Plaid is having another moment this fall. Despite its ancient status (I won’t go into it now, but a brief history of it can be found on Smithsonian.com), or maybe because of it, plaid has had its ups and downs. Some years it’s wildly popular and other years it’s pushed aside as being too frumpy and that type of thing. But I’ve always been fond of plaid. Somewhere there is an old photograph of me wearing plaid hip hugger, bell bottom pants (which I adored). And there are several photographs of my brothers in plaid shorts. My mother did a kitchen in black and white windowpane plaid wallpaper. It’s in my blood, and right now plaid is everywhere I look: on the pages of fashion magazines, in shop windows, on tablescapes, and in our homes.
In the fall especially, plaid feels warm and just right, whether we are wearing it or using it as decoration in our homes. And plaid, done well, can be very chic. But it can be tricky to get it right. I think you have to chose a side—be bold with it, mixing it in with other plaids and fabrics, or be minimalist, using it sparingly as an accent (Just as Gil Schafer did throwing blackwatch plaid pillows on a white settee in a mostly white enclave).
Incorporating plaid throws, blankets, and pillows is a lovely, timeless look. British interior designer Rita Konig layers plaids in the bedroom nook above. It works so well because what she has done is keep the plaid in the same palette so that even though there is a lot going on, it still looks soothing and understated and inviting (imagine taking your afternoon tea there on a chilly fall day).
Australian designer, Justin Bishop, strikes a richer tone with his collection of tartans on the throw, the upholstered footstool, and the lampshade. And a lampshade like this one by Suzanne Kasler is another fine way to add plaid to a room (what is nice is that you can always swap it out for something else in the cooler months). Again, mixed in with other plaids for a maximalist look or alone in a room with a softer tone as an accent.
Autumn days are moody, taking us in an out, and using plaid throws and pillows on the terrace or porch is another charming way to incorporate it. Europeans have this down to a science, and I am remembering a chilly afternoon in the Netherlands when the rain finally stopped and all along the streets throw blankets were folded neatly over the backs of café chairs and within minutes the seats were taken and the blankets were wrapped around shoulders or draped over legs. I found affordable plaid throws in the Threshold collection at Target and at Mark and Graham.
Plaid table linens work now and can take you right through Thanksgiving: invest in one plaid tablecloth or runner, and you won’t regret it. A smaller investment, but also charming, are plaid napkins.
A big part of the fun of plaid this year is finding fresh ways to mix it in with other patterns—layering pieces that compliment one another or taking a risk and putting it with something more unexpected. Plaid with paisley, floral, or animal prints. Even different plaids can be put together without looking like someone who got dressed in the dark.
On the sartorial side of things, I’m particularly drawn to this windowpane plaid scarf in ivory and camel. And a wool cape in blackwatch plaid is a nice transition piece that can be dressed up or down. But the thing I still love most are plaid pants, and I’m currently considering, not bell-bottoms, but high waisted wide leg crops like these from the Gap or tartan Scottish Lambswool from Cabbages and Roses.
When thinking about buying plaid anything, think soft and well made. It’s worth the investment because even though plaid is having a moment right now, it’s always timeless and elegant.