It has recently come to my attention that a large portion of the population, myself included, is dressing like milkmaids. The irony that a dairy-related style phenomenon has come to fruition alongside the non-dairy wellness movement (almond, soy, hemp, macadamia, cashew, coconut, oat, rice, flax) is not lost on me, but then again, irony is essentially 2018 fashion’s middle name.
If you’re nodding your head in agreement but don’t know exactly what a milkmaid is (now that you’re, you know, REALLY THINKING about it), that’s perfectly understandable. I didn’t really either, beyond my own mental picture of a woman wearing a dirndl, carrying a bucket of milk. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a milkmaid is “A girl or woman who milks cows or does other work in a dairy.” The most famous cultural reference point for milkmaids is probably Johannes Vermeer’s painting of one, followed by Thomas Hardy protagonist Tess of the d’Ubervilles, who initially works as a milkmaid.
As for why this somewhat archaic-seeming aesthetic is having a moment right now, I have a few theories about the possible source:
1. Pretty white blouse mania
A frenzy that began last summer (courtesy of Maison Cleo and Orseund Iris, no doubt) and has only grown since. In the most recent installment of “Should I Buy This?”, Leandra and Amelia described pretty white blouses as “members of a big ass trend sweeping the nation like eagles overhead,” and I couldn’t sum it up better myself. They’re everywhere, often rendered in shades of skim and 2%, and even more often decked out with sleeves so puffy they would make Nestle’s mascot proud.
Speaking of everywhere, I bet you’ve seen a lot of nightgowns or nightgown-resembling dresses floating around the interwebs lately (I know I have). Amelia styled an entire shoot based on this very revelation last August, and Haley and I did the same this past April, so clearly this trend isn’t dying anytime soon. And guess what nightgowns very distinctly resemble? Milkmaid dresses.
An obvious precursor to milkmaid style thanks to its preponderance of lace-up bodices and hints of apron, prairiecore is very much on board with the “I’m about to go squeeze some teats and churn some butter” aesthetic.
The fact that these three style movements have converged simultaneously is a 100% organic, grass-fed recipe for milkmaid attire to start trending, and boy oh boy is it trending. In my numerous market sweeps, I’ve seen enough milkmaid-worthy garments to outfit the entire cast of Heidi:
+ This dress from Christy Dawn
+ This top from Olivia Rose the Label
I could go on. At this point I think it’s pretty clear that this is a THING, but here are some Instagrams I’ve bookmarked as further evidence in case you aren’t quite convinced:
Of course, the most definitive proof that milkmaid style has become a true sensation arrived courtesy of Tiffany Haddish’s cover story in W Magazine. In the accompanying photo shoot, she is pictured wearing pigtails and a full milkmaid ensemble and standing next to an ACTUAL, LIVING COW (to be fair, I technically don’t know if it’s a dairy cow or not, but that’s besides the point. The point is that it’s a cow, and at the very least it connotes liquid of the dairy variety.)
What do you think of this phenomenon? Have you dabbled? Do you plan to? I’m personally very much on board, as evidenced by my recent purchase of a puff-sleeved Maryam Nassir Zadeh dress I’ve been eyeing for months. When I put it on, I feel like all I’m missing is a yoke slung with two metal buckets sloshing with fresh cream, and that’s precisely why I love it.
Feature image of Tiffany Haddish by Ethan James Green for W Magazine; styled by Sara Moonves.