A few years ago, something came on to the fashion scene that was utterly perfect and exquisite: the wrap dress. It was made of silk jersey, and it made almost every woman it covered look like a siren from the days when women didn't aspire to look like someone who had built the bridge over the River Kwai. If anything, the wrap dress looked good only on women with curves.
The very best of these dresses (nay, it is said she invented them) was by Diane von Furstenberg. I bought one three years ago when I was looking for something for my daughter's christening. I wanted something easy, comfortable and utterly glamorous, but that would forgive the extra weight I was carrying, a task seemingly so impossible, I actually went to church beforehand to pray for the miracle that had to happen before all those boxes could be ticked. Then I walked into Selfridges, went straight to the second floor, and there it was - this crazy dress with a geometric pattern that you could never hope to explain successfully to anyone ("it's got blacks and greens and reds and other colours in it in sort of squares"). A shabby, overweight, shuffling girl went into the changing room and, while in there, a transformation of Superman/ telephone-box proportions took place. An hourglass woman, hands on hips, looking superbly elegant, gazed back at me. God, it was good. And God, it was comfy. It was miraculous. I handed over £329 as if it were nothing. I have since worn this dress at least 50 times (I'm trying hard not to exaggerate). In other words, it has been fantastic value for money.
Next thing, of course, every high-street shop started doing them. H&M's summer version cost something ridiculous like £20. I bought it and never wore it - not least because the makers had been so mean with the material, it was barely a wrap dress at all, more a sort of coat. Boden's version cost £70 and looked fantastic on cer- tain people, but wasn't forgiving enough for me. Still, I bought it, hope triumphing over experience and sheer, un arguable physics, and wore it twice. But where the von Furstenberg dress skimmed, the Boden one clung, and vice versa. There's a moral there as deep as any you would get from watching The Brady Bunch.
Then everyone started wearing them, until you couldn't move at parties for wrap dresses. But still the wrap dress stood firm, four years on. (I was late to them; my friend Charlie was wearing them already in 2002. But that's how you get to be executive fashion and beauty director of Grazia.) Finally, this season, the wrap dress was giving way to the shirt dress. The shirt dress is good, but it's not fantastic like the wrap dress is. For one, it doesn't have the cocooning ability the wrap does. Where the wrap is about glamour and promise, the shirt is about utility and rolling your sleeves up. The wrap dress demands heels, whereas the shirt can look just as good with flats.
But finally the die was cast; this past week, the wrap - and a horrid, cheapie version at that - had a starring role in Coronation Street, on Gail Tilsley. Death was instantaneous.