The Challenge of Keeping it Under Wraps

wrap dressesToday’s reader mail presents us with a great question about wrap dresses for the office…

I am continually more frustrated with trying to monitor my wrap dresses to ensure that the flap upon my lap/knees is “closed.” Do the readers have any suggestions? There is never enough “wrap” fabric to have it sewn shut along the other seam as some dresses are pre-made that way. I’m on the verge of tossing all my wraps. Thoughts?

We hear you — we own a classic wrap dress that feels more like a robe. We’ve wondered whether a bigger size might be a help (someone told us that the “trick” to wearing wrap dresses is to get them a size or two larger), but this particular wrap dress has pockets that sit in exactly the proper place. We’ve also been less than satisfied with the solutions.  Still, here’s what we’ve tried:

  • Wear a black, plain slip — no lace — beneath it.
  • Safety pins — you can pin the top of the dress closed; we’ve also placed a safety pin around the mid-thigh mark of the wrap.
  • Double-sided tape — we’ve found it’s better used to secure the safety-pinned edge so it lays flat rather than relying on double-sided tape to keep your dress shut
  • Finally, we’ve never tried this, but it just might work for some wrap dresses: wear them backwards.

Readers, what are your solutions to the problem?

(Pictured above: Diane von Furstenberg Justin Dress, available at ShopBop.com for $325.)

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Comments

  1. For cool weather months, I’ve found that opaque stockings below and a camisole above provide just enough coverage to make me feel comfortable with the wrap dress at work. I still haven’t mastered warm weather wear…

    • I have never understood the appeal of wrap dresses. Here, you’d be paying $325 for a dress, and then have to go to a tailor to add snaps or stitches. I did succomb and buy one last spring, which I wear with a camisol and a half slip. I still clutch the flap of the skirt to keep it from opening, however. What a pain.

    • Mine are driving me up the wall. I have a beautiful blue and white one from DVF but I don’t want to show cleavage. And no matter what the camisole, more cleavage shows than I’m willing to show. I’m only a B cup. I think I’ll have to only wear this dress in the fall and spring – and with a turtleneck.

  2. divaliscious11 :

    You can take them to your tailor and have your tailor either add small stitchings (but them you have to put the dress on overhead), or add unobtrusive snaps in the appropriate places so that you can have some extra security.

    • I think stitches, snaps, hook-and-eye closures, etc. are the only acceptable fix. Or like Anon, skipping that style dress altogether.

    • I use safety pins mid thigh and it works. I also go up a size for this purpose.

      The problem I have is that wraps ride up during the day, from waist to just under boobs. ( I think this is not an issue for less curvy girls.) I do wear a cami but still I feel it looks awful when that happens.

      So I had my seamstress stitch the hidden tie part to the side seam and wear wrap tops in a pull-on way now. Not sure if it would work for dresses. Does anyone else have the riding-up issue and what do you do ?

  3. I like the slip suggestion, and I use safety pins for nearly every fast repair imaginable (including buttons on the go).

    The problem with double sided tape is that in the warmer, humid, months I find it loses its stick, and the rest of the year leaves an icky residue

  4. I don’t really have any constructive suggestions. My take on work clothing in general is that I don’t wear it to work if there’s a chance I’ll be worried about a wardrobe malfunction (dress flapping open when I walk, clear view down my shirt if I bend over my desk, etc.). I don’t need the extra stress :)

  5. Iron-on adhesive? I can’t think of a brand name, but you can buy it at a fabric store and it comes in either tape or sheet form. It is usually meant to adhere patches, but it works great to hold seams very flat and is an easy and permanent alternative to double-sided tape.

  6. Sort of OT – where can you find simple, good but not too expensive slips? Do they come in colors besides black, white and nude? And what about sleeves? I always thought it was kind of silly that slips are sleeveless….it allows your deodorant/sweat from your underarms to go directly on your dress.

    • I’ve had moderate success at Kohls, but they don’t always have much of a selection or much in the way of different sizes. I don’t know why as so many dresses and skirts need a slip to make them hang properly.

      • I have (and am currently wearing) a plain Jockey slip. I think it cost in the $30 range. (I forgot where I got it, but it was def a dept. store like Macy’s or something.) Not sure if this, or any other slips come in other colors, but my experience is that a black slip and a nude slip will take you a long way.

    • I just go to a mid level department store to buy slips. No need to spend money at Nordies or Saks for these basics.

    • You can always buy a white or a nude slip and dye it yourself with the dye from the grocery. One of my friends does it and ends up with some great colors (although not necessarily the same colors as your dress).

    • divaliscious11 :

      Target…

    • Anonymous :

      JC Penney always has tons of slips, or online at onehanesplace.com.

