Winter Fashion Trends: How to Wear Plaid

I live in Scotland. This means it’s very difficult for me to appreciate plaid (or tartan, as we prefer to call it) as a fashion trend. The thing is: unless you’re a man going to a wedding, or have a job playing the bagpipes, no one in Scotland ever wears tartan. Not for day-to-day wear, anyway. It’s very much a “dressing up” fabric, and has a bit of a “fancy dress” feel to it. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not all running around like extras from Braveheart over here. Not where I live, anyway. And definitely not the women.

So I find it hard to love plaid. That said, though, I’ve been loving it just a little bit more than usual this winter, and it’s mostly thanks to Luella Bartley and her fabulous plaid dress. Yum. Here’s my quick guide to how to wear one of this winter’s biggest trends…

I’m hoping that, for most of you, this will pretty much be a no-brainer. Tartan can look great when used in dresses, skirts and accessories. It never, ever looks good as trousers. I can’t think of a single exception to this rule, but if you want to point one out to me, I’m all ears. Here in Scotland, tartan trews are worn only by very old men in golf clubs. Quite what Alice & Olivia were thinking when they made these skinny plaid pants, I have no idea. What Shopbop were thinking when they decided to stock them? Even less of an idea. And what those who are paying $184 to wear them are thinking? Hell knows. No wonder they’re reduced… As for the Luella dress, meanwhile, well, it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? We’ve already shown you one alternative to it here


This Susana Monaco dress is $239 at Bluefly… a little bit on the pricey side, but a nice, fairly classic use of the dreaded plaid. It’s merino wool, too, which would keep you nice and cosy, were it not for the fact that it’s strapless. Oops. Zac Posen’s silk plaid dress, meanwhile, is an eye-popping £2005, meanwhile, which I personally think is one for the “more money than style” category… (It is nice, though. Just not £2000 of “nice”.)


When you’re wearing plaid, you really need to be working the “less is more” maxim. Which means that Kate Spade really isn’t on to a good thing with these tartan boots. Office’s Dolly Interbow courts are actually a much brasher, more in-your-face tartan, but because there’s less of it, they’re still a better bet than the boots. Just don’t wear them with a tartan skirt. And speaking of tartan skirts…

tartan shoes and boots

Completely a subjective opinion, but, in general, the closer a skirt gets to looking like a traditional kilt, the less I’ll like it. Both of these skirts are by Alexander McQueen, but while the one on the left, from Bergdorf Goodman had that traditional pleated look to it, the one on the right from Net-a-Porter is a little more modern. Both have that “shorter at one side than the other” thing going on, though, and that troubles me. As for mini-kilts in general – just say no, folks.

tartin skirt

Finally, accessories is the one area in which you can express your love of plaid to your heart’s content. The two bags here are from Zappos, and the coin purses are £5 each from Topshop. Just promise me one thing, though – no tartan socks, ‘kay? Now that would be an unforgiveable crime of fashion…


  • November 18, 2008


    I love plaid!! and it is nawt that hard to love plaid I mean seriously! plaid is one of the best things in the world.

    View Comment
  • November 18, 2008


    I think Plaid pants are great if you’re more of the punk style.

    View Comment
  • April 13, 2009


    do you have any idea where i can purchase the plaid dress (black and white)and the plaid heels (NOT THE BOOTS) and the hand bag (the brown colorful 1)?? thnx email me at or anything really cute our school mini prom is coming and i want a cute but cheap dress! XD <3

    View Comment
  • May 9, 2009


    I always did like tartan, from my boarding school days.
    Now what should I wear with a Stewart dress modern tartan that has a cream background? Do I go for cream cashmere set of sweaters or black cashmere set of sweaters??

    View Comment
  • May 18, 2009


    I have a plaid ballerina in red and black, but am confused with what I can wear it with. Any suggestions?

    View Comment
  • September 29, 2010


    Is it ok for a person to wear plaid pants with a flowerly top? My co-workers and I were disagreeing?


    View Comment
    • April 4, 2014


      Plaid skirt or pants with a flowerly top will not look good. Rule of thumb. If yu wear a plaid skirt or pants, balance with a solid color depending on the color of the plaid: black, navy blue, red…. no pale colors, otherwise you will look like a clown!

      View Comment