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 Style.com

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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?


  • 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…

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

  • Cute sets! I like the first two :)

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

  • 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.