    • You can buy dress shields to deal with the underarm problem — they are basically little cloths that are affixed under the arms of a dress or blouse to prevent perspiration from getting on the fabric. They are hard to find, but sometimes can be located at a fabric or dressmaking store. When I find them, I buy all that the store has in stock. I am down to two boxes right now. While they cost about $1-2 a pair, that is a lot cheaper than the $7 to $15 to dry clean a silk blouse or long sleeved dress and they allow me to get two or three wearings or an item between cleanings.

      I have used both the paper kind that stick in with adhesive (good for structured blouses and dresses) and the light fabric or muslin kind that you sew in (good for delicate silks where the adhesive could ruin the fabric or where the shield might slip or slide). I tack mine in on the sleeve seam so that the stiches do not show and trim the shield if needed. I am sure that a reputable dressmaker could tack some in for you without too much cost.

      • I was about to ask where to get slips myself. But, is this really even a solution? Is it acceptable to have a slip peek out of your dress, even if it is better than exposing skin? It reminds me of many an unfortunate grade school teacher’s attire.

    • AnneCatherine :

      For slips in colors aside from black, white and nude/beige/tan/cream (which are probably all you will really need), you can look at Marshall’s. I found a peach-colored Josie Natori (sp?) half-slip there once, and also a navy blue full-length one. I got a light blue one (half-slip) at Saks, and a sort of dark peach one at Victoria’s Secret (half). But Target has really good basic ones, as divaliscious11 alludes to.

  7. I usually wear a cami to solve the top problems. If you wear a cami, you can sort of wrap/belt it looser and lower, which also gives you more fabric at the bottom and lets you feel a little more comfortable with that half as well.

  8. No wrap dresses for me, I gave up on them , too much grief. Any time I tried one on that’s one or two sizes up, to beat the overlap problem, the neck gaped. And I hate the look of a safety-pin at the V. And it annoys me that the manufacturer doesn’t cut them with enough fabric in the skirt – if each side of the skirt were cut wider, we wouldn’t have this problem.

  9. I wear a slip and use a safety pin or two, as needed. I’ve had wraps with snaps, and they work well if the material isn’t too slinky. If your wrap is blowing open outdoors, a long coat will solve that problem.

    Where to find slips: I like mine in rayon-type fabrics, from Anthropologie or GapBody (when they have them). You can find cheap ones at Filene’s or any department store in the lingerie section. They come in prints as well as colors, although considering you’re usually wearing a slip because you’re afraid it might show, I wouldn’t recommend a crazy print.

    I’ve never seen a slip with sleeves (isn’t that a night gown?), but consider stick-on underarm guards if you’re worried about sweat or deoderant.

  10. Speaking of wrap dresses, I’m thinking of buying this one from Banana in navy:

    http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=6322830020000&cid=50129

    The reviews are all over the place, though. Has anyone bought this?

    Also, does anyone have any BR coupon codes — free shipping or discount on a full price item? I can’t seem to find any. Thanks!

    • I got this as a gift and returned it. It is very, very formfitting. I had a size medium, I’m 5-8/125lbsand it was skin-tight. You could actually see my abdominal muscles through the fabric. Um, no thanks.

      Also, the v neckline is deep enough to require a cami and the hole that the tie goes through is much larger than the tie, exposing skin on the side of your body.

      Frankly, I’d skip it.

      • YMMV. I have this dress in grey and it is great. (I am 5.8 and about a size 10 right now, just had baby 3 months ago). I have a size L. You can wrap the neckline higher and it doesn’t require a cami, and I don’t find the hole for the tie to be bigger than the tie (you do have to make sure the tie is not all twisted up though). Great for work, could probably transition to after-work event with a change in accessories.

        Oh, and also with nursing etc my boobs are bigger than normal right now (probably D-DD) so that may be why the top fits me better than the thinner poster above. :)

        • Thanks for the feedback, ladies. The reviews are truly all over the place — some people say that it is the best dress ever, others hate it. I’m tempted to buy the dress anyway just to see what I think. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about sizing, though. I’m a size 2 on top and a size 4/6 on bottom. I was planning to buy both a XS and S and see what fits better, but reading Anon’s comment, I wonder if I should get the medium as well?

          What is YMMV? :)

          • Clerky – if it helps you choose your sizes, I wear a size 4 and am far from busty.

          • I think it’s Your Mileage May Vary

          • legalicious07 :

            Yes, that’s what the acronym means. Iow, one person has given her opinion and you are entitled to have a different view.

    • I own this dress and I’m wearing it today! I really like it, but I will say that I wear shaping underwear underneath it and I use some Hollywood tape to keep the neckline from being so deep. It gets a thumbs up from me …

      • Just wanted to chime in and say I have this and love it. I’m 5’7″ with a B/C cup and much larger bottom, but this dress is very flattering. I frequently wear a M in Banana dresses, but I got this one in L and it’s perfect.

