See how vintage prairie dresses & ruffled shirts had a big comeback in the ’80s

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

Vintage prairie dresses and ruffled shirts had a big comeback in the 1980s
After the short skirts and disco wear of the ’70s, the pendulum of fashion swung back — way back, about a hundred years — to revisit the ruffled prairie look of the 1800s.

The revival styles of the ’80s offered everything from puffed sleeves to high collars, and ruffle fronts and offset buttons — while the most popular fabrics often had traditional colors, small print patterns, or plaids.

Below, take a look back to when the frilly, dressy look from the old west became popular again for women and girls, from around 1979 to 1983.

Americana old West prairie style womenswear from the 1980s

The prairie look: Ruffles, ruffles everywhere

Excerpted from The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) August 17, 1982

The prairie skirt is another popular “dressy-active” look. A welcome style for juniors in spring and summer, the prairie look is big for children this fall, says Jim Helphrey, assistant manager of Herberger’s Department Store, Kirkwood Plaza.

Longer skirts and dresses with flounced hemlines will be seen in all areas of women’s clothing, he says.

Debbie Arnold, 10, says she wears blue jeans and corduroy jeans most of the time to school because of “gym days,” but would wear a prairie skirt on “dress-up days.”

Ruffled lacy dresses for girls 1981

Patterned after fashions of the Old West, the prairie look features “ruffles, ruffles everywhere” on blouse collars, cuffs, and shoulders, Helphrey says.

Even long-sleeved T-shirts in the style of athletic clothes have ruffled trim or shoulders. Nibbe says she likes the ruffled blouses, but not the prairie skirt: “Sometimes the colors are wrong.”

Eleven-year-old Carlson says she and her friends would probably wear the blouses, but with blue jeans.

ALSO SEE: How millions came to love the Little House on the Prairie TV series (1974-1982)

Vintage ruffled prairie blouses for girls the 80s


Vintage prairie dresses from the 1980s

Vintage Americana fashions for girls from Sears 1983 - prairie dresses

Young juniors and girls - The country look from 1982

Plaid juniors fashions with ruffles and puffed sleeves


Prairie-style dresses and culottes went well with big hair

Prairie dresses from 1982


Plaid ruffled blouse & Solid ruffled blouses (1982)

The essence of charm: Of woven polyester-and-cotton. Ruffled collar and cuffs. Button front. Ruffled front princess seams. Imported from the Far East.

Ruffled blouses for juinors - Vintage clothing from the 80s


Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs even got in on the ruffles

MORE: See Cheryl Tiegs’ clothing collection & swimwear at Sears in the ’80s

Cheryl Tiegs' clothing collection for Sears in 1982 (2)

Vintage women's prairie blouses with ruffles from the 80s


Ruffled prairie revival fashions for little girls from 1979

ALSO SEE: Vintage Holly Hobbie toys, clothes, decor & more from the ’70s & ’80s

Vintage prairie-style clothes for little girls from 1979 (2)

Vintage prairie-style clothes for little girls from 1979 (1)


Vintage prairie dresses: For the frill of it  (1983)

Sasson: The latest young looks trimmed with ruffles, bows, eyelets & more

Lilac dress with hand-smocked bodice; White and plaid shirtwaist-style dress; Blue chambray dress with bow and cuffs

Vintage 80s frilly fashions from Sassoon 1982


The dressy look, with young Jennifer Connelly (1982)

MORE: See young Jennifer Connelly before she was famous (1982)

The dressy look - Sears clothing 1982 with young Jennifer Connelly


Make a ruffled prairie sweater, fringed pioneer jacket & more (1982)

Make a snappy vest, a fringed pioneer jacket, ruffled prairie sweaters, more!

Take your pick from our prettiest looks for fall, partnered with your favorite country-music singers in Opryland, USA

Dottie West, Grammy-winner and country superstar (she sings on Liberty Records) in a knit Prairie Pullover, soft-sleeved and ruffle-trimmed – the yoke swings around back! Joseph Galler’s Musarde yarn.

