enjoyed enormous popularity since its beginning, the idea that the dress solves all of women’s most pervasive sartorial problems leaves us scratching our heads.

Yahoo Style set out to debunk the universally flattering wrap dress myth. Don’t get us wrong — wrap dresses are great! But there are some problems with the silhouette and we decided to dive into those issues; showing what’s great about the style, but what’s not so great too.

Five models (ahem, Yahoo staffers) with diverse body types tried on three different wrap dresses each, pulled by Yahoo Style’s fashion market editor Julie Tong, to identify which ones they liked best and which didn’t really fit and decide once and for all whether the wrap dress really lives up to its hype.

Below, their verdicts.

(Shop each of the looks below; Market Editor: Julie Tong, Photography: Priscilla De Castro)

Brittaney Trent, Yahoo On-Camera Host and Producer

From left to right, clockwise) Shoes and jewelry, model’s own. Derek Lam 10 Crosby wrap dress with pleating, $695, shopbop.com; H&M dress, $70, hm.com; Tory Burch Grotto wrap dress, $249, toryburch.com.

Brittaney doesn’t wear wrap dresses often. She describes her body type as tall and thin, and has a difficult time finding wrap dresses that fit her chest. 

Her favorite wrap dress was a black-and-white Derek Lam 10 wrap dress with pleating because she says, “Maybe it was the photo, but it gave me a waist. It gave me a little something extra.” (Without the cinched waist, she feels like she’s, “two limbs sticking out of a piece of fabric.”) The Derek Lam dress also had a higher neckline than the other two that Brittaney tried on, so she didn’t feel like she had to fill out the dress’s bust.

As for whether the experiment changed how Brittaney feels about wrap dresses in general, it didn’t: “This confirms why I don’t wear wrap dresses. I just don’t think they’re flattering. I think you have to have a certain type of body. Who knows what that body is! I’m very thin, up and down it makes me look like more of a stick.”

Leah Neuberth, Yahoo Editorial and Media Coordinator

(From left to right, clockwise) Shoes and jewelry, model’s own. Aritzia Beaune chiffon midi dress, $185, aritzia.com; Diane von Fürstenberg ruffled gingham stretch-silk wrap-effect midi dress, $600, net-a-porter.com; Marc Jacobs wrap dress with waist tie, $695, shopbop.com.

Leah, who describes her personal style as classic with a trendy twist, is a fan of wrap dresses. All three of the wrap dresses she tried on fit her well, and no alterations or modifications were necessary. Leah doesn’t mind showing a bit of cleavage, she says, but is also conscious to use double-sided fabric tape if needed.

When asked what she didn’t like about the dresses, Leah says the number one problem with the black Marc Jacobs dress was getting it on. “Where does the button fasten? This string is confusing.”

Jacqueline Laurean Yates, Yahoo Beauty Editor

From left to right, clockwise) Shoes and jewelry, model’s own. Ann Taylor striped poplin flare dress, $100, anntaylor.com; Reformation Kelsey dress, $198, reformation.com; Topshop Spot & Stripe midi wrap dress, $100, topshop.com.

“I don’t wear wrap dresses often, but I’m open to wearing them. I always hear people say how they’re so flattering,” Jacqueline told us before trying on three very different dresses. Jacqueline says she sometimes worries about exposing her arms and prefers instead to show off her legs, but she says all three of the dresses challenged how she thinks about the wrap dress silhouette. 

“When I think of a wrap dress, I think traditional, or mommy, or corporate, but these are really good picks. They’re not as traditional. These are more modern.”

An issue Jacqueline, who is petite, had while trying on her wrap dresses was extra fabric toward the top of the dresses. In particular, the black-and-white Topshop dress was far too baggy above the waist, and the red striped Reformation dress nearly exposed her. For the shoot, the Reformation dress was pinned in the back to keep her breasts from falling out, but that’s not exactly a practical real-life solution. As Jacqueline put it, the “dress is not safe for work.”

Cindy Arboleda, Yahoo Style and Beauty Editorial Intern 

(From left to right, clockwise) Shoes and jewelry, model’s own. Eloquii low circle-sleeve wrap dress, $120, eloquii.com; Banana Republic print wrap-front dress, $128, bananarepublic.com; Reformation Addy dress, $218, reformation.com.

Cindy owns two wrap dresses from Forever 21 and says she likes them because they hug her curves well.

Of the dresses Cindy tried on, the blue Banana Republic dress was far too short and exposed her in a way she didn’t feel comfortable with. The red floral-print Reformation dress was too low-cut for Cindy, who says, “I thought it looked so trashy; it wasn’t closing properly.”

Cindy’s winning dress, a $120 striped style by Eloquii, had sleeves Cindy thought were feminine and a fabric she said was comfortable for hot, humid weather in her hometown of Miami.

But feeling comfortable in a dress isn’t just about how the fabric feels on your skin. “I have to stand super straight in these,” Cindy says. “If I move at all my bra would show.” 

Jennifer Rogers, Yahoo Finance Anchor

(From left to right, clockwise) Shoes and jewelry, model’s own. Saloni Mae-B wrap-effect cotton-blend poplin midi dress, $470, net-a-porter.com; Ganni Harness floral-print silk crepe de chine wrap dress, $440, net-a-porter.com; Reformation Sparrow dress, $218, reformation.com.

“Do you feel like you have to stand up straighter in wrap dresses? I feel like your posture has to be incredibly straight,” Jennifer mused, echoing Cindy’s concerns about just how comfortable wrap dresses are.

Jennifer has more experience with wrap dresses than the other models, with two Diane von Fürstenberg styles in her own closet. Despite owning the standard bearers, she says she still has to tape the top of the dresses to keep from exposing her bra. “I don’t know who they work for.”

Jennifer doesn’t typically wear low V-cut tops and so preferred the blue Saloni Mae-B wrap dress, even though she says she felt “a little Mary Poppins” in it.

“I really like the pockets; it’s very comfortable. Maybe the Mary Poppins thing is the sleeve length.”

There’s always some kind of alteration to be made with the wrap dress, it seems. Universally flattering? Maybe. But universally comfortable? The answer seems to be no.

On Brittaney, from L to R clockwise:

Derek Lam 10 Crosby Wrap Dress with Pleating, $695, shopbop.com

H&M dress, $70, hm.com

Tory Burch Grotto Wrap Dress, $249, toryburch.com

On Leah, from L to R, clockwise:

Diane von Furstenberg Ruffled Gingham Stretch-Silk Wrap-Effect Midi Dress, $600, net- a-porter.com

Marc Jacobs Wrap Dress with Waist Tie, $695, shopbop.com

Aritzia Beaune Chiffon Midi Dress, $185, aritzia.com

On Jacqueline, from L to R clockwise:

Ann Taylor Striped Poplin Flare Dress, $100, anntaylor.com

Reformation Kelsey Dress, $198, reformation.com

Topshop Spot & Stripe Mid Wrap Dress, $100, topshop.com

On Cindy, from L to R clockwise:

Eloquii Low Circle Sleeve Wrap Dress, $120, eloquii.com

Banana Republic Print Wrap-Front Dress, $128, bananarepublic.com

Reformation Addy Dress, $218, reformation.com

On Jennifer, from L to R clockwise: 

Saloni Mae-B Wrap-Effect Cotton-Blend Poplin Midi Dress, $470, net-a-porter.com

Ganni Harness Floral-Print Silk Crepe de Chine Wrap Dress, $440, net-a-porter.com

Reformation Sparrow Dress, $218, reformation.com

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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.