    • Put me down as one of the ones who didn’t like it. I did have trouble keeping the tie straight enough that the hole in the side didn’t show skin. The neckline was deep enough that I’d have to wear it with a cami. I also thought it ran a little small; it clung to my thighs. I’m pear-shaped, though – others might find it easier to wear.

      • Just goes to show how different this dress works on different women! Thanks everyone for the feedback. I am waiting for BR to give me a coupon code or some other discount and will then probably purchase this dress in a few different sizes to see what I think. THANKS!

  11. Have to agree with Anon — work is stressful enough without stressing about if your clothing is going to do ITS job (i.e., clothe you). And I always sigh a little bit when I see safety pins and tape on others — to me, it screams that the item simply doesn’t fit for the occasion and should not be worn to the office.

  12. I find camis to be a better solution than safety pins – how do you make the safety pin not show???

    Also, I think we had a slip discussion a while back – but I gave up slips in college and I am not about to start again. Why would a dress need a slip to work? and would that not mean that a different dress might work better?

    • For me it is clinginess of the skirt to my Spanx that requires a slip with some skirts and dresses.

    • divaliscious11 :

      I have a lot of jersey or knit that in a warmer climate I didn’t wear with hose. Now that I am in the midwest, hose/tights are a must, and slips reduce the cling to the hose. I think I bought my first slip in 20 years last October….

    • Honest question: what is it about slips that you don’t like? I gather they are sort of out of fashion right now, but dunno why.

      • Blonde lawyer :

        I just never saw their purpose besides keeping a white skirt from being see through.

        • Yikes. Slips make most skirts fall/lay better and white is not the only color that is see through. i have two black skirts in a jersey/silk fabric and if the light hits me just right you can see EVERYTHING. Not to mention that slips help hide those pesky panty lines or dimples if you are so unfortunate, unless wearing spanks. But then you still need a slip b/c spanks tend to create static on my clothes. I always wear one just to be safe.

    • I wear them to avoid surprise “transparency” issues.

    • Safety pin won’t show if you pin from within/inside. Just turn up the dress to pin from below. I’m Indian and that’s how we get saris to stay in place :)

    • You should wear a slip with unlined skirts or dresses to make them hang smoothly and, um, especially to prevent them from clinging to your lady parts. You’ll have a much smoother line and less static with a slip. Lined skirts or dresses shouldn’t require a slip, although sometimes I wear one anyway on hot days to soak up perspiration.

  13. I think any item of clothing you have to think this much about is probably not appropriate clothing for the office. What is that quote – “I dress well, in impeccable clothes, so then I can forget about them.” The last thing I want to do all day is fuss with my clothes and worry about being overexposed. I only buy wrap-style dresses if they are “faux-wrap” – meaning one side has been stitched closed. Otherwise, forget it. I don’t want to spend so much time fidgeting with my dress that people think I’m more focused on it than on my work.

  14. I have had success with very opaque black stockings in the winter months. For summer, maybe one of those form fitting slips, from companies like Spanx? I’ve never tried it, but it seems like they would give just enought security.
    For the most part though, wrap dresses seem like alot of trouble… and they make me look like a linebacker.

  15. I’ve had ok luck with slips at Target. I insist on slips so things don’t cling, bunch, or gape. That said, I usually have to get half slips because they never fit me in the chest. If I team a cami with a slip, we’re good to go with just about any wrap dress situation.

  16. Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

    Not a hijack, more of an FYI: According to the article linked below, L’Oreal is pulling Shu Uemura from the United States.

    http://www.stylelist.com/2010/03/30/loreal-pulls-the-plug-on-shu-uemura-in-the-u-s/?icid=main|main|dl5|link4|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stylelist.com%2F2010%2F03%2F30%2Floreal-pulls-the-plug-on-shu-uemura-in-the-u-s%2F

  17. Stephanie :

    I have to go with divaliscious on this one. little snaps on my wrap dresses (especially up top) are a must. If anything it allows me to go through the day and not have to worry that I am showing off more than my work.

  18. Went in to meet with a senior partner after reading this column, and she was wearing a very unfortunate wrap dress. She spent our entire meeting fidgeting with her dress. It probably looked fine when standing in front of a mirror, but it did not cover well enough when she was sitting – I spent the entire meeting in fear of an unfortunate slip. You could tell she was totally uncomfortable in the outfit. Definitely not worth it.

  19. Thread jack:

    I recently met with a potential employer at in informal meeting and he asked me to send him a writing sample. I was planning on sending him a hand-written thank-you card for meeting with me, but now that I’m sending him an e-mail with a writing sample, I plan on thanking him in an e-mail. A handwritten thank-you note seems like a little much. Any thoughts?

  20. artemisia :

    Back to the wrap dresses – first, make sure you give yourself a fighting chance by buying dresses with generous fabric (I’ve done well with Boden). Cami and matching tights in colder months, as mentioned upthread. In the warmer months, cami if needed, and very light bike shorts.

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