Prairie skirts are slightly flared to very full, with one or more flounces (deep ruffles) or tiers, and are often worn over a ruffled eyelet or lace-trimmed petticoat. In keeping with their design inspiration, traditional prairie skirts are usually made of "country" fabrics such as denim and flowered calico. Prairie skirts are a staple of women's western wear, and very full prairie skirts are worn for square dancing.
Origins in the 19th century
Prairie skirts are so-called after their resemblance to the home-sewn skirts worn by pioneer women in the mid-19th century, which in turn are a simplified version of the flared, ruffled skirts characteristic of high-fashion dresses of the 1820s. The style originated as an adaptation of high fashion to the practicalities of rural life in the Western United States. Deep colors and prints were used as they did not show dirt, while decorations were used to update clothing to changing fashions. 
Revival in the 1960s and 1970s
Counterculture Hippies rejecting mainstream fashion looked to historical and non-Western styles. While 19th century prairie clothing was usually homemade, new companies such as Gunne Sax in San Francisco began manufacturing ready to wear prairie clothing. The style grew in popularity in the 1970s with the approach of the United States Bicentennial and was introduced to high fashion by Ralph Lauren in his fall 1978 Western-themed collection.
Mid-calf length, button-front denim prairie skirts with a single flounce, worn with a petticoat that was slightly longer than the skirt, became a mainstream fashion in the 1970s and early 1980s following Lauren's introduction.
- "Sutter's Fort Clothing - 1840s". California State Parks. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- George-Warren, Holly, and Michelle Freedman: How the West Was Worn, p. 184-187.
- George-Warren, Holly, and Michelle Freedman: How the West Was Worn, Harry N. Abrams (2001), ISBN 0-8109-0615-5.