June 3, 2009

On the hunt for summer plaid

Plaid is iconic, ageless and beautiful. It can run the gambit from formal to incredibly playful, with most plaid items falling squarely in between. Plaid has an element of androgyny to it as it can be worn very well by both men and woman. From lumberjacks to the grunge rockers of the early 90s, plaid has played both a practical and trend-setting role in fashion.

I’ve always thought plaid was a wonderful pattern. While it may not instantly convey femininity the way that say a floral or polka dot print does, plaid fabric can be whipped into anything from an undergarments to dresses, and somehow its grid of lines seems to work well in accentuating the curves of a woman’s body.

While plaid can certainly make for some terrific winterwear pieces (think classic plaid jackets from the 1950s, for example), its association with balmy weather through everything from shorts to skirts, camp hats to tops is what has me thinking about this bold pattern lately.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the joy of searching for pieces to add to my summer wardrobe. I set out with a razor thin budget, but I didn’t let that deter me. Along the way there were a number of items I was searching for (some I found, others are still on the lam), one of which was definitely a vintage inspired (as opposed to 80s or 90s style, which have been all the rage for the past few seasons) plaid shirt.

It seemed for quite a while though that luck wasn’t on my side. Every button front short or long sleeved plaid shirt I tried on seemed to drown me in its pattern. I’m petite (5”2) and do not have a very long torso, and didn’t want to end up looking like I was wearing a plaid mini dress.

With my summerwear budget nearly tapped out, I headed to Forever 21. While that may hardly seem newsworthy to many (especially my lovely American readers), it was the first time I’d ever been there before (which is sort of hard to believe given that there’s a location at the mall closest to my house - still better late than never!).

I was surprised by how big the shop was (though I noticed that they didn’t stock some pieces I’d been eyeing on the US Forever 21 website) and while certainly catering to the trends of the moment, how pretty some of their pieces were. I loaded up a mountainous armful of assorted items – including almost every plaid top in the store – and headed to the dressing room.

I’d struck out four times on the plaid front, when much to my surprise a light blue number hit the jackpot! I put it on and instantly felt like I’d popped out of a vintage summer camp post card or calendar page.

I probably stood there for three minutes examining my reflection, adjusting my side parted, freshly curled that morning hair, and loving how the shirt looked with the pretty-much-trouser-cut jeans and black oxford style shoes I was wearing. While none of the other plaid shirts that day panned out, I did also swing an awesome coral-meets-dusty rose hued cropped cardigan that fits like a glove, so I really felt like I’d had a successful shopping trip. The fact that the plaid shirt only cost $17 certainly helped sweeten the day too!

{I’m almost certain this is the same plaid shirt I bought. I found this image of the store’s US website and would be 100% sure if I could zoom in on the fabric, as my shirt has thin lines of red interwoven with the blue. The same and style is definitely identical; on the US site it’s is called the Marla Plaid Shirt and retails for $14.80US (up here in Canada I paid a few cents under $17 for mine). Either way, it’s a good deal for a lovely lightweight, all-cotton summer shirt.}

I’m delighted to have found a plaid shirt and am sure it will get a ton of rotation in my wardrobe this summer! I’m still keeping my eyes peeled though in case I come across any other plaid gems, and using these wonderful photos I’ve spied lately on Flickr as huge sources of vintage plaid hunting inspiration for whenever I find myself near a clothing store.

{Timeless Plaid Beauty}

1. 40's Plaid Dress, 2. Innocent World British bear jumper skirt (details; red) 2, 3. Plaid picnic tins, 4. Blue and brown plaid vintage circle skirt, 5. new boots!, 6. Vintage 70's Multi-Colored Box Plaid Button Down, 7. Red plaid cuff, 8. Plaid School Girl Skirt, 9. DSC06423aaa, 10. plaid is rad and makes me glad, 11. Large plaid fabric flower brooch, 12. Red Plaid Vintage Aladdin Thermos, 13. 2 of my favorite vintage shoes{Click on a link to see a larger version of a particular image and/or for photographer information}

I think that plaid is a pattern that ultimately, with a little sleuthing around for the right piece, anyone can pull off and look fantastic in. It’s a lovely print that for all its historical roots, doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, preferring to be a chipper, lively pattern instead.

Are you mad for plaid? Have you discovered any marvelous summer pieces in this classic pattern? I’d love to hear about your finds if you have – one plaid shirt is awesome, but finding a second might be even sweeter! :)


  1. i love summer plaid! in fact, i posted a plaid summer dress on my blog this morning. you should come have a peek!

