Trends are a circular phenomenon: what’s old becomes new again, time after time after time. The reinterpretation of these trends by current designers is what keeps the cycle from becoming stale. Now, brands like Batsheva, LoveShackFancy, Dôen, and Christy Dawn are among just a few who are taking inspiration from the prairie dresses of the Victorian era.
Aspects of Victorian influence can be spotted across multiple defining decades in fashion, most notably in the hippie style of the 70s. The fashion of the Victorian era has such staying power because of its pretty patterns, lace trimmings, and embroidery. Queen Victoria was the biggest style icon of them all, and her influence spread across the Atlantic. During the American Civil War, textile production became faster and easier, which made it possible to create complex patterns like paisley, intricate florals, and plaid.
For decades afterwards, interest in Victoriana dwindled, but the late 1960s saw an upswing in women who favored looser clothing with longer hemlines. Brands like Gunne Sax began producing the prairie dresses we are more familiar with today: high necklines, puffed sleeves, and flouncy skirts. This style continued to appeal to the hippies of the 1970s, who rejected styles like miniskirts that catered more to the male gaze than female empowerment. In the 1980s, it was Laura Ashley fever, which continued into the grunge era of the 1990s, when the feminine dresses were styled with contrasting, edgy elements like dark makeup and Doc Martens.
Part of why I love the style so much is because it can be styled with everything from sandals or crisp white sneakers and a straw bag in warmer months or with a teddy coat and knee-high boots in colder months. You can even lounge the day away in a prairie dress paired with a chunky knit sweater – perhaps while snuggling up to rereading Little Women for extra inspiration? These all some of my favorites from today’s brands that feature styles in a wide range of colors and patterns with the prettiest embellishments and details.