Have you been in a department store lately?  Plaid is everywhere.  I was in one store last week and I wasn’t sure if I accidentally stepped into a meeting of the NY chapter of the International Bagpipe Organization.  Seriously, we get it, plaid is hot for fall, but must it be draped on anything that can stand still?

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of plaid.  I can’t figure out exactly why.  The only somewhat logical reason I can come up with is I tend to prefer my patterns and prints to move in a more organic and unstructured manner.  Plaid may just be too linear and constrained.   After polling others on my Facebook Page, it seems I am not alone.  People either love plaid or hate it, there seems to be no in-between, sort of like cilantro.  I think a person’s feeling about plaid depends on their relationship to it.  Plaid can evoke many different feelings. From lumberjack style  to parochial school uniforms, uptight librarians to liberal 90’s grunge, a lot of what people feel about plaid seems to have a lot to do with their history to it and how they see it being worn.

I am certainly not trying to convince you to wear plaid through this post, but, if you think about it, there are a lot of ways to embrace this trend.  Despite its very particular patterning, plaid is quite versatile.  If you plan on going whole hog or if you plan on trying it in small doses, below are some looks and tips on how to wear plaid.

How to Wear Plaid and Not Look Like a Lumberjack, School Marm or Bagpipe Player

Successfully wearing plaid is all in the styling.  Plaid is what it is.  However, it is how it is worn that will determine if you will look like someone who never had a date in their life or someone who is open and of the moment.  Before you toss out plaid as an impossibility in your wardrobe, look to see how you can incorporate it as part of your existing style.  You might be surprised that it can be done.

Outfit #1- Subtle plaid

Wearing plaid doesn’t mean that you have to WEAR plaid, if you catch my drift.  The beauty of plaid is that it comes in tons of different colors.  Instead of wearing a plaid pattern that you can see from Pluto, try one in monochromatic that creates a subtle pattern vs. a loud one.  Here these plaid jeans from Gap do just that.  In this outfit the plaid pants are as versatile as a pair of basic jeans while adding some interest to the look.  The outfit is styled casually with a relaxed J. Crew sweater, a long pendant necklace from Anthropologie, a blue handbag from Vince Camuto and, for a pop, a pair of orange loafers from MICHAEL Michael Kors.

Outfit #2- Glen Plaid

Glen plaid, like the type of plaid used in this dress, is not only more subtle than other types of plaid patterns, but is also much more classic.  This type of plaid also beautifully addresses the menswear trend that is also happening right now.  If you want to wear plaid but want to do it in a more understated way, or in a pattern that has a longer shelf life, try glen plaid.  It is a great corporate plaid pattern that never really goes out of style for work.

The beauty of this type of plaid is it is small enough to be treated like solid black.  Feel free to add any color to it through your accessories for a punch.  Here I went with burgundy with a pair of Kenneth Cole pumps and Banana Republic tote.  To finish the outfit professionally, I finished the outfit with a pair of grey drop earrings and gold chain necklace.

Outfit #3- Small touches of plaid

The plaid trend isn’t just happening in clothes, it is happening in accessories too.  Add a touch of plaid through your accessories, like with a pair of shoes, a scarf or a handbag.  Here, a touch of plaid is added to this chambray shirt dress with these Sam Edelman ballerina flats.  The yellow handbag picks up one of the colors found in the plaid shoes and these blue earrings from Bauble Bar finish the outfit.

Outfit #4- Add some edge

Plaid can look very traditional or very modern depending on how it is styled.  If you tried on something in plaid and felt like you should be checking out someone’s books at the library, consider how the plaid piece can be styled before you toss it out as an option.  This plaid skirt from Boden, for example, can be styled a ton of different ways.  With the wrong components it can look like dork-central or, with some edgier or more updated pieces, it can look fresh.  Here the skirt is styled with a grey slouchy boatneck sweater from Alice + Olivia and belted it with a brown contour waist belt.  Added to the look is a horn necklace from Ahthropologie, a pair of cognac suede stack heel boots and Tory Burch slouchy hobo bag.

Outft #5- Sleek and modern

When most people think of plaid they think of the English countryside, rustic colors or traditional styles.  However, chosen in the right colors and silhouettes, plaid can look very sleek.  If you want to wear plaid, but your style is much more clean and modern,  look for styles like this plaid coat from Modcloth and style it with pieces that are sharp, like these black skinny trousers from Reiss, crisp white shirt from J. Crew that has been belted with a stretch black belt from Lauren Ralph Lauren and a grey and black Nine West handbag.  For a splash of bold color, I added these cobalt heels and bib necklace.

Shop for plaid

Like it or hate it, plaid isn’t going away.  If you are warming to plaid, or want to use it to freshen up your wardrobe, check out these additional styles below.  As you will see, there is something for everybody, not just for those who wear kilts.