  2. my hubby has a bizillion plaid shirts (i think its from his 80s heydays) and i have a few myself and i try not to wear them when he does cause then people might think we're trying to be matchy matchy! ;P
    but yes i love plaid and i had some plaid pants once! man i loved those things and then an aunt told me i looked like a christmas present and no it wasnt a compliment and i got rid of them! haha im easily swayed by family i guess! maybe i shouldnt listent to them eh???!!!!

  3. I love plaid too! I's so timeless & elegant!

    Take care


  4. Its beautiful......I simply loved this....will look for something in my wardrobe which can be reused.....now

  5. Hi there, jessica!

    glad to hear you had a successful shopping trip! isn't it therapeutic? :-) so far the only plaid I own is plaid shoes. For some reason if I try on a plaid top or bottom I look either like a farm girl. I can't pull off the plaid look! But I do love it!

  6. Lovely! I'm such a plaid and gingham a holic so this post really floats my boat:)

  7. I like your new shirt:) I have yet to find the perfect plaid garment, though I've used my mum's or dad's plaid shirts sometimes. But I want one that fits me better, maybe a red one like in the 9th picture. Have a nice day sweetie!

  8. You know what? You're right! I just love plaid (especially red)! I just wore green plaid the other day! I got lots of head turns. hehe

  9. I love plaid on others but it tends to make me look boxy. I do want to try and find some madras this summer but we'll see if I actually like it *on* me!

    Thanks for your comment--your blog is sweet!

  10. Hi everyone, thank you so much for plaid-tastic comments! :D

    @ Retroliving, thank you very much, my dear!

    @ Poke Sald Annie, I checked out (pun intended) your lovely post and am especially fond of those wonderful dresses!

    @ Elena-lu, awww, I think there's something kind of adorable about looking "matchy matchy", but at the same time I understand the desire not to look like you're a costume wearing stage duo of some sort ;) I think that if you can find a pair of well fitting plaid pants they can be really awesome - and certainly have a vintage sensibility to them. I say forgo what your relatives think and rock those plaid trousers all the way! :)

    @ Nora, wonderfully put, it absolutely is a timeless and elegant pattern. Thank you deeply for each of your wonderful comments, Nora, I truly appreciate them all.

    @ Vasudha.dilip, thank you, dear! I hope that you find something marvelous to reuse in your closet. In these tight economic times I've certainly been "shopping" from my own (existing) wardrobe a lot lately. Not that I mind really, it's fun to continually challenge yourself to come up with new outfits from pieces you already own.

    @ MissRedLips, hi there, doll! Shopping can definitely be therapeutic! I've never been one to eat when I'm stressed or in a low mood, but I think the world would have to be on the verge of Armageddon for me to forgo the joy of a little retail therapy now and then ;D I bet you look beautiful in plaid, even if it does conjure up a sweet farm girl look (nothing wrong with that, especially this time of year!). Perhaps a vintage plaid dress with some sexy heels and up-swept hair would turn the look from from prairie gal to old school movie starlet :)

    @ Marie Reed, thank you, sweetie! I'm a huge gingham fan, too! I'm in short supply of it at the moment though...I should put together an post some time soon on gingham to help inspire me to hunt down affordable pieces in that equally lovely pattern.

    @ A red lipstick, thank you, honey! I hear you entirely! Plaid can be hard to get just right, so sometimes waiting for the right piece to surface is the only way to go. I really hope that you're able to find a plaid garment that you love soon! :)

    @ Yet, green plaid sounds beautiful! I would love to find a green plaid piece to add to my closet. Thank you for your comment!

    @ ambika, that's how I was starting to feel too (as if I was getting lost in the fabric and pattern of most plaid pieces), but then the shirt above came along and finally you could see both me and the plaid, without either of us stealing the show. I totally hope you're able to come across your own plaid/madras gem this season! :)

    Oodles of thanks again everybody for your great comments. I hope you each have an absolutely marvelous weekend!!!

    ♥ Jessica

  11. The plaid is divine, love the collage! Do they call them those these days!! Much love xx
    Feel free to blog my new site to your hearts contents, I'd be honoured, thanks so much for your ind comments xx

  12. @ MissMatilda, Thank you very much, sweetie! I still call them collages myself - or photo mosaics, either or :)

    I'm so excited for you and your new shop, and will definitely blog about it at some point this week.

    Wishing you all the success in the world!!
    ♥ Jessica

  13. I LOVE this post..that collage is stunning. I am obsessed with plaid and tartan myself...

  14. @ LandGirlontheHomeFront, thank you very much, sweetie! I really seem to be a on a plaid kick at the moment myself too!

    Wishing you a fantastic day,
    ♥ Jessica