Last week, I found myself 36 pages deep into an Etsy search for Gunne Sax dresses. “What the heck is a Gunne Sax dress?” you might very well be wondering, or at least I hope you’re wondering because I didn’t know until recently and I require extensive solidarity when it comes to fashion knowledge gaps.
Gunne Sax is a now-defunct clothing label founded in 1967 that specialized in Victorian and Edwardian-style designs. It’s no coincidence the brand began the same year as the Summer of Love; in an article for Vogue.com, writer Laird Borrelli-Persson quotes Gunne Sax partner-turned-owner Jessica McClintock, who said that these dresses were “a stamp” among hippies of the era. And! Hillary Rodham Clinton even wore one when she married Bill in 1975.
My Gunne Sax dress black hole on Etsy happened entirely by accident when I was searching for something else; once I got sucked in, I couldn’t stop. I was delighted by the frilly collars, the lace mock turtlenecks, the crocheted insets, the pastel hues, the empire waists. Even though they aired on the side of “costume-y,” they were also scratching an au courant itch I couldn’t quite define…until a few days later, when I put on a recently acquired Ganni dress that looks like what Laura Ingalls Wilder would wear if she were Danish in 2018. That’s when it hit me: Prairie dresses are having a moment right now.
I corroborated this theory by recollecting my admiration for ALEXACHUNG’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which features numerous dresses of the prairie variety with calico prints, ruffled bodices and high necks. Maryam Nassir Zadeh Spring/Summer 2018 also features a prairie-esque dress I haven’t been able to get out of my head about since seeing it on the runway last September.
Not at all coincidentally, my “bookmarks” tab on Instagram has no fewer than six photos saved from the account of BATSHEVA, a New York-based brand that reimagines vintage American dress styles (“from Victorian to Pioneer; from Housewife to Hippie,” according to their website).
As for the origins of this prairie uprising, I have a zygote of a theory. Given the popularity of Westworld’s premiere season, I’m inclined to wonder whether the show’s distinctive style might have planted the seeds for this trend-in-the-making. I can’t be the only Westworld viewer who hasn’t stopped thinking about Evan Rachel Woods’ cornflower blue pioneer dress. Cinched with a Western belt, it looked like something that could have easily followed the aforementioned MNZ frock down the runway. All it would need is a pair of block-heel sandals and maybe a netted bag filled with tangerines to fit right in.
What do you think? Am I on to something? Alternatively, we’re all just hungry for spring dresses that say something unique. In a sea of plain white linen midi dresses and polka-dot shifts, a ruffled calico collar certainly does exactly that.
Feature image via Batsheva.