Diane von Furstenberg and the Dress in New Academy Museum Building

Still of Diane Van from the short film: The Wrap Dress: 40 Years and Still Kicking
Still of Diane von Furstenberg from the short film: The Wrap Dress: 40 Years and Still Kicking

Fashion and social history buffs will delight in a new exhibition opening on January 11th featuring the works of acclaimed designer Diane von Fürstenberg.  Called “Diane von Fürstenberg: The Journey of a Dress,” the exciting exhibition will include vintage but also contemporary versions of DVF’s iconic wrap dress and other designs, as well as famous portraits of the celebrity-designer.  Following prior venues in Moscow (where the exhibition was curated by Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley,) Sao Paolo, and Beijing from 2009-2011, the exhibition has been updated for American audiences with a dazzling installation reflecting DVF’s chic style and social impact over the decades.

Diane von Fürstenberg modeling her wrap dress in 1972.
Diane von Fürstenberg modeling her wrap dress in 1976.

Now 40 years old, DVF’s versatile wrap dress was released in 1974, a year after the passage of the ERA, at a time women were joining the work forces in numbers and needed appropriate business attire, following the hippie era.  (Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards, the symbolic independent career woman, appeared in TV primetime from 1970-77.)

Adjustable to fit various body types and able to be dressed down or up, the wrap dress was created out of a new easy-care knit jersey.  The revelatory dress garnered $150M in annual sales by 1979 and propelled DVF to the cover of Newsweek magazine as a social phenomenom.  Then known as Princess Diane zu Fürstenberg, due to her then-husband’s title (Prince Egon of Fürstenberg), DVF became a jet-setting celebrity, painted by Warhol, Chuck Close and others.

Moving on to other interests DVF closed her fashion business shortly thereafter, only to revive it in 1997 as a global luxury lifestyle brand with stores in 70 countries, including a showroom at 8407 Melrose.  DVF continues to be a social leader, serving as project chair under Mayor Bloomberg in the effort to revive NYC’s fashion industry, and making annual awards to exemplary women, to cite just two of the current philanthropic interests of The Diller – von Fürstenberg Family Foundation.  (DVF married media mogul Barry Diller in 2001.)   Young people will recognize Diane from her appearances as a “Project Runway” judge, supporting emerging designers.

The exhibition will be launched on Friday January 10 in an invitation-only star-studded event.  Shown in the new Academy building (former May Company) on LACMA’s campus, the DVF exhibition is neither an Academy nor LACMA project.  However on Monday, January 13 at 6 pm LACMA’s Costume Council will sponsor a conversation between W magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Stefano Tonchi and Fürstenberg. Having started her business in 1970 with only $30,000, this daughter of an Auschwitz camp survivor, should have a lot to say.

DVF: Journey of a Dress Exhibition
Jan. 11 – April 1, 2014
Wilshire May Company Building
6067 Wilshire Blvd.
Hours: Mo, Tu, Thurs: 11am – 5 pm, Fri 11 am – 8 pm, Sat-Sun 10 am – 7 pm
Park at LACMA and enter the exhibition at the rear of the former May Company/LACMA West building.

Exhibition is free but tickets required:  Tickets

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About Renee Montgomery

Renee Montgomery began researching historic men's waistcoats at LACMA in 1979 as an intern, and is still at the museum as an Assistant Director in administration. She's written for various local media and museum publications, focusing on 'small town pockets' in urban L.A. She resides in Lafayette Square and has one daughter, a professional ballet dancer. Having never lost her zeal for her 'aggie' San Gabriel Valley/Riverside upbringing, Renee currently sells citrus and homegrown produce to support dog rescue efforts.

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