Go Mad for Plaid This Season
The arrival of fall means we're seeing tweed, flannel, and tartan on everything from ball gowns to distressed pants.
“A tartan fabric was traditionally an interwoven pattern of various colored wool that represented regional Scottish clans,” explains image consultant Thea Wood. “King George II enacted the Dress Act of 1746, which abolished tartan in an attempt to quell warrior clans. After the act’s repeal in 1782, tartan became Scotland’s symbolic national dress.”
READ: The Strangest Looks From the 2013 MET Ball
“With a rebellious history, it’s no wonder tartan became a favorite punk rock staple,” adds Wood.
No longer reserved for clans or anarchists, plaid prints have been taking over runways for decades now and was one of this year’s hottest trends at the Met Ball in New York City.
SEE: 20 Things We'll Actually be Wearing This Fall
But wearing plaid stylishly can be tricky, especially if you want to avoid looking like a school girl or lumberjack. We asked some experts to weigh in on how you can be rebellious by going preppy or punk:
Prepare to Stand Out
“Have great legs? Tartan ankle pants can put a wow factor into a work outfit and yet still look polished,” says Wood. “Love your neck or shoulders? Choose a sleeveless design with ruffles or an eye-catching brooch.”
Keep it Casual
"Plaid can project many attitudes, from refined to eccentric,” says Jane Monnington Boddy, senior director of forecast at Stylesight who credits couture designer Vivienne Westwood for making this print so chic on the runway. But for everyday wear, Boddy encourages women to wear a comfy, oversized plaid shirt, which will draw attention to you without the need to over-accessorize. “Don’t iron a plaid shirt,” she says. “I love that throw-on layered look.” To make the most of your outfit, wear casual skinny jeans in a dark wash for a slimming effect and pair it with your favorite booties or pumps to elongate your legs.
Embrace Your Best Colors
Model and fashion expert Jaimie Hilfiger says to always giving plaid a personal touch. “It’s a great casual look for running errands or to wear for a day of shopping with your girlfriends,” says Hilfiger. “Plaid shirts, in particular, can look great with denim cutoffs, ripped jeans, or leather pants.” However, whether you choose to wear a plaid blouse, pants, or a dress, do take note of one important feature. “Be sure to select colors that flatter your complexion and don’t wash you out,” she warns.
"To make plaid work without looking like an overgrown school girl, try a print in a sophisticated piece, like a skirt,” advises celebrity stylist Ali Levine. “Also, try more refined colors, like grays and blacks.”
Another simple way to wear plaid like a pro (or a royal?) Get a well-tailored plaid jacket or coat and pair it with knee-length leather boots.
Add Another Trend
To stay warm and look cool this fall, don’t be afraid to incorporate another seasonal trend. Wearing a leather jacket can easily dress down any plaid dress for daytime wear, all while giving it a rocker edge that can easily transition for a night out. Most importantly, make sure your jacket is taken to a tailor to ensure it’s the right fit for your frame, avoiding that sloppy, I-just-threw-on-whatever-was-in-my-closet look.
Turn it Into a Work Uniform
"If you tend to be on the more conservative side when it comes to rocking prints, try pairing a plaid top or jacket with a black leather bottom,” suggests New York City-based stylist Sara Cooper. “You can also try a pair of slim plaid slacks with a silk button-down top. These looks are simple, yet sophisticated and on-trend.” For the office, consider a plaid blazer in rich crimson hue, which can easily dress up your skinny jeans for casual Fridays.
Tone it Down
Tartan is tough to pull off head-to-toe. “My advice is to avoid tartan next to the face if your features are very round as the hard, straight lines can be too harsh of a contrast,” says Wood. “But don’t fret. That’s what plaid handbags are for!” Don’t forget flats and even boots featuring the print.
Mix and Match
Contrary to popular belief, you won’t look like fashion disaster if you decide to mix-and-match. “Do mix different plaids to have a print-on-print, mashed up look,” says Boddy. “Also, don’t be scared to wear it head-to-toe or mix other prints alongside.”
Plaid isn’t just reserved for shirts and outerwear. This year’s Met Ball saw various gowns featuring the print in jeweled, even royal-inspired hues. But if wearing a plaid dress alone isn’t your thing, simply add another piece to better enhance your personal style. “Layer a denim jacket to help break up the print and ground the look,” says Cooper.