The Wrap Top from the back. Image courtesy of Melinda Clemmer.
I’m a big fan of cardigans. I have a closet full of them: pink, turquoise, blue, cream — perfect for every occasion. But my favorite one is a new addition, and that’s because it’s not just a cardigan. It’s also an elegant long-sleeve top, a halter top, and a wrap top.
Choosing a Piece
When I was offered the opportunity to review a piece from Diane Kroe’s collection, I jumped at the chance. A new (useful) item of clothing to add to my closet? Heck yes!
My excitement turned into about an hour of sitting on the couch, browsing through a varied selection of garments, absolutely unable to land on which one I wanted to try.
The decision was made even harder by the fact that I had spoken with Diane over the phone and knew that whatever garment I picked would be a good choice.
Have Fun and Travel Light
Diane Kroe started packing light out of necessity: “Being a girl who loves fashion and looking put together, I obviously packed way, way too much.” On a backpacking trip through Europe that lasted almost a year, she met some Norwegian women who cut the necks out of their t-shirts so that they could be worn as dresses and transition easily to the beach the next day. Diane realized that, especially when traveling, every single garment needs to have another purpose.
After working for various companies designing everything from wrestling unitards to wedding gowns, Diane saw a hole in the fashion industry: a need for clothing for destination weddings and formalwear for traveling women. In the shop that she established, she often found herself having to design identical bridesmaid dresses for all shapes and sizes.
Behold, the versatility of the Wrap-Top. Image courtesy of Diane Kroe.
She now uses those skills combined with experience with a variety of fabrics to influence her collection, which she sells on the road — embodying the spirit of her line by selling it in city after city. Diane’s garments fit almost every woman — she brings models sized 14-16 to every show to demonstrate just that. The pieces are not mass-produced; instead, they’re made for each customer in Toronto, Canada. The material is poly-spandex: stretchable, durable, machine washable, and tumble dry.
The Wrap Top
After being briefly seduced by the Convertible Dress (I’m a sucker for a pretty sundress.) and watching all of the how-to-wear videos (some of them twice), I decided on the Wrap Top.
The garment arrived in unassuming packaging with a card displaying images and instructions for all of the different ways the Wrap Top could be fashioned. It would have been nice to see cuter wrapping than plastic, but the garment itself quickly stole my attention.
My Wrap Top is a deep wine color, perfect for classing up a pair of jeans or, when I’m traveling, leggings. The material is sleek, soft, stretchy, and cool to the touch.
The Flying Wrap Top
I had the opportunity to put the Wrap Top through its paces on a trip from Texas to Pennsylvania by air. Everyone knows that plane travel can be a pain. If you’re not wearing something comfortable, those straight-backed seats feel like a trap. If you’re not wearing something warm, you feel like you’re flying in an airborne freezer. Then, suddenly, you’re picking up your luggage and rushing for your ride, and you’re way too hot.
Because I get cold easily, I was wary of wearing the Wrap Top as a cardigan over a camisole. But it was perfect. I tied the ends around my neck for a flowing style that made me look less like a travel bum and more like an effortless fashionista.
As a cardigan. Image courtesy of Melinda Clemmer.
In my hurry through security and the hassle of being stopped by the TSA for a snow globe packed in a carry-on, I was pleased to see that my nervous sweat did not leave wet stains under my pits. Although I did note when removing the Wrap Top that it left a bit of its color on the skin under my arms. Because of this, I would avoid wearing something white or light-colored under it for the first few wears or before its first wash.
The Wrap Top at Dinner
The Wrap Top served me well during my stay in PA. I love a piece of clothing that can transition from traveling to the actual vacation!
In preparation for Christmas dinner with my family, I unpacked the outfit I had planned only to find that it didn’t look quite as I had hoped. So I turned to the Wrap Top, easily wrapping the ends around my middle to wear it as its namesake. With the ends knotted loosely behind me, the V-neck opened up to reveal the sparkly neckline of my camisole. My festive red Wrap Top and a pair of dark-wash jeans were perfect for a laid-back but stylish Christmas dinner.
And, of course, I got to enjoy the looks on the faces of my family when I showed them that this Wrap Top could turn into whatever I wanted it to be.
As a halter top. Image courtesy of Melinda Clemmer.
The Wrap Top at Home
Once vacation ended and I returned to Dallas, I got to the unpleasant work of unpacking. Curious to see how the Wrap Top had fared stuffed into a suitcase, I was pleased to see it emerged unwrinkled and untainted by the smell of body odor, despite being worn from Texas to Pennsylvania and through Christmas dinner and the unwrapping of presents.
The only things I have found to be just a bit frustrating have to do with the sleeves. The cuffs seem to have stretched out through about three wears, hanging loosely around my wrists. Also, because the Wrap Top can be fashioned in so many ways, its tag needs to be hidden. Instead of being on the inside of the collar, it’s sewn into the inside of the sleeve, which can become a bit scratchy. I solve both problems by rolling up the sleeves, preferring 3/4-sleeves anyway.
As a crew neck. Image courtesy of Melinda Clemmer.
As a shrug. Image courtesy of Melinda Clemmer.
For my budget, the Wrap Top ($125 CDN) and much of Diane’s collection is a bit pricey, but if you’re a traveler who really values packing light, these pieces are great investments. After all, you’re getting four or more outfits for the price of one wearable, durable garment that’s made just for you. Should you find that your garment does rip or get damaged, Diane’s team will replace or repair it.
Every garment in Diane Kroe’s collection easily transitions from a visit to a holy place to a walk on the beach to a night at the club. Whether you’re the traveler or you’ve got a best friend who is, the Wrap Top would make a perfect gift, effortlessly useful for many years (and adventures) to come.
After reading blog posts such as this, watching Diane Kroe’s videos many times, and deliberating carefully over all the items Diane offered, I ordered this item and was very disappointed. I’m short and very curvy (waist over 10″ smaller than hips) and ordered this in the white spa fabric after contacting Diane Kroe and providing my measurements and being assured that a standard size garment would fit me, rather than needing a custom order garment.
I couldn’t wear it as a wrap top because it bunched up in my midsection (like water, clothing seeks the path of least resistance) and because it was white and a light-weight fabric, the layers of fabric wrapped underneath were obvious (which looks weird when they’re where they shouldn’t be). In the “how-to-wear” video for this garment, they suggest that women can let the tails just hang free – not so for short women as the tails on my standard size garment nearly brushed the ground.
No matter how high you wear the neckline on the halter, the back is almost entirely open, so you either have to wear it braless, wear a backless bra, wear a cami under (like you did), or wear a cardigan, wrap, or some other item over it so the back doesn’t show. Again, my upper body is much narrower than my lower body, so if I wrapped it tightly enough to cover my upper body, that presented issues at the bottom of the shirt where it hit my hips. Same issue with the crew neck style – the back is still open. Again, the crew neck style didn’t stay in place on my hips and rode up and gathered around my waist, as did the halter.
Given the expense of this garment ($96.93 USD), I couldn’t justify keeping a garment that presented so many challenges – I could just imagine trying to get this shirt to fit properly when I’m trying to quickly get ready for a day of sightseeing, and having to keep readjusting it all day. Ms. Kroe only allows exchanges, not returns (I requested a return instead of an exchange, citing the standard size of my garments and the fact that they’d never been worn/washed and could still be easily re-sold – she seemed to say yes, but now keeps referencing my exchange now that the items have been sent back) so if you find you have trouble getting clothes to fit without alteration normally, proceed with caution since you can’t try it on before buying and can’t easily return it if it doesn’t work out.