Vintage & Modern Prairie Dresses and Urban Prairie Girl Style


If you follow fashion trends, you’ve probably noticed that high necklines, modest hemlines, and puffed sleeves are ruling dresses. Oh, and ruffles.  Lots and lots of ruffles.

Valentino’s couture show had attendee Celine Dion in tears with its gorgeous feminine dresses and models transformed into flowers.  Erdem also showed lots of flowers but with some ladylike, Victorian flare.  And the New York Times has named modest dress a defining style for the 2010s.  

And, for those of us who don’t shop the couture runways, (if only!) we have fallen in love with the ruffles and modest femininity of 1970s prairie dresses and their modern counterparts.

There is something special about 1970s prairie style.  It was a decade when women were thinking about what it might mean to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. The hippie generation was moving on from mind-expanding drugs and rock and roll to commune life and earthy style. The country was celebrating its Bicentennial and women were inspired by dresses that were a throwback to the days of the American West.

The 1970s prairie dresses recalled strong, adventurous women of the past – the era of tough pioneer women traveling west in a modest style of dress that was both practical and pretty.

The designers who defined the first Prairie Revival include the now legendary names of Jessica McClintock with her Haight Street-style Gunne Sax formalwear and Laura Ashley with her sweet Victorian florals and puffed sleeves.

(If you want to know more about the history of the Gunne Sax brand, check out this post from Different Drum!)

Our current social, cultural, and political climate in America combined with the feminist Me Too movement has given rise to a nostalgic, modest and pretty style of dress that feels empowering to the modern woman, despite its doll-like feel.



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During our present Urban Prairie Girl movement, or U.P.G. for the fashionably lazy blogger, we see vintage florals and feminine flounces making a comeback.  Designers like Batsheva Hay have revived Laura Ashley’s 80s dresses and prairie bonnets have been spotted on Erdem models.

This style is all about celebrating how a woman feels in a dress and not necessarily how it is perceived by the male gaze.  

There are different takes on this trend.  Doen’s prairie dresses are at the floaty, boho end of the spectrum while Batsheva Hay anchors hers in ironic style with combat boots.  

(I personally prefer to merge 1960s and 70s San Francisco with Victorian England with a hint of Keith Richards…)

Before Batsheva brought prairie style to mainstream Instagram, the longtime prairie garb aficionados were scouring Etsy for dresses hailing from the original Prairie Revival and home sewists were sewing up pretty prairie frocks using vintage patterns.

If you are looking to rock this style but are a little short on cash, it is totally worth it to search Etsy, flea markets and estate sales for vintage prairie dresses. They often look like the new ones and cost much less.

I want to know what my readers think of this trend! Please comment below to let me know if you are wearing vintage or new prairie dresses and how you feel about the ultra-feminine vibes emanating from the runways as of late.

If you love Gunne Sax dresses, you might want to check out the @gunne_sax_addicts Instagram feed.

Read more about the early days of the Gunne Sax brand here on Different Drum!

All photos are owned by the shop to which they link.  Please click on the photo caption and you will be magically transported to its home on the web.

♥ Note: If you click on the affiliate links in this post, Etsy will pay me a commission from subsequent purchases at no additional cost to you or the seller.  This extra bit of money allows me to continue to provide free, helpful, and entertaining content to my readers. Your support is appreciated. ♥

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