LifestyleRevolutionizing retro: the enduring allure of women's plaid pants in modern fashion

Revolutionizing retro: the enduring allure of women's plaid pants in modern fashion

Plaid pants that never go out of style
Plaid pants that never go out of style Instagram/nordicstylereport
Images source: © Instagram

6:44 AM EST, January 30, 2024, updated: 4:39 AM EST, March 7, 2024

Women's plaid pants come in numerous variants. They flirt with classic lines, old cinema, the Scottish kilt, Sherlock Holmes, and Coco Chanel's "chicken foot" elegance. Alternately, they may channel the vibes of London streets and succumb to punk anarchy in the style of Vivienne Westwood. Sometimes, women's plaid pants adapt a form we weren't even aware existed. The plaid pattern tells an endless story that both conservative traditionalists and non-conformists defying norms can love.

Who would suit women's plaid pants?

Generally, those who choose plaid clothing are often nostalgic and sentimental. These are people who appreciate fashion retrospectives and mainly draw inspiration from past decades. "Mrs. Plaid" is usually close to tradition and classics. But, women's plaid pants also reveal their other side-they love delving into the underground.

Plaid clothing including women's plaid pants, can captivate you in unexpected ways. The vichy pattern, for instance, was so loved by the legendary Brigitte Bardot that she even chose it for her unique wedding dress! Houndstooth, gingham, tartan, and the remaining plaid family have been a fashion choice for women for over 100 years.

Plaid pants: Women's cuts with a retro ingredient

The retro pattern fits best on cuts popular a few decades ago. Hence, women's plaid pants in the form of flares perfectly capture the mood of the 1920s. The model with wide legs, high waist, and streamline shape dominated the wardrobe of style icon Marlene Dietrich. This introduced a women's alternative to the dandy look. The wide and elegant women's plaid pants translate the retro language seamlessly into the contemporary.

The 50s and 60s embraced the cult of narrow legs and 7/8 length. Specifically, cigarette pants, which were loved by both Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Kennedy. Women's plaid pants in vichy are the gentlest variant inspired by the utopic world of the 1950s and the concept of the "American dream".

If you look at the 80s, it's not hard to find elegant plaid pants. The women's variant replaced the testosterone-heavy model, evoking the androgynous style of film character Annie Hall. Paperbag pants and chinos pairing well with plaid. Being loose and comfortable, they allow you to play with the outfit and blur the line between women's and men's wardrobes.

Wide plaid women's trousers - flares
Wide plaid women's trousers - flares Instagram/nordicstylereport© Instagram

Choosing a pattern for women's plaid pants

All plaids are not the same - they differ in color, scale, line structure, and fabric characteristics specific to each pattern.

Checkered women's pants - cigarette pants
Checkered women's pants - cigarette pants Instagram/leanne_maskell© Instagram

Starting with the most classic, women's plaid pants covered in houndstooth are known by their 'houndstooth' label. This small plaid pattern, resembling 'teeth', is distinctive and cannot be mistaken. The so-called "chicken foot" was a favorite of Coco Chanel, who promoted chunky and wide plaid pants. This pattern carried significant importance in Karl Lagerfeld's farewell collection, where he paid homage to the classics.

Women's plaid pants - paperbag style
Women's plaid pants - paperbag style Instagram/nordicstylereport© Instagram

Data-type="tinymce" class="style-scope s-include">Falling into the category of classic women's plaid pants, checkered pants incorporate diagonal and overlapping stripes. From a distance, the pattern simulates a homogeneous structure, but up close, it unveils its intricacy. Particularly fond of an earthy color palette, checkered pants introduce a hint of pre-war elegance.

Argyle is a diamond pattern typically seen on sleeveless sweaters. In recent years, it has been revived, making appearances on women's plaid pants. While the diamonds are distinctive and expressive, they carry an impression of a school uniform.

Women's houndstooth pants
Women's houndstooth pants© Getty Images | 2022 Christian Vierig

The most rebellious and defiant of plaids, the tartan, is constructed of multicolored lines of varying widths. It usually presents itself as red plaid pants in both women's and men's styles, thus allowing room for experimentation with punk aesthetics. The London street fashion adores anarchism, playing with colors and intersecting lines. Hence, designers find a place for rebellious plaids almost every season.

Checkered pants in a herringbone pattern
Checkered pants in a herringbone pattern© Getty Images | Christian Vierig

However, women's tartan plaid pants trace their roots back to Scottish folk costumes - kilts. The original tartan plaid features shades of dark green. It is also Sherlock Holmes' favorite pattern, which despite the subdued colors, is hardly discreet.

Argyle women's pants
Argyle women's pants© Getty Images | 2022 Christian Vierig

An alternative to women's plaid pants is the vichy pattern, also known as "gingham". The evenly and symmetrically arranged squares create a balanced pattern for plaid pants. The women's variant always combines a shade of white with another color-usually pastel. Hence, women's vichy plaid pants are popular mostly during spring and summer. The simple and minimalist layout of the vichy pattern allows room for other print companions.

Then there's the Prince of Wales plaid. From a distance, women's plaid pants, also known as "glencheck", appear neutral. But up close, their subtle structure becomes evident. Black and white lines of narrow arrangement cross vertically and horizontally, creating the houndstooth pattern. Sometimes, they are embellished with a red or blue stitch. The pattern scale is inconsistent but simultaneously intriguing.

Green tartan plaid pants
Green tartan plaid pants© Getty Images | 2022 Jeremy Moeller

Aside from the popular patterns seen on women's plaid pants, there are others like the multicolored plaid "madras", the thin and wide "windowpane" pattern with large windows, the checkerboard "buffalo" involving dark tiles, and also "tattersall" with a contrasting grid. We also can't forget the iconic Burberry pattern that looks as good on women's plaid pants as it does on classic trenches.

Vichy plaid pants
Vichy plaid pants© Getty Images | Mauricio Santana

Women's Plaid Pants Styles

Elegant women's plaid pants always pair well with a white shirt, a suit vest, and a trench coat. They are an integral part of the power-dressing trend, creating matching outfits with jackets and vests.

Women's Prince of Wales check trousers
Women's Prince of Wales check trousers© Getty Images | 2022 Jeremy Moeller

However, international fashion likes to take it up a notch. According to trends, women's plaid pants are paired with a sweatshirt, a cotton t-shirt bearing graphics, an oversized sweater casually tucked into the pants, and a striped tank top.

Moreover, the trend of "print blocking" has us combining women's plaid pants with flowers, stripes, polka dots, and animal prints. Interestingly, plaid can complement another plaid, even of different colors, types, and sizes.

Plaid pants in a set with a vest.
Plaid pants in a set with a vest.© Getty Images | DAVID DEE DELGADO

Tips for Women's Plaid Pants

In retro styles, elegant women's plaid pants in earthly and subdued colors - grays, browns, and beiges - integrate best. Meanwhile, modern style experiments with vibrant colors and "color blocking" techniques.

Remember that smaller plaids on women's pants create a visually distanced effect, hence appearing to reduce size. Conversely, a larger plaid with explicit and contrasting lines brings the object closer, thus seeming larger.

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