How to Wear Wrap Dresses to Work

Feb 6, 2019

Wrap dresses, the solution for days when your body doesn’t feel its best.  If your weight fluctuates like mine does, a good stable of comfortable wrap dresses will smooth out the peaks and valleys.  Here is how to style them for work.

DvF Phoenix Dress ($498)

Size Up. The number one complaint I get from women about wrap dresses is that they’re showy.  For certain body types, that can definitely be the case.  But I always buy my wrap dresses one size “too big.”

In DvF for example, I buy size 8 or 10 dresses depending on the style to keep them work appropriate.  In Ann Taylor or Banana Republic dresses, I’ll go up to size 6 or 8.

Sizing up gives me everything I love about a wrap dress (adjustability, body-flattering fit, ease), while providing a bit more cover.  I just cinch the dress a bit tighter to accommodate the extra fabric and get the coverage I need.  Suddenly those sometimes-problematic deep-Vs are much shallower.

Fabric Thickness Matters.  So many wrap dresses are made of this flimsy jersey or thin silk.  That doesn’t help anyone.  I look for a thicker ponte, poly-blend, or wool.  The extra thickness improves the drape and keeps the dresses from being too clingy.

I find that Ann Taylor’s wrap dresses, which are made of a poly-blend, have a good thickness.  They also make a good selection of prints each season, so I never get bored.  And if you wait for one of their many sales, you can pick up a good-quality wrap dress for $50-$60.

Banana Republic has a good quality ponte wrap-dress on sale right now.  It’s a good wrap dress for women who are larger on the bottom than the top.  The more a-line skirt makes it a really flattering, flirty option.

Fabric thickness also relates to the thickness of the tie-belt.  A flimsy belt isn’t go to cinch tight enough.  So look for one with a little thickness and a little heft to it if you’re concerned about it undoing.

If you’re concerned about a dress untying, or you just don’t want to run the risk, faux wraps give you the same body-slimming, comfortable fit without the worry.  The Karen Kane faux-wrap from Nordstrom is a Capitol Hill Style favorite.  I own it.  Many, many readers own it. The press is universally good on it.  It comes in navy, black and red.  The black also comes in plus-size.

Styling Tips for the Office.  I wear wrap dresses solo on relaxed Mondays or casual Fridays.  On other work days, I add blazers and other items to jazz them up.

Blazers. Every time I mention that I wear blazers over wrap dresses, readers always ask how.  What kind of blazer?  Do you button it?  How do you get the fit right?  Let’s answer a few of those questions.

First, wrap dresses look best with one button blazers where the button cinches at the same height that the dress cinches, typically your natural waist.  This pulls the whole look together.

Also, the blazer needs to be fitted at the waist.  Without that nip-in, it can look a bit shapeless.  This Vince Camuto blazer seems to fit at the waist in the right way.  This 1.State blazer is another good option.

For a splurgier option, try this slim-fitting Derek Lam blazer.  Need something under-$75?  Try this SuperDry blazer.  Plus-size?  Try this fitted Eloquii blazer.

Necklaces. A long necklace draws the eye down and makes you look taller and leaner when wearing a wrap dress.  You just need to find one that follows the natural fall of the neckline.  Long y-necklaces have the nicest drape for wearing with v-neck dresses and tops.

This Marchesa tassel necklace, Halogen long-chain necklace and Dillard’s necklace with black-and-white stones are all good options.

Tights and Boots.  In the winter months, I cover up a bit more with a pair of tights and sleek tall boots.  But mostly, I do this for warmth.  It’s -1 today for the high, so I need all the warmth I can get.

Right now, I’m wearing these DKNY fleece tights.  In addition to being really dark and warm, they also wear like iron.  If you need a more expensive pair, these $9 Land’s End tights are quality as well.

For boots, I like these block heel Via Spiga boots.  They’re super-comfortable for long days, but even with the heel, they don’t look chunky.  They’re also $98.  Score. Have wide feet? Try these Marc Fisher’s.  Have wide calves?  Try these Calvin Klein boots.

Belts. Some women just need more structure than a cinched-tie can provide.  To wear a thicker belt over a wrap dress, you twist-cinch the belt, but don’t make the knot or bow.  Instead, you pull the ends of the belt around the back and use thick safety pins to pin them flat.

To choose the right belt, choose a thicker option.  It also helps if there is some stretch or elastic to it.  This Wolf & Badger 9-to-5 belt is a good option.  It’s very sleek and doesn’t add bulk.  This Ardene corset belt is a good $10 option.  If you want to go with a fully leather option, just size up.

***

These tips help make wrap dresses appropriate for a professional office.  If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments.

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Career Style, Style

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  1. L says:

    Wrap dresses are great for returning to work after having a baby, especially if you are pumping or dropping by day care during the day to nurse. I suggest looking for ones that are machine washable, though.

    • nancy M says:

      can you tell me which dresses you wear specifically? i just returned to work after having a baby, and am struggling to find a dress that doesn’t accentuate my midsection.

  2. Megan says:

    I swear by the Anne Klein faux wrap dress. Comes in solids and some great prints. I find it’s very forgiving and the top is good for women with larger busts.

  3. Martha says:

    Do you safety pin the top closed as well, have snaps sewn in , a decorative pin or broach? I just bought my first wrap dress, but the v is much lower than I’d like.

    • Belle says:

      Those little snaps are a great option. Some of my girlfriends in D.C. also have dress weights sew into the hems to prevent them blowing away when they’re on their commute.

  4. Jules says:

    I have a couple of wrap dresses I love, and the v-neck issue is fine for me (I can wear a cami if need be) – but what I CANNOT figure out is how to not flash someone too much thigh.

    The area where the two layers of fabric line up move so much when I walk it’s entirely obscene. If there’s any wind at all, its a disaster. So I literally have to walk onto my dress when I walk. Surely there is a solution to this?

    • Denise says:

      I’ve noticed that the fabric makes all the difference here. Cotton / poly blends tend to fly open while heavier fabrics and knits tend to stay put. I now rent a lot of wrap dresses on rent the runway and the DVF and Nicole Miller ones are perfect -they never fly open

  5. Hannah says:

    I love wrap dresses! I’ve been tying mine in a four-in-hand knot (like for a neck tie). How do you tie yours?

  6. Susan says:

    I wear wrap dresses at least two days a week if not more! And while my younger colleagues chuckle at me, I swear by wearing the cosa Bella tank slip underneath them. Prevents cleavage shows, keeps skirts from clinging when not wearing tights and prevents the windy crotch flash! Not to mention allows more wears between washings.

  7. Jen says:

    I have the Karen Kane faux wrap in a gray. I dorn see it on the Nordstrom site, so it may have been limited but I love it. I can wear it with black, navy, or red blazer/cardigans.

    Tomorrow I’m wearing it with a black belted sweater, fairly structured like a blazer. I’ll remove the jacket and add a drop earring for dinner. It’s an incredible dress.

  8. Paige says:

    & Other Stories has a few very pretty, reasonably priced wrap dresses right now!

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