Plaid is an evergreen classic. This guide provides inspirations how to wear this cool weave at any age and look effortlessly stylish, no matter of your personal style.
- What to look for when buying plaid items
- How is the pattern created
- The easiest way to wear plaid …
- Which plaid works best with your personal style
- East European Classic
- The Romantic gal
- Euro Chic
- Gamine style
- Casual styles
- Alaska street style
- Rock’n Roll and Punk
- Bombshell and plaid
- Arty slick
- Posh eclectic
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What to look for when buying plaid items
Plaid is one of the woven pattern that has made its way into every style. The most important thing when buying a plaid item is to look for a great cut. The pattern should match at the seams. Otherwise every plaid item looks cheap as if you picked it up in the youth or children department. This fact is especially true for all of us who are wearing less than a US size 10. See here for a size converter when you are one of my international readers (opens in a new tab).
No matter of your personal primary style, there is a variation of the pattern that looks awesome with the key elements of a given style.
Since the pattern works with every style, but Black Tie or White Tie, plaid is perennial. The trend is just which of the weave varieties is the most It in a season.
How is the pattern created?
The original plaid isn’t a print, but a pattern. When weaving the fabric different colors are put in both directions, which creates the pattern. Depending on the width of the stripes in the weave the pattern has different names. In gingham, the classic version has two colors – typically white and a crayon-like color. The crossing stripes are about half a centimeter (~0.2 inch) wide. In the Alpine region, a one centimeter wide version is traditionally used for both men and women.
Buffalo plaid also uses stripes of equal width in the weave, but they are about two inch or so (5 cm) in width. The traditional color combination is red and black. In America, this pattern is made either of cotton for shirts or wool for jackets, trapper hats.
Tartan uses different width and more than two colors. In Scotland, the colors and arrangement indicate different clans.
The easiest way to wear plaid …
… is to pick solids in the colors of the pattern. It’s a fool proof look. However, when the fabric has only two or three colors, you may fast feel bored. Despite the look is stylish and incredibly posh.
Now, how to switch things up?
Which plaid works best with your personal style?
Depending on your personal style, you will have a preference for one or the other variety of the weave. This preference is related to what looks best with the other pieces of the personal style. Don’t know your primary personal style? Use this free online style finder to determine it before you read on. Opens in a new tab.
East European Classic
A Russian floral print wool scarf with silk fringes is a Must-have for every fashionista east of the Odra River. It works well with all kind of heavy wool skirts and window panel-like weaves as this pleated midi skirt. The look works because the scarf ties the colors of the skirt together with the gray turtleneck sweater. You can see why these floral wool scarves are favorites. They permit wearing all kinds of sweaters with one-and-the-same plaid skirt.
The Romantic gal
Remember when Brigit Bardot got married in a yellow white hingham dress. Gingham is so feminine and with the right cut can be so romantic. Yellow, pink, light blue are perfect for summer dresses. In the cold season, darker colors make a bolder contrast to the white. Thus, when your skin tone can’t take this stark contrast look for gingham that substitutes the white with a different color. Read more on Romantic Style.
The shirts look awesome with capris and ballet flats, the dresses strappy, kitten or medium heel (2.5 inch, 5 cm) sandals.
In the cold season, any weave pattern wool skirt is her thing as long as the colors are feminine and the cut has feminine details like the overlaying wrap in the skirt below. A ruffled skirt in any variation of the weave works well too. The inspiration below work along the concept of
pick solids in colors of the fabric.
Every Euro Chic fashionista associates the word plaid with Burberry (see photos above). Their classic lining for traditional trench coats, their awesome signature scarf that we all want to have. Not to mention their plaid printed bags or rubber boots. <3 Who doesn’t wish to own a pair?
Euro Chic embraces wool plaid for everything from blazers to skirts. Plaid in just two colors woven from cotton, i.e. gingham is a classic for summer button-down shirts and dresses in vacation style.
You can find different looks with this pink skirt in the post at the link.
You can find more outfit ideas for a plaid sheath in the linked guide.
In gamine style, usually the pants have a glen-check pattern like in the next two examples.
Every California Casual or American Southwest fashionista associates the classic plaid button-down shirt that looks great with jeans. The former has the high-waist, not too tight jeans with Birkenstock. The latter has the boot-cut jeans with cowboy boots. Both sometimes style their shirt knotted around the waist or as a jacket over a graphic T-shirt (men’s department is welcome for high quality options with a more affordable price tag) which also makes a great style for open air concerts. Both sometimes add a hat, the Californian girl a trilby hat, the Southwest gal with a felt or leather cowboy hat.
Alaska street style
The Alaska version is the plaid wool jacket cut like a straight button-down shirt, but from a coat-quality thick plaid fabric, two pockets on the breast, two diagonal pockets on the hips. No lining. It is worn with flannel lining jeans, duck boots, sweater, and trapper hat. While it is intended to be worn by men, women wear it too. Both genders prefer the red-black color combination with a little green.
More on how to have Street Style.
Rock’n Roll and Punk
Here plaid pants are a big thing. Make sure the plaid pattern continues perfectly at the seams over the crotch. Otherwise you look like a clown. Also go for neutrals rather than the classic Rock’n Roll/Punk red and black. You want to be able to wear your wool pants to work, right? 😉
Mod style is not just super-short mini dresses in A-line. Think argyle sweaters in three neutral colors or three colors of similar shade, or three neighbored colors on the color wheel. Style them with a corduroy neutral color A-line skirt and patent leather sandals in a bright color. What about the plaid blanket scarves? They are great to add an extra insulation layer in winter or cover-up on a chilly evening.
Argyle socks are a classic in work and casual style too in neutral colors under neutral color wool pants in winter or in bright colors under jeans with a solid neutral or bright sweater and sneakers on the weekend, respectively.
Bombshell and plaid
Even a bombshell like Sophia Loren or Marilyn Monroe looks great in a sheer neutral color plaid blouse with tie-neck paired with high-waist jeans, solid pencil skirt or trousers. Don’t forget the high-waist pencil skirt in black and white diamond weave with a sweater tucked in and high heel pumps! Or Victoria Beckham‘s take on the bombshell with plaid in a black pencil skirt, plaid western skirt and sky-high heels. So sexy! <3
A signature item in arty slick is the buttoned tailored plaid cape with pockets and collar. Go for brown with cream and black for ageless style. The plaid itself should look very wide with different widths from 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm).
The Posh Eclectic style is the trickiest of all. To get this style right, you have to try out everything with everything and look for what looks the rightest way wrong. Think tartan and sequins, plaid button-down shirt with riding pants and wellies. You get the idea!
I hope you liked the inspirations on how to wear plaid in an ageless manner, no matter what primary personal style you are striving for. The most important things are to buy pieces with perfect fit and where the pattern lines up at the seams.
Otherwise, the look cheap or trashy or both.
You will look your best in the pattern that matches you personal style. To switch things up, you may try to also add a variety of the pattern of your secondary personal style. What is your preferred way to wear this pattern?
When you like the styling tips, you can get even more in my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy your copy now.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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