At this day and age, it may be difficult to imagine, but once upon a time, (the 1970s) in a place far, far away (mostly the United States) it was common place for fashionable young ladies (that'd be our moms and aunties) to wear flounce-y floral dresses in patterns last seen around the time Laura Ingalls Wilder was traipsing through the wild prairies of Kansas.These fashions stemmed from a number of cultural sources; among them the ready availability of such styles in thrift stores, the popularity of folk music and the emergence of the back-to-the-land-movement, from the psychedelia of the 60s. The reason why this style went mainstream however, is a lot easier to pinpoint. It was the singular vision of designer Jessica Mcclintock, that made her label Gunne Sax the most important and copied maker of little-house-on-the-prairie-dresses. Soon girls were wearing them to the prom, to festivals and demonstrations. Feminists declared their right to birth-control and abortion in these superfeminine outfits. Until the power suits of the 80s and the glam-bunnies of the disco-era took over, prairie dresses and tiered skirts were everywhere. And now, thirty odd years later, you may have noticed that they're making a comeback.
The signs have been in the air for quite a while actually. Like so many other things stylish, this can be traced back (at least in part) to Sofia Coppola and her debut feature The Virgin Suicides. The girl's prom dresses embody the flowery femininity of Mcclintock's designs perfectly.
Later on, Gunne Sax dresses have been popping up all over the place and they're looking to take the center stage this summer, since the High Street seems to be flooded with 70s style designs.
Or maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part. I'd love to be able to wear some of the more eccentric pieces in my budding Gunne Sax collection without looking like I work at the renaissance fair. Sigh.
Here's Joanna Newsom in one of her almost-certainly-a-Gunnie's dresses.