New Fall Frontier: Prairie Style


The prairie style trend stormed runways for fall 2011 collections. Fashion houses such as Rodarte created entire lines based on a classic, country-chic look. Just wearing a western look is half the battle; the rest is attitude.

"It’s the way you wear it," said Alison Levine, a Los-Angeles based stylist. "It is the confidence you have in putting the right accessories with the right outfit. It’s having fun with it, making patterns, (and) creating a look.”

You don’t want it to look too prairie, like you just walked off a farm. Take some aspect of the trend and incorporate your own style.

Colin McDonald, fashion and celebrity stylist and Red Carpet host

From Runway to Everyday

So just what is the prairie style?

“It’s taking a classic country style and giving it that pop of runway,” said Levine, a costume designer for TV Land’s “Happily Divorced.”

It's a look that leans on eyelet details, maxiskirts and pleats in gray, blue and neutral tones. Recent takes have combined the traditional, wide-open western style with modern elements.

The trend also covers button-up shirts, leather boots and bold, Navajo-inspired prints and patterns, said Colin McDonald, fashion and celebrity stylist and Red Carpet host.

“It’s really going back to where we came from here in America,” he said.

The key to prairie style is matching a simple look with your established style. It's a casual look, but it must be carefully planned and executed.

“You don’t want it to look too prairie, like you just walked off a farm,” McDonald said. “Take some aspect of the trend and incorporate your own style.”

Play With It

If you're just experimenting with prairie style, Levine suggests starting with a simple denim button-up in a classic shape, a floral dress in any length, and a maxiskirt in a neutral color.

“You can pair the denim top with the skirt, or you can wear the floral dress,” she said. “It’s very versatile, and you can feel comfortable putting it on.”

If you don’t want to shell out bucks for new material, you may have something in your wardrobe already that suits the trend. A floral sundress, a staple piece many women already own, qualifies as prairie style on looks alone.

“People purchased them this past spring and summer, and they have them at home,” Levine said.

T-shirts and button-ups in neutral colors can serve as background pieces for prairie style, and most of the clothing can transition easily from season to season with a few accessories. It can be a side satchel bag, a pair of knockout wedges, wooden bangles, feathered earrings, bronze rings or turquoise necklaces.

“All those basics are going to take your look from 'just there' to 'chic,' ” Levine said. “It’s still going to look elegant and polished, but it’s not overwhelming.”

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Stay Age-Appropriate

While some trends only play to certain age groups, the prairie style can work for women from every generation.

“For someone in their 20s and 30s, you really want to have fun with the flowy fabrics and the sundresses,” Levine said. “Throw on a great pair of boots, and load it up with chunky jewelry.”

Women seeking a more mature look can opt for a tailored denim button-up, with a maxiskirt and a bronze or brown leather belt, Levine said.

“They can still do bangles and look elegant and put together.”

Hair and makeup don't play a big role in prairie style looks. The experts say a minimal approach is best for both.

“It’s really going to complete the balanced, cohesive, nice, trendy look," said Levine, "without going over the top.”

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Down Under, Prairie Style

The prairie style isn’t limited to your everyday maxiskirt and denim top. Rebecca Jennings, founder, president and CEO of the lingerie brand Hips and Curves, discussed a few pieces that can underscore the trend.

Cotton corset. The corset smoothes and shapes your hips and tummy. “The sturdy, traditional cotton fabric gives a prairie look when satin would be too modern,” Jennings said.

Bloomers. This 19th-century artifact is making a comeback, whether it’s with a barely there pair or something a little longer. “They are cute and flirty and can be worn with a camisole, an underbust corset or a hiked-up petticoat to reveal a glimpse of thigh,” Jennings said.

Bustle Skirt. Sex up your look with this risqué version of a traditional prairie skirt. “Gather up the drawstring for a large bustle for a little extra boost to your rear,” Jennings said. “Let the drawstring out and the bustle disappears for a completely different look.”