Fashion Friday: The Inimitable Diane Von Furstenberg and the Mighty Wrap Dress.

On Tuesday night I had the extraordinary pleasure of hearing the one and only (and my personal favorite designer) Diane Von Furstenberg speak at the Harris Center’s Public Forum at Harvard Business School. While the Harris Center Forum is typically a discussion about the fashion industry, body image and the resulting eating disorders it can produce, Diane’s speech was more about female empowerment rather than the shrinking waist sizes of runway models.  While at first this bothered me, with eating disorders being a very personal cause for me, once she started speaking about her life and career I was completely enraptured. And empowered.  And that sense of empowerment is one of the best ways to begin mitigating the self-mutilating thoughts and behaviors of an eating disorder. I had to share with you the experience of hearing Diane speak in person!

Diane’s life story is a phenomenal one (I ordered her biography on Amazon yesterday). Her outlook and approach to life was strongly formed early on by her mother,  who was a survivor or Auschwitz.  Even when brutally abused to the edge of death, she never let her captors make her feel like a victim and she told Diane something that she still repeats to herself today- “Fear is not an option. Ever.” So when Diane told her mother she was scared of the dark when she was little, she had locked her in a dark closet for 10 minutes.  She joked with the audience (chock full of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals) that this story was not exactly PC, but that after a few minutes in that closet, not only was it no longer dark, but she was no longer afraid.  And that experience stuck with her for her whole life. I am always scared of things- making life decisions, my health, living up to my potential- but when I consider that story, that when you embrace your fear and sit with it, all of the sudden it no longer looks so scary it helps me immensely.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand that all women struggle with self confidence and fear. She said something that really hit home with me, which was that when you are somewhere and see a woman across the room who you think has it all together and is so confident and beautiful and who makes you feel insecure about yourself, remember that to someone else YOU are the other woman across the room.  Brilliant! I feel this way all the time, always comparing myself to other women who seem to have it all together or have a different kind of life that I see as “better” or “more meaningful” than mine.  But I need to remember that to another woman somewhere, perhaps my life seems charmed and to be grateful for what I have.  As women I think we are quietly but ferociously competitive with each other and easily get down when we’re feeling like we aren’t able to conquer everything.  As long as we are doing our best we need to be at peace with where we are in life, and if we desire something else then do everything in our power to try for it!

As she stood up at the podium, I kept thinking how beautiful she was- not just her physical being, but her poise, attitude and life itself.  Clearly she has not had any “work” done, and wears very little makeup and lets her hair be frizzy and wild, and yet at 62 she looks phenomenal. Six weeks ago she got in a skiing accident in which her nose was broken and face damaged and her friends said it would be a great time to get a little face lift without anyone knowing. She said she looked at her friend and said “I don’t want a new face, I like my OLD face!” I loved this!  When women are running to their dermatologists to be pulled, plumped and carved in their 20′s and 30′s, this woman’s attitude was so refreshing! Health is beauty, she said, and while I have some argument for her considering the painfully thin girls that walked her runway this season, I will embrace her attitude for myself.

She makes no bones about having always wanted to be an independent woman. One who makes her own money, pays her own bills, has children or doesn’t, is married or not, but loves her career, is confident and happy and afraid of nothing. She said she became the exact woman she always wanted to be through fashion and designs her clothing with that woman in mind.  As I’ve said many, many times over- the wrap dress is my favorite article of clothing I own.  If I was sent to an island I would bring my favorite leopard wrap dress, my computer and some sunscreen. Why on earth would I bring a wrap dress to an island populated by only me? Because the wrap dress has an honest to God power about it-an uncanny ability to turn a “fat day” into a sexy one and somehow manage to instill a sense of power and confidence  while also making you really glad to be a woman. This is why I never hesitate to spend $300+ on one, because not only do they remain the most worn articles of clothing in my closet for years and years (I still wear my first from 2003) but they ALWAYS makes me feel pretty.  And as I found out, this feeling was the exact one Diane wanted the dress to instill in women with that article of clothing.  It’s as if when you slip on that slinky fabric, her intentions envelop you and seeps into your being.

wrap dresses currently available (hey stripey, you’re coming home with mama)

I have to say, Diane’s speech truly had me ready to kick open the door of that auditorium, swath myself in a wrap dress and karate chop my way through life.  A silk jersey swathed ninja ready to fight the good fight and turn lemons into lemonade (with a shot of vodka for good measure).  She loves being a woman. Loves creating beautiful clothing for women and supports causes that empower women to be forces to be reckoned with. She is an icon, a mother, a boss, a wife, a philanthropist and an artist- and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

MORE DVF GOODNESS:

**Some great articles on Diane you should read in the New York Times and The Independent.

Diane’s 10 Rules to Live by (from Elle Magazine)

