Recognizing fashion’s plaids and checks can be a bit confusing, especially this fall when plaids and checks have increased in popularity and are appearing in tops, pants, sweaters, jackets and coats. With so many plaids and checks to choose from, it’s easy to begin to wonder what they are and why they have different names. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of the plaids and checks in fashion and make it easier to make your selections when choose coordinating and contrasting styles.
The plaids we see in department stores today actually began as Scottish tartans. Scottish weavers began making tartans during the Middle Ages when clans, generally related family members, started wearing standardized plaids to identify their kinship. Plaids have had a long journey since the 1200s yet remain much the same. The plaids were named for the clans they represented: McGregor, McDougal, McLennan, and so on. Many tartans are still very popular and are being worn as pleated skirts, blazers and suits. The classic deep blue, black and green Black Watch plaid can be found in nearly every department stores, boutique and closet. This year’s plaids are generally lighter, and many incorporate softer colors. There are now plaids in pink, mint green and orange, bringing new life to their richly vibrant ancestors.
Glen plaid is a pattern of muted colors or of black or gray and white, especially one in which two dark and two light stripes alternate with four dark and four light stripes, both vertically and horizontally, forming a crossing pattern of irregular checks. Glen plaids are often found in men’s suits, jackets and blazers in an array of browns, grays and blacks. Much more subtle than tartan plaids, Glen plaids are ideal for corporate or business wear and mix and match easily with solid browns and grays. Many people prefer the softer effect of glen plaid and find it easier to wear than the brighter colors.
Houndstooth also originated in Scotland, but not until the 1800s. It was originally worn as an outer garment of woven wool cloth by shepherds. The pattern is still popular, especially in tweed and wool fabrics. It is a two-tone pattern that is characterized by its abstract four-pointed shapes, most often in black and white. Houndstooth is popular in skirts, slacks, suits and blazers. Many new fall fashions combine houndstooth with black and white stripes or tiny black and white prints for updated looks. Once only black and white, the houndstooth pattern is now seen in pink and black, navy and green, brown and beige and a palette of other colors.
Gingham is a printed or dyed fabric that is known for its checked patterns of white and a dark color. The size of the checks can vary and is typically is found with the checks appearing in horizontal rows and vertical columns. Gingham dates to at least the 17th century when it was first imported to Europe. Often found in girls’ dresses, women’s blouses and men’s sportshirts, gingham has found its place in today’s fashion. Among the most popular colors for gingham are black and white, red and white, and navy and white. During recent years, gingham has appeared in spring and summer fashions in pink and white, light blue and white, mint green and white and yellow and white.
Windowpane check is a pattern that resembles the pattern of panes on a window. The stripes that cross to form windowpane checks are often thicker and farther apart than the pattern found in checks. Looking at windowpane checks is much like looking out a window. The centers of the frames are usually a slightly different color than the background of the plaid, giving it an almost three-dimensional appearance. Windowpane check is very popular in men’s dress and sportshirts and in women’s long sleeve shirts. It is a very simple check, making it easy to coordinate with print or striped neckties. Found in many colors, windowpane checks tend to be lighter in color than most checks and plaids, often with a white a light neutral background.
Tattersall is a pattern featuring alternating grids that are interwoven into the cloth. It most often has one grid that is a darker color and one grid in a lighter color. Tattersall came into popularity in London around the 1770s and has been popular for sportswear ever since. Tattersall is popular in men’s dress and sportshirts as well as women’s blouses and shirts. Tattersall shirts can be updated with coordinating plaid, print or paisley neckties. Tattersall is available in small, medium and large sizes, but most commonly is quite small. It is a popular check at L L. Bean and can be found in many men’s closets. Tattersall is currently being combined with stripes, polka dots and paisley prints, generally creating an excellent effect.
This being said, enjoy the wide range of plaids and checks, knowing just a bit more about each of the most common ones. Their history is as rich and vibrant as their autumn colors currently found in department stores, catalogs and boutiques. Try identifying a glen plaid, a houndstooth or a windowpane when you shop. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to learn.
As always, maximize your style and minimize your spending~