What’s behind a recent rage for designer ruffles, calicos, gingham and high collars?

On the Friday before Labor Day Alexa Chung, the perennial “It” girl, Instagrammed a selfie wearing a floor-length, persimmon-colored dress of her own design with ruffles at the neck and a darted bodice. Her caption read: “A throwback Friday, if you will (to the 1800s).”

The prints are Laura Ashley-esque micro-florals, calicos and gingham, the necklines are high, sometimes there is a bib or apron, there is usually at least one ruffle.

Silky and saloon ready, Ms. Chung’s ensemble seemed a fitting cap to a summer that has seen a resurgence of prairie chic. Over the past six months it is as if the Donner Party has set out to brave the wilds of DeKalb Avenue instead of Hastings Cutoff. Suddenly, “My Antonia” is everyone’s Antonia!

Beautiful Urban Girl

On a scorching day in late August, to the bafflement of my husband, I tried on a high-necked, mutton-sleeved, fitted frock actually called the Prairie in the comfort of our apartment’s central air-conditioning.

Across town, in a carriage house in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, a friend texted me a photo of herself wearing a dress by the same designer. Hers was two pieces: a ruffled pinafore in a pale blue calico over a Peter Pan-collared, bell-sleeve blouse in a contrasting floral, called the Apron.

“Both garments sell for around $400 apiece and are designed by a woman who has come to be known by one name, Batsheva (her surname is Hay).”

Credit…Alexei Hay

Some women’s associations with the style, however, are more obvious. “I’ve always been inspired by all things Western and frontier,” said Margaret Kleveland, one of two sisters who design Doen, a two-year-old fashion brand based in Los Angeles whose sepia-toned social media feed suggests a Sofia Coppola adaptation of “O Pioneers!”

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