How to Pull Off Plaid, Style File Friday

If you take nothing else away from my closet, you will see enough plaids to cover the Highlands. Plaids are my favourite pattern, and I think subconsciously part of the reason I dislike the summer is that plaids are incredibly difficult to wear. My plaid collection is wide-ranging and hits most every variation of the pattern possible. I know that a lot of people prefer to dress completely in solids, and sometimes even solely in black, but I think that plaid is a great “entry” pattern that is easier to wear than people think! These are my tips to wearing plaid and managing your collection.

How to Pull Off Plaid,Style File Friday

This is the time of year for plaid! It’s perfect for holiday pictures and parties (my holiday cards this year are different plaids), and is typically a warmer fabric for those colder temperatures. I understand that plaid can feel very overwhelming to people who don’t wear patterns, it can be a lot happening in a small amount of fabric. To me, it feels a lot more ordered than most patterns, though- florals and brocades can feel dizzying, and stripes are often a concern for potentially making you look wider (and/or a wonky) shape. Plaids have enough going on to add some punch to your ensemble without being distracting.

Plaid vs Tartan vs Check

Before you dive into plaid, we should quickly cover the basics of what terms actually mean, as they can be used interchangeably by well-meaning but uninformed companies. Tartan is created by horizontal and vertical bands of crossing fabric that are identical in both orientations (horizontal and vertical), meaning that no matter which way it lays, it will look the same. Plaid is also created by horizontal and vertical bands of crossing fabric that are NOT identical in both orientations; turning it will create a slightly different pattern. Check (or checkered) is a symmetrical pattern of only two colours, like gingham or buffalo. (Greenhouse Fabrics has more info if you are interested!)

1. Find a Plaid That Fits Your Wardrobe 

If you never wear purple, I wouldn’t recommend trying a purple plaid as your first foray. Find a plaid that fits into your existing wardrobe! I have a lot of red in my wardrobe already, so it makes sense that I would find a red plaid that works with what I already own. Most plaids have 3-5 colours in them, so I would try and find a plaid with a dominant colour that fits well. The fall and winter are the best time to look, as you can find most any combination of colours if you spend enough time at it.

Old Navy Red Plaid Vest

2. Be Smart About the Piece 

If you don’t normally wear a lot of colour, jumping into a bright red plaid shirt or dress can feel very overwhelming and even a little costumey. If you normally wear scarves, try and grab a plaid scarf instead- it gives you the opportunity to see if it feels right to wear, and if you aren’t sure, it’s easy enough to take off and put back on throughout the day. (I bought a floral blouse once, felt incredibly uncomfortable, but then couldn’t escape it until I got home. Bad move, Historian.) Also, if you live in Florida, a thick plaid scarf might not be your best bet, either. Think about what would get the most use in your wardrobe!


3. Try Things On! 

This goes for most any piece of clothing out there, but I can’t recommend trying plaids on too much. You may think that a buffalo plaid is too bold for you, but on the sedate duo-colour actually helps calm it down. You may think that a black tartan is too dull, but once on you, the  red, green, and yellow pattern livens it up and gives you options to pair with! I have been known to try on five different plaid shirts in the same store and only purchase two because the others didn’t feel “right”. What looks great on that prep blogger that you follow on Instagram may not look right on you, and that’s okay- a quick try on can help avoid the awkward.


4. Be Creative With Pairings 

Try and use plaid to branch out! I like to layer plaids with sweaters and/or vests, because I’m a freezey-pants who is always cold no matter what. When you are getting dressed, try on that new plaid shirt with a few different sweaters (no matter if you think it won’t go), you might discover a new unlikely pairing that you love! I was unsure of pairing a plaid with my red Kate Spade Rosette sweater, because it’s a very specific red and there was a good chance that any red would clash with it. However, I paired my white tartan shirt with it, and the minimal red didn’t cause a problem at all- the white stands out, but the minimal red in the shirt ties the two together. The worst thing that happens is that you take whatever off, and try something else.

Old Navy Tartan Twill Ballet Flats

5. Step It Up 

What I’m enjoying right now is the details that are being added to plaid pieces. My red plaid vest has velvet detailing, and it’s just enough to make it feel a step up above a casual plaid shirt without being a formal, taffeta plaid dress. (Woohoo 80s!) Pair your plaid shirt with a longer necklace to dress it up,

16 thoughts on “How to Pull Off Plaid, Style File Friday

  1. This is Kat. November 10, 2017 / 6:22 am

    Love this! Plaid is one of my favourite things to wear!


  2. gigglingfattie November 10, 2017 / 9:03 am

    Awesome pieces! I love a good plaid but I actually don’t have any in my closet right now. I used to have a few tartan pieces to celebrate my Scottishness (I love that that’s an actual word!) but they are long gone now…


    • anhistorianabouttown November 10, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      I only have a few family items (knick knacky type things) in our tartan, but I’m on the hunt for more! I’ve got to admit, I need to stop buying it haha 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindsey November 10, 2017 / 10:39 am

    Plaid has been my favorite pattern since I was a little kid. I’m obsessed. I have multiple plaid shirts in different colors. It’s true people tend to be scared of styling plaid. It’s not that bad or hard, so I liked how you laid it out very simply on what you can do with this design. This was a great read.


    • anhistorianabouttown November 10, 2017 / 8:50 pm

      Thank you!! A lot of my friends have said that’s it’s overwhelming but I think that there are SO many things that are more difficult to style!! I had to put myself on a moratorium on buying plaid shirts 🤣🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  4. josypheen November 10, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Do you believe in shoe destiny? Like when you see a pair of shoes that you think you should buy but you’re not sure…You leave them and plan to return later. Then, if when you return they still have your size, then it’s shoe destiny and you should totally buy the shoes.
    I had had this a couple of times with checkered and tartan shoes. 😉 One gorgeous pair of pink/red tartan shoes was in Edinburgh airport. I managed to resist them on one visit, then a few weeks later when i was back in Edinburgh for a meeting I looked again and shoe destiny dictated that I had to buy them. They’re not very traditional, but i love them!


    • anhistorianabouttown November 10, 2017 / 8:48 pm

      I’ve never heard of shoe destiny BUT I BELIEVE IN IT NOW. All of my favourite shoes grabbed me and never let go, and now I know why- the universe did it. Also, speaking of Edinburgh and plaid, some of my favourite plaid pieces are from Ness in Edinburgh- such a cute store!!! (Now I’m stalking their website only to find out they won’t ship to Canada, ughhh)

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen November 11, 2017 / 10:19 am

        I just looked and I LOVE them!!

        We’re next heading home in May. If you want anything, you could have it sent to my mums house, then I could bring it back to Canada and post it from BC. It’d be a plaid tour!


        • anhistorianabouttown November 11, 2017 / 6:41 pm

          OMG, I might take you up on that offer- their stuff is so CUTE and so sturdy and well-made!! One of my absolute favourite companies!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. fattymccupcakes November 16, 2017 / 8:56 am

    I love me some plaid! I just bought some plaid leggings. I love your shoes and vest 😍😍


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