I've posted about Gunne Sax before, as matter of fact, the brand was the topic of one of my first ever posts in this blog, but since their 70s fashions are just as of the moment in the summer of 2009 as they were last year (and back then I probably had the readership of...well none), I think I ought to honer them with another piece.
It all began in the tumultuous summer of 1969, when the San Francisco label Gunne Sax (a name derived from the burlap materials used in some of the early dresses), was purchased by a young woman named Jessica McClintock. Closely attuned to zeitgeist, McClintock began turning out romantic sun-dresses, perfect for the flower children populating her hometown.
From Violet Folklore
McClintock most likely drew inspiration, not only from the folk styles (like Swiss dirndl) popular at the time, but also from the thrifted garments that the cost-conscious hippie chicks unearthed from second-hand shops.
As the radical 70s transformed the hippie ideals to the more ecologically conscious back-to-the-land movement, McClintock's Prairie Revival-style dresses entered popular culture as one of garments that would define the seventies (sadly, along with lurex disco-wear, men's platforms, and polyester galore).
Strange as it seems now, women everywhere in the United States, from college students, to stay- at-home mom's, to new, alternative homesteaders, were perfectly comfortable in wearing, not only Gunnies Prairie Revival, but garments with Edwardian, and even Victorian touches. Puff sleeves, high-collars and bib-fronts, were everyday fare in this era of Holly Hobbie, women folk singers, and Laura Ingalls of the popular TV show The Little House On The Prairie.
1975 film Picnic At Hanging Rock
Then came the 1980s, an era of tougher values, power suits, shoulder pads, and neon colors. Gunne Sax began to drift towards bigger florals, poofier cuts and finally, prom dresses, for which the label is still known today.
Forgotten for almost three decades Gunnies emerged from the renaissance fairs, and back of the costume rental stores, in 2006, when the rise of New Folk, anti-Folk, Freak-Folk, or whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-it-softer-acoustic-music-movement, coincided with the vintage fashion movement, thrift-blogging, the second wave of back-to-the-landers, and even the unfortunate "boho"-moment in mainstream fashion.
From Violet Folklore
Since then, Gunne Sax by Jessica has been a constant in vintage stores, in both ebay and etsy, and since summer of '09 appears be greatly inspired by the one 40 odd years ago, there is no doubt in my mind, that Gunnies, and other similar vintage brands, will remain an important influence.
Joanna Newsom in a Gunne Sax-esque dress.
Gunnies garments vary from simple sundresses, to full-blown Victorian lace wedding gowns, to ren-fair and dirndl-styles, but all have in common an abundance of adorable detail; such as trims, laces, ribbons, floral buttons and beautiful stitching. One of the identifying details is that most Gunnies frocks have hidden pockets. Some Gunnies dresses are rather functional, in materials like cotton and denim, while others embody almost puritan-esque restricting sleeves and long hems.
In addition to dresses, Gunne Sax also made jackets and skirts, which can often be found online for fraction of the price of a dress.
In its heyday the brand spawned many impostors such as Candi and Ronda Roy, who's wares, while less detail oriented, are none the less, beautiful and can usually be purchased for much less than a Gunnies original. While all thrift stores are worthy of a Gunne Sax hunters attention, and an ebay search may produce results, some my favorite Gunnies and Gunnie look-alike vendors are:
(check out their awesome blog)
A very archetypical Gunne Sax dress from Violet Folklore
Let your inner hippie chick (hang) out this summer, and get her a prairie dress!
Listening to: Mariee Sioux
Reading: The Homesteader's Handbook
Check out: my other blog