Tartan Plaid Clothing for Women – Is it Hip to Be Square?
I’m sorry that I hated you for 50 years, but I never really got to know you. It’s not your fault that Catholic schools turned you into ugly, polyester, plaid skirts and jumpers. And, how could I have overlooked your fashionable role in the British punk movement… and, later, your powerful influence during the angst-filled grunge era. Plaid, you are beautiful, I love you, and I promise to wear you often.
Plaid Was Square & Dorky in the 50s and 60s
When I was young, plaid was often worn by ugly young schoolchildren who had to wear what their mothers bought them. And, back in my childhood, it was a common joke that used-car salesmen, with less taste than Kate Gosselin, would often wear plaid polyester suits… probably in an attempt to make people feel sorry for them and purchase some kind of wretched beater.
So, I want you to know that there were good reasons why I hated tartans as a girl. Of course, I also hated saddle shoes, and I’ll never outgrow the true horror of wearing those things.
Elegant Tartan Plaid Outfits
I always knew there was a way to wear plaid in a casually elegant way... however fine plaid clothing usually involved some sort of beautifully crafted Scottish or Italian woolen fabrics in conjunction with compulsively perfectionist tailoring (in which all of the patterns lined up at every seam).
Yes, there were beautiful tartans that came from Pendleton and other American and Canadian factories, but the really fabulous plaid outfits were not related to those horrid things found in crappy Sears Catalogs. So, unless an American shopped in San Francisco or New York, most tartan-wearing Yanks looked like New World pretenders… hoping to appear as equine-obsessed gentlemen or ladies of the manor. And, most of the time, the effect came across as an affectation.
And, that’s why I rebelled, during my formative years, against the wearing of anything mildly resembling plaids or tartans. It was so… so... working class to wear plaid in the mid 60s in the US. And, those rigid, checked designs were much too masculine for me. So, instead, I drifted more towards pop-art florals and swirling purple paisley prints that were cheap knockoffs of Twiggy-and-Janis wear. Sure, my clothing was somewhat middle class in its essense, but it was not quite as pretentious and bourgeois as lowly plaid.
Good Girl Plaids of the 60s
In my day… in my part of the world… the only chicks who wore plaid were clueless wannabe cheerleaders... dippy high school girls who wore traditional plaid jumpers (pinafores) with knee socks and loafers… ugh. But, nowadays, there’s a nostalgic resurgence of faux “good girl” plaids, and I don’t mind that at all.
It’s all rather sweet and retro in a Marcia Brady (from the Brady Bunch) sort of way. And, sometimes plaids and checks are worn in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, ala hipster-style. Well, hipster plaid, like sexy-librarian eyewear, is fine by me.
I won’t wear nerd glasses, because people would laugh, but I like the look on others. (article continues)
Read about punk tartans & grunge plaids (& more) for women on page two.