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Her ‘Experiment’ in classic dress is a wrap

Caitlin Gallagher in the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress she’s wearing for 30 straight days. Caitlin Gallagher in the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress she’s wearing for 30 straight days. (Amy West)
By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / May 13, 2010

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The question usually arises shortly after Caitlin Gallagher, a Cambridge writer, explains that she has been wearing the same black Diane von Furstenberg dress every day since April 15, the day she launched her blog, The DVF Experiment.

“Everyone asks if I’ve washed the dress,’’ she says. “The answer is yes, I’ve had it dry cleaned. But not as often as I should. That’s why Febreze was invented.’’

It was last month when Gallagher, who works part time for a nonprofit and also writes for newspapers, decided that she would wear her favorite black, viscose DVF wrap dress every day for a month to demonstrate its versatility. She wanted to prove that the dress that she bought two years ago for her 32d birthday is a natural, stylish fit for any situation, and that’s exactly what she’s done, documenting it all through her blog.

“Day Three: Someone actually stopped me in Target to compliment me on my . . . rain boots! It was so disappointing. But then I realized that’s actually so typical of the DVF. The dress itself never gets noticed — it just acts as the stage. It stays in the background, letting you (your rain boots, or your necklace, or your scarf) be the star.’’

“Day Eight: When you tell your shrink you’re planning to wear the same dress for 30 days in a row, rest assured, she will begin to ask you some very pointed questions. She will not, however, take pictures of you for your blog. (Apparently, that would be ‘inappropriate.’)’’

“Day Eighteen: . . . Diane von F has thought of everything. It’s like she knew that one day some crazy person would decide to wear her seminal dress for 30 days in a row, during which time she would need to wash her dog. Because the dress dried almost instantly, and unlike my arms and legs (and tub) there’s not a stray dog hair on it. Oh Diane von Furstenberg (both lady and dress), I love you so.’’

Gallagher initially hesitated to tell anyone beyond friends about the blog (although co-workers figured out that something was going on with her repeat cycle wardrobe). Her fear was that anonymous commenters would say nasty things about her beloved dress. That didn’t happen, and eventually her friends convinced her to start spreading the word. Since that time, the number of readers of The DVF Experiment has grown from a very modest 13 to somewhere closer to 700 daily.

Emboldened by her microcelebrity, Gallagher posted a link to The DVF Experiment blog on Diane von Furstenberg’s official Facebook page last week. The next day she received an e-mail from an employee at the designer’s office that read: “Diane read the blog last night and absolutely loved it.’’

Gallagher was in heaven.

“The idea that Diane herself actually sat down and read this . . . I never, never would have dreamed that she would read it, let alone like it,’’ Gallagher says, grinning ear-to-ear.

She was even more excited when she stopped by Diane von Furstenberg’s offices last week. Sadly, von Furstenberg was not in, but Gallagher and the ubiquitous black wrap dress had an opportunity to visit the designer’s shocking pink office.

"If you believe that word of mouth is the best way to communicate, who could give a better reputation to the wrap dress than Caitlin's experiment?," von Furstenberg said in an e-mail. "What fun and how extremely flattering for me, my work and my dress!"

Gallagher admits that The DVF Experiment began as an excuse to wear her beloved wrap dress for more than special occasions, but she’s learned that wearing the iconic frock has its benefits, including an increase in self-confidence. Although she laments it hasn’t resulted in an increased number of dates.

Von Furstenberg first designed the wrap dress in the early 1970s, and it has since become the backbone of her company and a fashion staple. Gallagher pined for a wrap dress for years, finally purchasing her dress for approximately $300 at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“It was the first dress that I ever bought that made me feel like an adult woman,’’ she says. “I always felt like that amount of money was not appropriate to spend on an item of clothing. But I absolutely don’t regret it.’’

Tomorrow, the experiment ends, and the dress will go back in the closet (after a much needed trip to the dry cleaner). But after an entire month of wearing the dress, Gallagher is still not tired of it. She says she loves the way it diminishes her muffin top and accentuates her décolletage. But mostly she’ll miss the confidence the dress gives her, and the challenge of blogging about it every day.

“I’m ready for the next adventure,’’ she says. “Although I have to admit that it will be nice to finally wear jeans again.’’

Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com.