Fashion Historians & Fashionistas take note: The mystery of who "invented" or who "created" the wrap dress is forever solved.
You might ask "Does it matter in the scheme of things?" Well, Irving Penn once said "You know you're good when they take your ideas," and Louis Feraud added, "Ideas are in the air for plucking."
Yes, it matters to me and it should matter to other fashionistas. The truth can be fact checked. So what follows are the facts:
- Mia -- Vicky, 21 Rue Bonaparte, a French couture company as Fonssagrives Tiel first did the printed jersey wrap dress in 1968 for Joan Arkin, a U.S. dress license.
- Mia Fonssagrives, supermodel Lisa Fonssagrives, her mother, and Irving Penn's stepdaughter was my partner.
- In a movie called Candy, with Marlon and Ringo, worn by Eva Aulin in mint green satin crepe with a cream collarand the draped front, the set in sleeve and bias wrap belt tied at the side. Candy was released 1969, but shot in '68.
- In Redbook Magazine, 1968, in soft jersey print in pinks and greens produced by Joan Arkin and sold at Bloomingdales (also in the window) in the identical pattern, as in Candy with no collar or sleeve cuff, but a flared straight sleeve.
- In our fashion show in Jan 1968 at Maxims Paris, with Elizabeth Taylor watching, on the model in navy and gold panne velvet, same pattern. She was our backer and partner. I wore the wrap dress in blue crepe for our contract press photo by our personal photographer, Gianni Bozzacchi in 1968, that he released to the world. (I still own this dress )
I wore jersey Fonssagrives-Tiel for Joan Arkin wrap creation in Rome and St Trop in 1968.
I had written about our wrap dress in my memoir It's all About the Dress, published by St. Martin's Press in 2011 and all my claims were was fact checked by their lawyers. I was hoping DVF and the fashion writers and historians would read it and politely accept the mistake. I never took legal action. It's not my style. I accept others plucking ideas in the air.
What makes the wrap so special is it comes off easily when untied. In the Candy promo she is naked holding it up!
It is also body hugging draped front dress that is as figure flattering to a size two as well as a 20. The pattern is easy to copy, once the idea was there. Only, I did not publish or promote that I invented it, as I was busy making other original designs in Paris that are also still worn today. I also assumed it was known that I made it first. I could not imagine it was going to become another Designer's claim to fame in America.
Last week, I was more than surprised when I opened up the New York Times to see an interview by Andrew Goldman of Diane Von Fürstenberg, and read she had "No idea I would be creating something that would be so meaningful... I created this dress and in no time at all I lived the American dream."
I laud the marketing and financial success Diane Von Fürstenberg made of the wrap. Ms. Von Furstenberg studied economics at the University of Geneva. There are few as successful in branding and promoting as Ms. Von Furstenberg. She popularized the wrap dress, and in turn made millions of dollars. To that, kudos. She should be seriously respected.
Perhaps this is how the scenario went...
Today, there are still designers who can do it all, but many are the image alone of an ideal, the "celebrity designer." The celebrity designer is a socialite, a promoter, not the artist, not the real designer dressmaker. They hire people like myself who work for them, often a team of people like myself. How do they know when the team copies others? They don't. Today, fashion design is more about a statement, a brand, a vision and not at all like myself where designing to simply make flattering dresses for women to wear for personal empowerment, or just going to a wedding and/or finding a man.
Dress designers in the past were glorified seamstresses. They cut, sewed, beaded, draped, and of course, drew their clients in their creations. I am of this world, having my own custom store in Paris and in Bergdorf's. I chose to be a couturier, to make many designs that last and which I did and 45 years for the wrap is pas mal!
Actually, as a fashion student at Parsons I studied Claire McCardell's popover, apron dress, with a two large front button closings. It is a cross over front but looks like a full raglan sleeve '50s bathrobe -- apron -- dress, not a draped figure hugging sexy '60s dress. It is not worn today accept as a robe. Claire McCardell's design did not inspire me; Mia's wrap skirt that she wore, while in school at Parson's, was the inspiration.
I continue to be surprised that I still have not gotten historical credit for a dress I designed in 1968 and in 2013 sold 12,000 units of the dress in a single day on HSN TV.
The article in Redbook Magazine that accompanied the photo, (Feb 1968) stated "the bias cut wrap may well be the most comfortable dress of the decade." Six years later, 1974, Ms. Von Furstenberg "introduced" the wrap dress.
So entrenched is the successful marketing of Ms. Von Fürstenberg that the New York Times Magazine mis-stated last week that DVF will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its creation next year when I have been selling the wrap since 1968 or 45 years.
One wonders who checks the math and fact finding. I contacted the New York Times Senior Editor for a retraction, but they have yet to respond. Oh well, I will hopefully sell another 12,000 on my next HSN show. As my Russian Jewish grandmother would say, "Vat a Dress!"
Vicky Tiel began designing clothes 40 years ago in Paris and still owns a boutique there. See Vicky and her new collection on HSN and online. Her couture is available at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and her perfumes are carried in Perfumania. Her memoir, It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in 40 Years About Men, Women, Sex and Fashion was published by St. Martin's Press in August 2011.