Mad about plaid

Mad about plaid

August 28th, 2009 by Holly Leber in Life Entertainment

Plaid. It's not just for Highland flings, lumberjacks and Catholic schoolgirls.

The pattern of multicolored, criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands, called plaid in North America, is known as tartan in Scotland. While we use the word plaid to describe the tartan pattern, in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder or a blanket.

Whatever you call it, there's going to be a plethora of plaid this fall. National apparel lines such as Banana Republic and Express are showing pieces in plaid, as are stores from Target to Belk to local boutiques.

Suzanne Bishop, owner of Frankie & Julian's on the North Shore, said she's getting lots of plaid items for sale in the coming weeks.

"Other than brands like Burberry, we haven't seen plaid in a long time," said Ms. Bishop. "It's coming back full force. You're seeing it with every classification: plaid coats, plaid scarves, plaid skirts, plaid leggings. It's super-saturated for fall."

Ms. Bishop said she's even spotted plaid belts and shoes, and watches with plaid bands.

The key to wearing plaid is discretion: Choose one piece to "pop" and tone down the rest, experts say. This goes for women and men.

"I think if there's not too much going on, I'd wear it," said Jake Reddish. "You have to have a limit of one plaid piece."

Indeed, Ms. Bishop said to adopt a "keep it simple, stupid" approach. "If you overdo it, it could be way too much," she said. "Then you look like a plaid nightmare."

Some plaid pieces can overlap with another fall trend of mixing menswear-inspired looks into feminine clothing. The pattern is versatile and gender-diverse.

"Plaid is cute on women," said Lorean Mays. "It's not too feminine, but it's not too masculine. It's kind of one of those balancing pieces."

Ms. Mays prefers her plaids in bright colors, a la "Clueless." The Amy Heckerling blockbuster film was the catalyst for a brightly colored plaid explosion in the mid-'90s. This feminine approach to plaid contrasted the flannel-shirted grunge look popularized by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

"I like (plaid) on girls," said Mr. Reddish. "I think it's feminine, but it's not super pink and girly."

While plaid may be hot for fall, there's no telling whether it will be gone faster than you can say "as if," so be prudent in your purchasing.

"You don't need 25 things in plaid." said Ms. Bishop. "Maybe get a few pieces. We don't know how long it'll last, if this will be a fad versus a trend. Don't overly invest in plaid."