Style

Chic prairie dresses are your fall-transition secret weapon

Here’s how to style the vintage-inspired trend for now, and later.

Here’s how to style the vintage-inspired trend for now, and later

In these complicated times, it's no wonder to me that many of us are turning to pastoral, vintage-inspired fashion that harken back to a (seemingly) simpler era. Part 19th century pioneer women and part 1970s-era Laura Ashley meets Gunne Sax, the prairie dress trend has been going strong for several seasons now with assistance from contemporary fashion brands like Horror Vacui, Dôen and Batsheva

These days, vintage-style design details like puffed sleeves, ruffle bibs and tiered maxi skirts are suddenly hip. You may well wear a ruffled, high-necked maxi on holiday or a mutton-sleeve, floral mini to a summer wedding, two silhouettes that may have been considered fashionably preposterous just a few years ago. 

And, even the sheerest floral prairie dresses can transition beautifully from summer to fall thanks to their generally longer lengths and generous use of fabric. Just add knee-length boots, a fitted knit top or a sleek, oversized coat and you're ready to go. 

Here are 8 stylish ways to wear the trend now, and later.   

This cotton dress features standout ruffles and a pretty, ditsy floral print inspired by 1930s calico fabrics. It would look (incongruously) great with sporty sandals in the heat, and brown cowboy boots when temperatures dip.

Anousha Dress, about $341, Dôen

Made from viscose, this floral maxi dress from Topshop is well-designed to go from day to night — just add heels and statement jewelry. In the fall, style it with chelsea boots and a black wool topper for a versatile, go-anywhere look. 

Floral Print Pintuck Ruffle Maxi Dress, about $78, Topshop

Consider this charming mini dress your summer festival go-to. In a few months, you could also rock the pretty portrait collar and scalloped hems under a chic moto jacket or textured teddy bear coat

Prairie Bouquet Print Dress, $550 (on sale for $375), Coach

The puff sleeves, ruffle collar and ditsy floral print on this fit-and-flare dress makes it an elegant, quirky Batsheva classic. In cooler weather, layer it over a long-sleeve knit or cotton midi skirt for a fresh new look. 

Batsheva Spring Prairie Dress, $547.33, Opening Ceremony 

Made with a sturdy cotton-linen blend fabric, this casual, long sleeve dress has a highlight ruffle bib detail. Wear it with a textured pair of tights and knee-high boots for fall. 

Farrow Chantal Long Sleeve Dress, about $156 (on sale for $62), Need Supply 

The clothes from Urban Outfitters' recent Laura Ashley collaboration have long sold out, but the millennial-focused retailer is still offering lots of prairie style dresses in store and online. This printed cotton gauze design can be worn with plaids and sneakers for now, and would look smart under a Barbour jacket or khaki trench during the cooler months.  

UO Sasha Paisley Puff Sleeve Midi Dress, $99, Urban Outfitters

This dressy, cotton voile maxi dress is not only perfect for this summer's outdoor weddings, but could be styled with tall boots or over a long-sleeved navy or blue lace top for fall.  

Long Printed Ruffled Dress, about $450, Maje

This Marc Jacobs dress is also available in a colourful floral, but there's something perfect about the slightly gothic effect of black moire taffeta. Wear this now with colourful platform sandals, and later with stiletto boots and a sculptural, brocade jacket.

Marc Jacobs The Prairie Dress, $991.65, Shopbop


Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.

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