Thursday, August 27, 2009

5 Ways To Wear Plaid Without Feeling Like An Absolute Fool

Plaid can be tough. It is what we might call a strongly-typed symbol, as in, it's very hard to wear without a nod to its meaning. No one is apt to say, or think, "I didn't know plaid was traditional Scottish dress! I didn't know a raincoat co-opted it into an instantly recognizable brand!" Highland clans and Burberry cast a long shadow. Strong and often garish patterns also make it easy to feel silly, or obvious, wearing plaid. But it's not necessary. Here are five ways to wear plaid without feeling like a fool.

My aunt graduated from Vassar. Then she had three boys. She knows how to put up wallpaper. She's thrifty. She's comfortable in her skin. She wears plaid pants very well. And she looks good in red. If you wear plaid routinely, make sure the colors suit you. Otherwise plaid is a battlefield, and you lose.

For those classic types among us who like to walk just a little bit further out on the fashion runway, plaid dresses look great. Always have. Claire McCardell should be canonized for her full-skirted, shirt dress version. A dress gives the plaid enough room to spread out. If you go full vintage for a party, as above on the left, add some color so you don't remind anyone of a sofa covering. If you opt for the modern Talbots number (via TP BTW), I'm thinking black fishnets, ankle boots, and a velvet and lace headband. Highlander anyone? Or just your black Ferragamo slingbacks. Not every day is a fishnet day. If you can wear vintage to the office, add a modern circle pin as a tongue-in-cheek reference to fashions of other eras, and a platform to your high-heeled pump to keep your feet firmly planted in 2009. After all, the 1950's weren't the best decade ever for working women.

Let's face it. If you are someone who can wear avant-garde fashion you NEVER feel like a fool. These images are from nitro:licious and some notes on napkins. They are avant-garde young women. I'm going to trust them.

Burberry is a problem. I know. Either wear the classic raincoat with plaid showing only when you take the coat off and are not acting as an unpaid billboard, or, go completely, heart-stoppingly overboard. Make sure everything you put on your body is made by Burberry. Mix plaids and florals. Blow that strongly-typed symbol right out of the water. But I ask you, please, if you care about the High WASP creed, don't just toss one of the bags over your arm and run out the door. Burberry did it to themselves. We have to help them if we care.

Martin Grant via Couture Carrie via

And finally, find something beautiful, that calls to you, and it can be polka-dotted if you like. Wear what you love. Believe in your right to do so. Feel foolish another day, like when you wear your son's khakis and someone posts it on the Internet for all to see. Or wait, you post it yourself. There are many ways to feel foolish besides wearing plaid. Why waste your life's limited supply of foolish points on a fabric pattern? We can wear plaid with pride, or irony, or comfort, or style, or audacity. Whatever we please.

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Blogger Maya said...

I've always wanted a classic Burberry raincoat..., and it puzzles me that I still don't have one. I guess it's because I don't leave the house when it's raining.

August 27, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Princess Freckles said...

What a fab post! I love plaid...always have! I can't wait to get my hands on that Talbots dress. Its not on the website yet.

August 27, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Black Labs and Lilly said...

I love a great pair of wool, plaid, trousers in the winter! I would love a plaid dress too!

August 27, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Sher said...

I bought Burberry for the fall. I'm a walking billboard LOL!

August 27, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger f8hasit said...

My ex-husband listed as one of the items he 'wanted back' was the Burberry cashmere scarf.
So I gave it back.

And bought two more and put it on his bill. I don't think he ever knew. Sneaky.
Every time I wear one and see him, I know he goes to check to make sure he still has his.

August 27, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

I love the Burberry raincoats too, logophobia and budget constraints means I don't have one. But I like them on others. f8 - two more hu? Revenge is sweet. Sher - you have so much self-confidence I doubt you EVER feel foolish. Heck. Burberry should pay you.

August 27, 2009 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Deja Pseu said...

Two thumbs up for your fabulous Polyvores!

I'm over Burberry, but still love a good plaid. I'm eyeing one of those Pendleton 49er jackets Duchesse posted the other day.

August 27, 2009 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I like you so much. And your tartan, too.

August 27, 2009 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger AEO said...

Plaid pants are fabulous if worn as your aunt does. I have a few pair, and I always feel like a gorgeous professor at an Ivy League school when I wear them. Classic, refined, just a pop of pattern in very traditional colors. Perfect for a romp through the apple orchard in the fall or in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine in the winter.

August 27, 2009 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Deja - I know! I was going to include Pendleton with a shout out to Passage des Pearles but I'm thinking in a follow up...AEO,my aunt unfortunately has to wear plaid pants in California. I think she is channeling her New England childhood. Amanda. I like you back. Tartan or no.

August 27, 2009 at 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Lindy said...

I can't carry off plaid anymore, but LOVE argyle, especially sweaters. What's your take?

August 27, 2009 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Southern said...

I love this post! Esp love the Talbots pants - great for work and play (think chilly football games)!

August 27, 2009 at 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

Like Lindy, I can't carry off plaid anymore (but I love me some polka dots). When I was a teenager, though, I had a beautiful, wool, blue plaid, almost ankle length skirt. It was warm. It was comfortable. It was pretty and went with a variety of blouses and sweaters. I wore it until was nearly falling apart.

August 27, 2009 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

just spat out my iced tea, "if you're someone who is a fan of avant garde fashion, you NEVER feel like a fool"- kills me because it's so true!

can't go wrong with a plaid mini or kilt and turtleneck sweater and opaque black stockings!


August 27, 2009 at 5:34 PM  
Anonymous The Preppy Princess said...

Amazing bite #1: "Otherwise, plaid is a battlefield, and you lose."

Amazing bite #2: "Not every day is a fishnet day."

Amazing Bite #3: "Burberry did it to themselves. We have to help them if we care."

You really are incredible Miss LPC, this is an astonishing post for both its clarity of vision (and conveying same with the Polyvores) and for the writing itself. Holy cow. I am just blown away and sending several others to read it.

You need to be doing this fulltime for large rewards of a financial kind, you are just. so. gifted.

Okay, enough fawning, we go away now.


August 27, 2009 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you have found your 'job'-
funny how that happens when we aren't looking in that direction.

Thanks for your encouragement about the writing. You have an amazing turn of phrase. Isn't it all amazing fun?

The words just spill, don't they?


August 27, 2009 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

It's so cute how we all have plaid memories and associations. Some may have moved on to polka dots. OK. And Princess, Laura, I'm so proud about what you say that I am now embarrassed to be proud. And it was worse when I was younger:). Thank you so so so much. Sending it on is fantastic. BTW, argyle is haunting me...

August 27, 2009 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Julia Remix said...

I love plaid. But my fauxtobiography is titled Pink Epaulettes and Other Plaid Disasters. So thre might be some conflict there still.

August 27, 2009 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Little Bow Prep said...

Cute sets! I like the first two :)

I must admit that I don't like Burberry very much though.

August 28, 2009 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger C.J.M. said...

The red dress in the second collage is divine! I experience the same conundrum with Burberry, but the clothes are excellent and make me so happy. I love everything you've selected here.

August 31, 2009 at 10:51 AM  

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