Plaids, paisleys and tweeds are such go-to looks for fall that they are shorthand for cooler weather. But don’t write them off as boring just because they’re classic.
Tweed can be trendy if it’s worn with chic jeans, plaid can be recolored into the most of-the-moment combinations and paisley can be a fanciful explosion of color if you let it.
Think of these rich, textured fabrics and prints as you would a popular silhouette, such as a sheath or pencil skirt, advises Gretta Monahan, co-host on "Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style."
"You want something that says both `uniqueness’ and `staying power,’" she says.
The secret is to add an unexpected element to the outfit without compromising the familiarity of the fabric.
There’s also a wise-buy element at play. Because the fabrics are classics, you could extend your wear of a particular garment–say wide-leg plaid trousers or a sueded-elbow tweed jacket–since they have a retro feel even when they’re new.
A primer in creating a fresh look using traditional pieces:
Some sort of plaid has been in Tommy Hilfiger’s fall collection since 1985. It could be a mountain plaid, a buffalo plaid or especially a tartan. "My mother was half Scottish," he says with a laugh.
"Plaid represents something cozy, something festive. You certainly think about it at the holidays, or it makes you think of a ski or mountain weekend, or a fall weekend in Vermont or even the Swiss Alps," he says. "You can change plaid in so many different ways."
Whether oversized or micro, silk or cotton, customers love them. This year, he showed it in the Carnaby Street-1960s spirit, in red, white and blue with a high-waisted, flared-leg slim pant–one of his best-sellers.
Kimberley Newport-Mimrin, founder of the Pink Tartan label, says this season she favored tonal plaids, instead of using a lot of contrasting colors. She thought the subtlety of these plaids was regal and rich.
A high-fashion accent color such as deep purple or metallic like silver or gold can also make a traditional plaid look new, she adds.
When the palette is sophisticated, there’s more room to mix plaids, especially those of varying size. That said, there should always be some sort of complement among them, either in color or pattern. No Royal Stewarts with Black Watch, according to Newport-Mimrin.
At American Eagle, buffalo plaid rules. In menswear, it goes back to the outdoorsy roots of the checkerboard plaid–in jackets, lining and woven shirts–but there are more contemporary silhouettes for women, including a fleece-lined hoodie, a shirtdress and bags.
"For girls, make it modern by teaming a shirt dress with a great pair of skinny jeans and flats, or add a fun bright woven scarf with a black tuxedo blazer and a pair of boy fit jeans and simple heels," suggests LeAnn Nealz, chief design officer.
Paisley prints can be delicate works of art or ’60s psychedelic, depending on the colors and the fabric, says Hilfiger. Right now he’d steer toward something sophisticated, in jewel tones on silk or cashmere.
Talbots is highlighting its "crazy paisley," a large-scale paisley print rooted in juicy tropical colors that fits into the retailer’s strategy of courting a more youthful customer. "This isn’t a tight, conservative paisley. We’ve blown paisley apart and then put it back together," says chief creative officer Michael Smaldone.
One of the ways paisleys have been reinvigorated is by using retro palettes, including the "crazy" pink and orange combination and a mix of ocean blues and greens. "It’s traditional, it’s embracing its roots but it’s also tradition transformed so it comes alive."
On the runway, Tracy Reese continued the idea of a lighter, brighter paisley, mixing and matching with florals and animal prints.
Last fall, Nanette Lepore offered tweed styles in bright and cheerful colors, while this season she mixed the menswear-inspired material with lace. Next year, look for nubby, highly textured tweeds.
What they all have in common, she explains, is a lighter touch than traditionally associated with tweed, extending the life of the garment beyond the Halloween-New Year’s stretch.
Still, she says, she personally also loves a heavier tweed coat even if it means that she wears it to death for only two or three months and then can’t wait to stow it away in March. A heavy tweed in particular is unlikely to look worn out even if it’s years old, adds Lepore.
The two popular paths for tweed are either the French-inspired black and white worn with ribbon adornment and pearls, which Lepore describes as "classic Chanel," or the Scottish-English tweed that’s rooted in reds and browns. The brown is probably the easiest to incorporate into the rest of your wardrobe because it mixes easily with both neutral and autumnal color schemes.
Monahan’s tweed pick is a pencil skirt, paired with either a white blouse or shrunken leather jacket. A refined, ladylike piece, like the curve-hugging pencil, removes the fear of tweed appearing lumpy or frumpy.
Or there’s the Isaac Mizrahi way of doing it: A super-luxe fur tweed dress graced his runway.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.