Shelly West, Dottie’s daughter, who was named country music’s 1982 Newcomer of the Year, wears our Wrangler Pullover, a checkerboard-patterned knit in denim blue laced with suede-colored stripes, tie closing. In Tahki’s Donegal Tweed Homespun.

Below, Shelly, who records for Warner/Viva, in a Cowgirl Vest, crocheted diagonally in earth tones. It’s country-style fancy with pearl-button “studs,” embroidery-look touches. Neveda’s Bistro yarn.

country music's 1982 Newcomer of the Year, wears Wrangler Pullover


More country sweaters

Kippi Brannon, one of country music’s newest stars, wears the rustic Homesteader Slip-On, above, knit in Berroco’s Dji-Dji yarn, accented with geometric patterns.

Here’s Kippi — she’s with MCA records — in a Pioneer Sweater-Jacket with Western-style fringe and wooden beads like the real thing! In a soft palomino-color textured knit. Unger’s Skol yarn.


Covered wagon knits

Charly McClain in a Frontier sweater fashioned after the shirt worn in covered-wagon days, with a placket front closing, pearly buttons. Knit in easy stockinette with seed-stitch collar, cuffs, in Lion Brand’s Cape Cod.

Below, Charly, Epic recording star, in our charming lacy-yoked Country Ruffles sweater, knit in the sweetest shade of pink. Joseph Galler’s Fantasia.

MORE: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous ‘Little House’ books have long enchanted readers, young and old


The romance of ruffled sweaters (1982)

Frankly feminine sweaters to knit and crochet in soft, soft pastel yarns. 

1. Pretty peplumed jacket with nipped-in drawstring waist, frosted with ruffles. Crocheted in Unger’s Angel Spun.

2. Classic lacy-knit cardigan softened with a gentle edging of garter-stitch ruffles, dainty dimple sleeves. Brunswick’s Pomfret.

ALSO SEE: The unlikely history of Levi’s jeans – or, how clothing styles from 150 years ago are somehow still fashionable today

Ruffled sweaters - Vintage women's fashions from Feb 1982 (2)

Ruffled sweaters - Vintage women's fashions from Feb 1982 (1)


Ruffly retro pullover knits from the ’80s

White, wonderful pullover spiced with plum and glittery silver stripes features waist-cinching border that ends in a flounce, drawstring neck, and puffed sleeves. Anny Blatt yarns.

Slim-fitting special-occasion slipoverknit with economical Lion Brand’s Woolana in softest orchid has diamond pattern front and back, ribbed border, and ruffled collar and cuffs.

Ruffled sweaters - Vintage women's fashions from Feb 1982 (3)


Sewing patterns for pretty prairie dresses (1982)

For mother, for daughter . . . for spring, country classics with soft Western styling — figure-hugging bodice, puff sleeves, swingy skirt — to sew in floral fabrics.

Little girl’s version is also made from the same flowery prints shaded in soft pinks, green, plus a band of solid pink. Button-down bodice ends in front V-shaped seam, is accented with the same green velvet ribbon, crocheted lace. Simplicity #5349.

Delicate floral dress features a triple play of coordinating broadcloth by Styletown. Slim-fitting pearl-buttoned bodice is sweetly styled with long, full sleeves ending in lace-edged buttoned cuffs; flared skirt is swirled with large flowers hemmed with a tier of lace. Simplicity #5348.

Pretty prairie dresses from February 1982


Prairie style, the Laura Ashley way (1983)

Two stylish dresses: the attractive button-through dress on the left has an elasticated waist, self-fabric belt, and seam pockets. Ideal for day and evening in this pretty print in powder blue and rock pink.

On the right, a charming period dress buttons into a shaped waist. The distinctive Laura Ashley print in carmine and periwinkle blue is enhanced by the contrast collar and cuffs. Both styles are made from 100% cotton, available in sizes 8, 10, 12, 14.

Prairie style, the Laura Ashley way (1983)

NOW SEE THIS: Gunne Sax prom dresses of the eighties

If you liked this, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, plus see retro-inspired products in our shop. Thanks for visiting!

More stories you might like

Check out our books!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Because the fun never ends:

Join the fun

Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest vintage stuff!

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.