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Though designers have taken plaid from banal to bold this season, I can’t help but see the print as predictable. Fall plaids are about as groundbreaking as spring florals or summer whites—which is to say: They’re not groundbreaking at all. A couple weeks ago, I literally hesitated when reaching for a plaid dress in my closet—that’s how cliché the print feels these days.
That said, plaid is a classic. Its staleness doesn’t justify the sartorial equivalent of the silent treatment (being thrown in a bin in the back of the closet, where it will merely sit and collect dust until someone eventually remembers it’s there). Plaid deserves better than that—it deserves the maximalist treatment.
The easiest way to render a print fresh again? Mix it with another print. Plaid might not be exciting on its own, but when combined with other plaids, it becomes eye-catching—statement-making. Where black-on-black offers effortless sophistication, plaid-on-plaid feels fun, bold, daring. Only a true risk-taker would have the audacity to pull from a motley crew of ginghams and tartans to assemble one ensemble.
The issue: Plaid-on-plaid is sheer magic when done well, and sheer mess when done poorly. Print combinations require serious finesse and foresight, which can leave them feeling too daunting to attempt. Well, reader, challenge accepted.
This week, I sought to make my favorite plaid pieces feel fresh again—by combining them with other plaid pieces, of course. This challenge wasn’t an easy one, but I walked away having created three genuinely wearable plaid-on-plaid outfits any maximalist (myself included) is sure to love.
Scroll down to see my entire sartorial journey—and to get some tips and tricks you can turn to the next time you’re attempting to style some plaid-on-plaid outfits of your own.
For my first look, I grabbed three statement pieces: a mock-neck checkered top with puff sleeves, a metallic plaid maxiskirt and an oversize plaid puffer jacket.
The top and skirt felt elevated when paired—especially with the vintage Gucci belt I threw on to pull them together. (The bold white boots and even bolder yellow micro purse didn’t hurt, either.) But the oversize puffer opened the door to a more street-style-centric feel, creating a super interesting juxtaposition.
When I first pulled these pieces, I wasn’t sure they’d go together. But thanks to the varying plaid sizes and colors—and the dramatic silhouettes of each piece—the combination worked perfectly.
In case you’re curious, I’d definitely wear this one again. I’m thinking: the office, holiday parties and not-so-casual strolls through Central Park.
Top, $350 at Alice + Olivia; skirt, $595 at Alice + Olivia; Divine Heritage coat, $545 at Bloomingdale’s; Lulus purse (similar here); Vince Camuto boots (similar here); vintage Gucci belt (similar here); sunglasses, $12 at Lulus
For my second look, I leaned into holiday style—hard—and combined three red plaids. The red gingham bustier, which served as the foundation for my look, was only elevated by the red plaid blazer dress I threw over it. And it was further transformed by the red plaid puffer scarf I layered on top.
I decided to forgo green accents so as not to look like a walking Christmas card, opting for a pink suede mini skirt (hello, monochromatic color family), instead. Red accessories—a pair of red statement sunnies and a pair of red statement earrings—topped off the look.
I loved this look. The red palette keeps the mixed-and-matched plaids feeling cohesive and not overdone.
It’s definitely seasonal, so its shelf life might be a little short. But it’s the perfect blend of head-turning and holiday-appropriate, making it a great option for any upcoming parties on your calendar.
Petersyn blazer, $398 at Revolve; Ronny Kobo top, $288 at Revolve; skirt, $108 at Lulus; scarf, $178 at Think Royln; Lulus boots (similar here); vintage purse (similar here); sunglasses, $75 at Thomas James LA; Sugarfix by BaubleBar earrings, $12.99 at Target
Cher Horowitz, meet 2018. (Come on—I’d be remiss to do a plaid outfits roundup and exclude a Clueless mention.)
I styled this (iconic!) yellow plaid set with an embellished sweater, white boots and cat-eye sunglasses—retro-inspired elements that pulled the look together without skewing costumey. A teal handbag and checkered coat made for bold touches that further elevated the ensemble.
The blend of colors and textures kept the look feeling fresh and mature, while the difference between the coat and matching set kept the look from feeling too matchy-matchy.
I’d definitely wear this combination again, and I loved the idea of bringing a sunny yellow into an otherwise-neutral-dominated season.
GUESS + UO plaid trucker jacket, $98 at Urban Outfitters; GUESS + UO plaid skirt, $59 at Urban Outfitters; sweater, $495 at Alice + Olivia; coat, $695 at Ellie Mae; purse, $265 at Brahmin; Vince Camuto boots (similar here); sunglasses, $49 at TopFoxx
Styling genuinely chic plaid-on-plaid outfits may sound like a daunting challenge—and in many ways, it is—but it was also a lot easier than I expected. Focusing on one print simplified my options and kept me from overthinking each outfit—it also invited me to pair pieces I normally wouldn’t have considered combining.
The result? A series of generally easy to come by, genuinely wearable plaid-on-plaid outfits I’ll likely turn to again and again. Consider this your excuse to give every plaid piece in your wardrobe the maximalist treatment—you won’t regret it.