Why does everyone dress like a whimsical prairie milkmaid?

Why does everyone dress like a whimsical prairie milkmaid?

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Can we talk for a minute? Nothing to worry about. But we need to talk about your sundress. you know him The long, loose ones maybe with smocking or ruffles on the bodice. Oh, and the puff sleeves – it definitely has puff sleeves. Your upper arms and thighs are covered – that was partly why you bought it – but there may be a bare shoulder or a milkmaid-esque square neckline that shows a bit of cleavage. Was there a cutout at the back? A bit bare skin, but classy, ​​you know. I think it’s gingham. But it could be floral or light pink or white linen.

You know the dress I’m talking about, because even on the off chance it’s not in your closet — yet — it’s everywhere this summer. It’s the dress your best friend wears on her vacation photos on Instagram and the dress your child’s teacher wore to the summer party. It’s what you should wear to your birthday dinner, whether you’re turning 21 or turning 50.

That point where wholesomeness meets theatrics is where you’ll find this sundress

How did the whimsical puff sleeve dress become a must-have for the woman who’s speedwalking to catch the train to work while checking her phone? How did we get to a point where even Nadine Dorries is transitioning from vacuum-packed tailoring to the pastoral vibes of a cornflower blue, spriggy maxi dress with tulip-trimmed sleeves, as she recently did?

This dress has taken over the world because, while it looks whimsical and light, it embodies two of the most seismic shifts in the way we think, live and therefore dress, because that’s how fashion works.

The first is the mood shift towards theatricality – life as performance art – emerging from social media and seen in holiday photography: faux honesty but highly staged, a rear view of the pre-dinner stroll down a quaint street, rather than that everyone is grinning at the camera across a table. The puff sleeve milkmaid dress is a wardrobe version of the summer dress.

Related: Sneakers have lost their edge – slip on a pair of loafers if you want to cut it this summer | Jess Cartner-Morley

The second change is wholesomeness, which used to be a bit drab and squeamish, but is now ambitious and glamorous. Yoga vacations and half marathons, being flexitarian, being mindful, not drinking during the week—it was already around when the pandemic fueled our addiction to fresh air, walks, and eating outdoors. Masks and social distancing made hygiene something to be lived. With all predictions of a headless post-pandemic attack on illegal, sweaty basements, the opposite has been true. The al fresco feast of salad plates, scallop-edged napkins and rattan lanterns is as ambitious this decade as an expense report lunch at the Ivy was in the 1980s.
That point where wholesomeness meets theatrics is where you’ll find this dress. The mood may be sweet and soft and breezy, but this is not a dress for wimps. So there will be oversized puff sleeves or a dramatic painterly print or fancy rickrack or lace trimmings – a dash of Krystle Carrington glamor to make it clear that this damsel isn’t in distress and by the way has recently sold the castle and bought a bungalow mid-century that she found at Modern House (follow her Instagram stories for #renovation).

To really boost your social media feeds this summer, can I suggest a cabana set – shirt and matching shorts – maybe in terrycloth, maybe neon orange? But this is the dress that won the summer. The Vibe Shift has a uniform. And you’re probably already wearing it.

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