  • Trust yourself. “The secret to feeling attractive, and to being attractive, is the confidence that comes from knowing who you are and what you believe in.”
  • Accept the passage of time.  “The older you get, the more you should learn to love life and appreciate the beauty that comes with age.”
  • Document your days. “Carry a camera and create an inspiring visual diary of your life.”
  • Your suitcase symbolizes your life. “The best way to know a woman is to open her luggage.  If she knows how to pack well, it means she understands , and cherishes, how to live a simplified life.”
  • Fashionable friends. “Choose fashions that make you happy.  I hope the clothes I design will become my clients’ best friends.  That way, when they open their closets, they will always encounter someone special.”
  • Dress your personality. “Always choose styles that also accentuate your personality.  Don’t use fashion to try and project a different persona.  Authenticity is key.”
  • Use your feminine power. “My mother taught me that being a woman is a privilege because the world revolves around us!  It is a precious gift, and its power should be used in a subtle and respectful way.”
  • Your handbag is your guide. “Before leaving home, check your agenda and organize your bag according to what you have to do that day.  Keeping everything in order makes life easier.”
  • Indulge yourself. “If you are like me, and don’t want to resort to Botox, book regular massages.  I’m sure it helps to keep everything firm and in it’s place!”
  • Lead a balanced life. “The best regimen is to keep moving!  Never stop working, travelling and seeking adventure.  Drink plenty of water, limit alcohol and sugar and get to your yoga class!”

Diane has floor to ceiling bookshelves! With library ladders!  As if I could worship her more!!!!

49 Responses to “Fashion Friday: The Inimitable Diane Von Furstenberg and the Mighty Wrap Dress.”

  1. Wow, what a phenomenal woman – I wish I could have heard her myself! Thanks for the recount, Erin. Definitely going to have sit down with my big fears (life decisions, ugh) while wearing my DVF wrap!

  2. Vanessa says:

    An inspiring post, and very interesting. A welcome read when we are hearing such scary things about the tsunami this morning. I have been enjoying your posts for awhile (and your tweets).

  3. meenal says:

    This is the best post I’ve read on a blog in ages…what a remarkable woman…what strength of character… i really have no words…I’m sure to get her book…you did a great job with this post, Erin…thankyou!! xx meenal

  4. Diane Von Furstenberg is a Fashion Icon. I absolutely adore her classic wrap dress. It should be a staple in any fashionista’s wardrobe. Not only does Diane have a great fashion sense, she also has some fabulous home accessories.

  5. escapade says:

    Love this + immediately wrote down some of these quotes. So inspiring!

  6. cindy says:

    Fantastic, Erin! Both you and Diane!

    Bravo to an informative, well written, thoughtful, fun and entertaining post!!!

  7. Kristina says:

    Erin, you really are the other woman across the room. And you’re even better than that, because you let us see that you’re not perfect and completely put together, but fabulous anyway. Loved the post.

  8. Emily says:

    I was just thinking what Kristina said. You are that woman! Since I began reading your blog, I have felt that way. You continue to inspire me every morning and are one of the reasons I know I will have the courage to one day quit my job and pursue the design career I dream of every day. Thank you for this post! One of the best you’ve ever written.

  9. Shannon says:

    What a wonderful post – and you and DVF have a lot in common – keep doing scary things Erin!

  10. Lindsey says:

    LOVE this post, Erin! I agree – one of the best. Beyond inspiring.

  11. Robin says:

    Truly inspiring post. Thanks so much for sharing. Her clothes have always been my favs.. but if its possible…I like her clothes even more now, reading that there is such a remarkable person behind them.

  12. Donna says:

    What a great post! Substantive yet fashionable at the same time. Wish I went last night!

  13. Arielle says:

    Erin, thank you for this post. I too idolize and gather inspiration from Diane von Furstenberg and this post only stands to confirm what a wholly inspiring person she is. I suggest downloading her episode of the show The Day Before. It’s a documentary series that chronicles the 24 hours before a designer’s fashion show and her episode is by far my favorite. I think you’d really get a kick out of it. I love you blog and I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability with your readers. You are totally the woman across the room and I hope you continue to kick ass!

  14. Your Husband says:

    Despite the fact that I think…scratch that…know you are an incredible and amazing woman…I continue to be surprised by you. Fantastic post. You are the woman across the room…next to me…which means I know I am the luckiest person in the room.

  15. This was a fascinating and inspirational post. I have always been a huge fan of Diane von Furstenburg but the way you described her talk, solidified even more for me that she is a fabulous role model. And your description of the wrap dress is exactly how I feel about mine, it is probably my favorite thing in my closet!

  16. sami says:

    OMG I LOVE HER SO MUCH!

  17. teach chic says:

    I love today’s post! Diane is such an amazing icon, and so are you! Love the blog!!

  18. Liz says:

    What a wonderful post Erin! Thank you for sharing such a positive and inspiring experience with us – a great start to my Friday morning!

  19. Barbara says:

    I am enamored with this post. Chock-full of useful thoughts for today’s women. I just shared it with my FB fam. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Two of my life goals are: 1) to own a DVF wrap dress, and 2) to have my own library ladder. Hopefully they happen sooner rather than later. Great post!

  21. Mer says:

    GREAT post, Erin! Thank you. You’re making me want to order DVF’s book myself (and try on a wrap dress). Can we get a little book review when you’re done?

