What do the Scotch, Irish, and English all have in common? Besides England’s frequent efforts to invade their neighbors, all three cultures have a plaid history. The plaid print arose for symbolic purposes, rather than attempts to be on-trend, but stayed in style due to various cultural movements that evolved in the centuries and decades to follow.
Plaids come in all colors and sizes, and these elements help to tell a story. Traditional plaids, or tartans, were used to differentiate between clans or regional groups of people. This purpose of identity comes as no surprise when you consider that the punks of England’s late 1970’s adopted the print with a rebellious intent. In the modern fashion world, you can see plaid being used by avant garde designers such as Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood to pay homage to their past.
This unique print has also been adapted for a more classic environment. Take school uniforms, for example, and their preppy interpretation of plaid. Mix this print with a white button-up and smart shoes and the print goes from edgy to sophisticated. On the flip side, the plaid school uniform has also become a sex-symbol (thanks to Britany’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time”) and a common Halloween costume choice.
With so many incarnations of plaid, it’s evident that this ancient print has been able to sustain itself in the ever-changing fashion atmosphere. The following looks demonstrate four ways to wear plaid, each with it’s own take on this classic print.
Seeing as plaid has a more masculine history, I wanted to shake things up a bit and add some glamour to this utilitarian fabric. I am obsessed with this Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti dress, complete with it’s own waist capelet. Throw on an actual capelet and you’ve got drama — add some jewels and little leather gloves and you’ve got a statement.
Grunge may have began in the mid-80’s, but it is obsessed with this 16th century textile (usually in the form of a flannel shirt). I’m not one for the frumpy, so I took it upon myself to modernize this style with a sports bra and skinny jeans. The result is sexy, but still cool enough to hang with the guys.
To the untrained eye punk may look like grunge, but in both music and fashion they are very different. Channel your inner Sid Vicious with stove-pipe plaid pants and metallic accents. When in doubt, look for pieces with buckles and/or zippers and pair with black. Warning: outfit must be worn with attitude!
Thanks to Ms. Spears and certain anime series, the school girl ensemble has become a fantasy for many boys. Instead of playing in to this sexist ideal, I decided to call it out in a more stylish way. A men’s tux shirt and an oversized safety pin add toughness to this ensemble, which is off-set by the ultra-girly accessories; Tous bear earrings and bracelet with bright blue platforms that resemble the classic Mary Janes. The low, sleek bun and longer hem-line work to give the look a more sophisticated quality. I guess what I’m getting at is, if you’re going to wear plaid in a preppy manner take care not to play into uncouth stereotypes.
That’s the great thing about a plaid print: you can style it however you want! There is no singular trend or fiber that defines this textile. Plaid lends itself to so many items and fashions that it is easy to wear regardless of your personal style. Try incorporating a little into your winter (or spring!) wardrobe and you won’t be disappointed.