Mad For Plaid: How to Work Tartans Into Your Wardrobe

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tartam swatches

With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to consider adding a festive note to your wardrobe. We’re not suggesting you stock up on ugly sweaters, but there’s no need to be totally somber either. Classic tartans offer a variety of ways to lend a dose of cheer. At once both bold and traditional, these time-tested patterns work in a variety of situations, from a simple hint of holiday spirit to black-tie formal.

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The Tartan Tie

No doubt the easiest and least over-the-top way to wear a tartan is as a seasonal tie. Best rendered in soft wool or wool blends, a tartan tie adds modest cheer to the standard business uniform of navy and gray. Worn with jeans and a sweater, it’s perfect for a night out with friends.

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The Tartan Shirt

For casual, laid-back situations, try a tartan shirt. A perfect stand-alone item with jeans or khakis, you can dress it up with a tweed jacket, corduroy slacks, hefty shoes and a knit tie for a look that is sharp but cozy. Opt for darker tartans in a smaller scale to prevent an overly busy look.

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Tartan Trousers

While certainly not for the faint of heart, a pair of heavy wool tartan trousers can be a fun choice for holiday parties. The trick is to keep the rest of the outfit subdued. Simple items like white shirts, solid Shetland sweaters or dark blazers work best with this bold fashion statement. Also great with crackling fires, spiked eggnog and good company.

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The Tartan Blazer

A tartan blazer may seem like a tough look to pull off, but in a relatively dark scheme like classic Black Watch, it can be easier than you think. As with the trousers, opt for simplicity in the rest of the outfit. A white shirt, gray flannels and black knit tie with a tartan jacket can be quite dashing. With jeans and a black turtleneck, you might even say it’s cool.

IMG_1832Tartan Formal Wear

If you’re headed to a party that’s both formal and fun, consider adding tartan to your formal-wear options. While a tartan bow tie with a tuxedo can have a bit of a high school prom vibe, replacing the tux jacket with a tartan blazer makes a real statement. Choose tartan with a good deal of black or navy in the background to help it marry well with the black and white of the rest of the outfit.

Another option might be to swap in a tartan shirt with a tux, if you can find one with French (double) cuffs. Tread lightly here, and be sure that the event you’re attending is more about fun than formality. If that’s the case, get ready for good cheer and plenty of sparkling conversation.

Additional Notes:

Kilts: The oldest and most traditional use of tartan is a true Scottish clan kilt. If you or your family has claim to such a thing, wear your kilt in the best of spirits. If not, leave it be. Wearing a kilt you have no claim to can actually be insulting.

Tartan Outerwear: A parka or quilted vest in a tartan pattern can be great way to work tartan into everyday winter casual looks. Just be sure it’s not your only option.

Tartan Suit: Go ahead, I dare you.

Photo credits: An Affordable Wardrobe

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