The prairie dress. It may conjure thoughts of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the prairie dresses of 2020 are much more chic than the ones Ma sewed for her girls. Yes, the trend has been enjoying a moment this year, popping up everywhere from local and online boutiques to big-box retailers. It makes sense as the style can be worn by many and can even camouflage any COVID pounds we aren’t so proud of. (Just us?!)
As with most-things-fashion, though, there is an art to wearing the prairie dress trend so you look haute, not hokey.
We asked Southern stylist Milton White of The Fashion Office to style eight prairie dress looks and tell us more about this trend as we need all the pointers and styling tips we can get! Each of these looks was shot on location at the new Grand Hyatt Hotel in Nashville, TN.
First things first: What defines a prairie dress? “The prairie dress is probably one of the most misunderstood, often poorly styled silhouettes,” explains Milton. “It’s a retro-Western-meets-Victorian garment that has a few key features: ruffle accents, floral prints (though not always), puffed sleeves (a huge runway trend this season!), high necklines (though many we found did not), tiered panels and a breezy A-line silhouette.”
When worn properly, the look can be flattering. “It’s easy, comfortable and pretty, which is exactly what we need right now,” Milton says. “I would much rather see a prairie dress in a beautiful fabric at the grocery store or on a Zoom call than a pair of yoga pants. And when worn and styled properly, it can be quite fashionable and forward-looking.”
Now, for the actual styling part. Here are the three most important rules for styling a prairie dress:
Rule #1: Avoid heels. “One thing I probably wouldn’t do is wear pumps or high-heeled sandals,” Milton explains, adding it would lean too corporate and/or sexy. “There’s nothing wrong with either of those, but this [type of] dress needs a great flat shoe, sandal, espadrille or mule for spring/summer and a ballet flat or loafer for autumn/winter. If you must wear a heel, then it needs to be a boot, short (ankle) or tall (knee).
Rule #2: Opt for statement pieces. “The long, tiered silhouettes in pretty, dainty patterns benefit from being paired with large pieces of jewelry,” Milton says. In fact, he suggests mixing metals as well as using fabrics such as leather or suede and embracing multi-colored gemstones.
Rule #3: Go for an unstructured handbag. “I think unstructured clutches and crossbody bags are the way to go,” Milton explains. “While solids work, don’t be afraid of textures like knits, suede, wovens or fur.”
We can see these suggestions at work in these looks Milton styled today. It’s obvious the right selections and proper styling can make a big difference.
Looks #7 & 8:
Fashion Editor: Milton White, The Fashion Office
Photographer: Preston Long
Photo Editor: Leila Grossman
Models: Brooklen Wilkes and Kendel Joy of Tribe Talent Management
Make-up Artist: Brianna Rice
Fashion Assistant: Nemo Renwick, The Fashion Office
Location: Grand Hyatt Hotel
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