Is it just me, or is it impossible to examine the current prairie dress trend without hearing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s meek voice wistfully proclaiming “Pa” on repeat in your head? Anybody? The modest dress style sewn by 19th-century female pioneers is in the midst of a revival—and it’s sort of perplexing.
Modesty in general seems to be at the forefront of many designers’ and women’s minds, though. The rise of suiting and the decline of unrealistic footwear choices (see ya, stilettos) all add up to a powerful statement that society can no longer pigeonhole women into dressing one specific way. So why the prairie dress? Perhaps it’s a combination of longing for a glimmer of nostalgia combined with that idea that femininity can translate to a boxy blazer and slouchy slacks, but it can also translate to high-neck, ruffle-trim midi dresses in a dainty floral print. Women are diverse and complex, and their clothing should mirror that.
Back in 2016, Batsheva Hay founded her namesake company in New York. Since that time, her designs, which “play with American styles of feminine dress—from Victorian to pioneer; from housewife to hippie,” have ripped through the industry like a tornado. A very chic tornado, at that. She’s taken a piece that for the last couple of decades was reserved for vintage stores and flea markets and transmuted it into a contemporary context that feels modern and quite cool. Fellow designers have followed suit, crafting carefree frocks that look well-suited for a quick frolic in the field. Some are more literal interpretations of the prairie dress while others experiment with subtle nods like voluminous sleeves, lace details, and ruffled necklines.
If you’re feeling curious about the trend, there’s never been a better time to try it out. With spring around the corner and warmer temperatures that encourage dress-wearing, why not make it a prairie one? Below, find eight to help you get your collection going.