How I Found Fashion Inspiration in Rural Iowa of All Places

You don’t need a metropolitan area to be inspired. You just might have to use your imagination.

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The college town can be a really big draw when choosing a college. Some people are fortunate enough to land in a Boston or Ann Arbor. BUT, not being in a great college town doesn’t mean you can’t find inspiration.

Coming from the East Coast, I had a limited idea of what my Midwestern college town would look like. Corn was the first thing that came to mind.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Yes, much of Iowa is rural. But even though cities are few and far in between, the vast openness is truly stunning. And the prairie… It is rolling, and dotted with wildflowers – what’s left of it, that is. Much of the land has been repurposed for agriculture, but there are preserves where prairie grass and flowers have been planted to resemble the original. 

In any case, my college town, though not traditional, is breathtaking. And it has actually been a great source of fashion inspiration for me.

Below are outfits inspired by the unlikely charm of rural Iowa:

Rolling Fields

Outfit inspired by Iowa scenery: cable-knit sweater, lace maxi skirt, chunky boots, gold hoop earrings, pale pink lip gloss, pastel backpack, messy updo

Products: Sweater – Mango, Bag – Century 21, Skirt – New York & Company, Boots – American Eagle, Earrings – Forever 21, Lip Gloss – Bloomingdales

The monochrome of this outfit mirrors the characteristic monochrome we see every day in Iowa: the endless rows of green fields under an endless sea of sky. Monochrome doesn’t mean boring, however; when you don’t play with color, you play with texture. 

Start with a cable-knit sweater. Oversized sweaters aren’t just for lazy days. With a lace maxi skirt and hoop earrings, an oversized sweater becomes polished, yet dreamy. A pastel backpack is both feminine and versatile and references the blue skies of the midwest. Add a windswept updo and pale pink lips for a fairytale look. Chunky heel boots bring this outfit back down to earth.

Prairie Play

Outfit inspired by Prairie Dresses: long, embroidered magenta dress with flowers, camel coat, brown leather booties, gold pendant and earrings, leather red belt and dark red lipstick

Products: Dress – Nordstrom Rack, Necklace – Kohl’s, Belt – Mango, Lipstick – Maybelline, Boots – Macy’s, Coat – Mango, Earrings – Jessica Simpson

The next look draws on the traditional prairie dress – think Little House on the Prairie. This grown-up take on billowy floral dresses looks straight out of a Free People catalog. The camel coat adds sophistication, while the brown leather accents – belt and booties – are functional, yet chic. A gold pendant and earrings, as well as a vampy lip, add enough edge to keep the look from feeling outdated.

Daisies for Days

Outfit inspired by flowers in Iowa: Denim mini skirt, sheer ruffle-embellished top in black, black faux leather moto jacket, black patterned tights, black fedora, black embroidered over the knee boots, rose gold floral bracelet

Products: Jacket – Hollister, Blouse – Macy’s, Fedora – Saks Off Fifth, Boots – Macy’s, Bracelet – Kohl’s, Skirt – Topshop, Tights – Asos

The last look has more lace and ruffles, but also incorporates the beautiful wildflowers of the hardy Iowan prairie, creating an outfit that is both girly and edgy, à la the dainty blouse worn under a tough leather jacket. 

The fedora and denim skirt are trendy additions that don’t distract from the centerpiece of this outfit – the boots! They hit a couple of key trends, over-the-knee and embroidered, without absorbing the rest of the outfit. Lace tights and a cute charm bracelet also nod to the wildflowers. 

What do you think?

Would you wear any of these outfits? Are there any places you’d like to see featured? Let us know!

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