  22. Emily says:

    You are definitely that woman across the room… and across the blogs! Your honesty, sass, wit, and unmatched style don’t go unnoticed in this kooky, virtual world! What an inspiring post.

  23. Jen says:

    Uhgg. LOVE her and those dresses. Back in my twenties I came across two DV wrap dresses at a thrift store for like 5 bucks. Bought’em, loved’em and then lost them somewhere. They were cotton and super summery-pretty. I miss them terribly. (sniff, sniff)

  24. Great post. Exactly the story I needed to hear today! Thanks Erin!

  25. natalie says:

    Erin,

    Thanks for the wonderful post about my favorite DVF. I am also obsessed with her clothes and her life, and her mantras are truly rules to live by. A great “go get ‘em” post for Friday. Happy Weekend!

  26. I can see why she’s one of your idols. I do love her wraps though, she’s very fashionable.

  27. [...] For a fantastic post published today on Diane and her fashion, including some shots of her classic wraps just reissued, click over to Erin Gates at Elements of Style. [...]

  28. Michelle says:

    I love this post. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Wow… thank you Erin for such a touching post… DVF is the type of woman I aspire to be as well, one who truly lives and enjoys!

  30. L. says:

    WOOHOO, ERIN! I couldn’t have said it any better! DVF ROCKS and so do YOU!

  31. Lindley says:

    hi erin – i posted a link to your blog in my post today! i left a comment earlier on this post, hope you got it! thanks -
    lindley

  32. MCC says:

    Inspiring post! Visiting your blog is a little highlight of my day. Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

  33. If you need some more DVF goodness, I really enjoyed listening to this talk she gave at Google a couple years back:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObyPw6ghOkM

    Sara

  34. stephanie says:

    I love her wrap dresses. I concur with DVF- a leopard wrap-dress is not only comfortable but oh so stylish. I own several!

  35. Enno says:

    wow. what a post. I needed this today. seriously. thanks Erin!!!

  36. [...] On Diane von Furstenberg at Elements of Style [...]

  37. Cori Sue says:

    Love the post, Erin. You summarized DVF’s story well, picked great photos and I love the inspirational quotes. I want to order the DVF book and striped dress, too :)

    Oh, also, I’ve had my DVF dress for about 5 years and it is the perfect fat-day dress.

    Thanks for inspiring and brightening my day!

  38. Denetra says:

    Oh my gosh, love this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. Quiana says:

    Wow! It is so timely that you posted this – I’ve had the tearsheets of Diane’s library on my desk to scan for an upcoming blog post! After I saw your library post the other day it reminded me to get on the ball then lo and behold you scanned them in. I’ll be redirecting my readers to this post =) I LOVE Diane and as a product of single sex education from 8th grade through college, she is a banner of everything that has been ingrained in me as well.

  40. Linda says:

    Yes, you are definitely the woman across the room! Great post. Thank you.

  41. Cheri says:

    I have been reading your blog daily for months but have never commented. This post though requires comment. I wish every woman I knew – young or not so young – would read this and give it some serious consideration. We all have power to inspire others. Some of us never realize or use that power but it is nevertheless there.Thanks for sharing the inspiration you find in DVF and for being inspirational in your turn. Bravo.

  42. Lindsey says:

    Love this post and this woman, just forwarded to all my girlfriends! Inspiring!

  43. I adore DVF dresses and agree that they can change your attitude from frumpy to fabulous in a heartbeat! I must have at least 10 of them, and I don’t think I’ll ever give them up! She really is a master at cutting fabric to flatter a woman’s figure. Thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed your summary and reading about her thoughts.
    Jacqueline

  44. Claire says:

    Erin, thank you for this post. I am a longtime reader, and really enjoy your blog. It seems to me that you have a charmed life! My wish for you is that you enjoy it more, and revel in your accomplishments. Go! :)

  45. Leslie says:

    Amazing post! Almost as good as your husband’s!

  46. Great summary! I really liked the event at the Harris Center and was glad to hear DVF talk-she is very inspiring and empowering! A lot of the things she said really rung true with me, especially about your relationship with yourself and health is beautiful!

  47. Erin,

    Your blog is amazing and your taste impeccable (I suppose that means that I have good taste too), and I love your boards for inspiration that include fashion/interior items. I bought my first DVF in 2004 and have acquired quite a few since then. (I’d say the red and fuschsia and back leopard print is my favorite.)

    Anyway, wonderful nuggets you’ve pulled out of the DVF talk! thank you!

    I’m a business coach and find that I work with many of my clients, who are mostly executives and entrepreneurs, on food/alcohol addictions. I’m also curious about your involvement in eating disorder awareness events/causes? I would love to know what’s on your radar.

    (I have an ED recovery blog: http://www.youtube.com/bulimiabetty

  48. M Sullivan says:

    Tremendous blog! I am 62 also, and worked at Vogue in the old days. I wore one of her wrap dresses while pregnant and will never forget it. Wish I had it today! She’s a tough woman and a wonderful inspiration to us all. Keep it up Diane (and Erin too). You are both fabulous.