History in the Making

How to Wear Plaid, Style File Friday

Tis’ the season for pumpkins and cozy throws and corn mazes and plaid- for anyone who has ever heard of Pinterest, you will know that fall is the season for plaid clothing. While I wear plaids all year round (different plaids at different times), a lot of people wait until the fall to bring them out, and there is nothing wrong with that! My own 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! And you don’t necessarily need to always wear it with leggings, riding boots, and an infinity scarf; there are ways to work plaid into your wardrobe without being over the top.These are my five tips to styling plaid and managing your collection, as well as a bit of history!

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: A History

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. FYI: If you like a particular tartan, try reverse image searching it on Google; you can find the name of the tartan and have better luck in searching for more items (if it is a named pattern).

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! (That is, quite frankly, a tip for all of your clothing purchases: purchase for the life you actually have, not for the life you dream of having. Dream clothes get very little wear in real life.)



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. (That being said- I wouldn’t try two plaids together, it is near impossible to pull off, and just looks insanely busy.)

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, or find a brocade skirt to elevate above lumberjack. There are ways to work with plaid, but you just have to be creative and willing to try!

Have you ventured into the world of plaid?

Until tomorrow,
The Historian
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19 thoughts on “How to Wear Plaid, Style File Friday”

  • God, I love plaid. I am obsessed. I use StitchFix, and I’ve been asking my stylist for something plaid pretty much every month. (She only listens half the time; I think she’s trying to keep me from looking like a lumberjack 24/7, lol).

    One of my favorite plaid pieces is this double-hooded sweatshirt from Mindy Mae’s Market: https://mindymaesmarket.com/products/exclusive-doublehood-sweatshirt-buffalo-accent

    I love the plaid accents on this sweatshirt, which is super cozy. Only problem — as you will see on the site — it is always sold out! I FINALLY got a notification that it was back in stock, and I ordered a sweatshirt within 2 minutes, not even kidding. But…the size was too big, and I had to retun it; the elbow patches were practically sitting on my wrists. I was devastated that after waiting so long to get this piece of clothing, I had to give it back. Now I am waiting (im)patiently for it come back in stock in a Medium, lol. #firstworldproblems

    • Oo, I *love* that hoodie- the plaid accent is just enough without being too over the top!! I always come to want to purchase things like 3 months after they become popular and then we have moved on to another season and it isn’t available anymore haha!
      And there is nothing wrong with the lumberjack look haha- sometimes you just have to embrace it!!

      How do you like Stitch Fix? Do you find that you keep a lot of the items??

  • I’m a big fan of tartan as we call it. My mother-in-law bought me a really lovely tartan scarf back from Edinburgh that I can’t wait to get snuggled in when the colder weather comes back. I have a few pieces of tartan clothing but hoping to add more when it all comes back in the shops for the Autumn/Winter.

    Rachael | https://rachaelstray.com/

  • 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!

    • 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)

      • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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…

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