Saturday, 8 November 2008


Tartan is genrally eschewed by designers. In the late 70s it was a sartorial contender, when Westwood lead the punks into bondage, and everyone else embraced traditionally eye-watering colour combinations in safe knee length skirts that looked like travel rugs. I even recall tartan trousers being sported by the housewives of suburba - and so it's hardly a surprise that we've run scared from it ever since.

In the early nineties I daillied with plaid - West coast grunge sent flannel shirts into the shops and designers shifted the colour palette into trend-friendly turquoises and pinks. During this period I wore tight tartan dresses, and even a baggy tartan suit which I made myself, but these were gorgeous colours and I was a thin young thing so it doesn't make me feel too confident about adorning myself with the more traditional designs ths time around.

So why not ignore it altogther? Well, rather like animal prints, tartan can lend some fun and drama to an outfit. It also seems cowardly to avoid an entire range of patterns, just because they're difficult. While I'm not a slave to fashion, my curiosity is piqued when things start arriving in the shops, which tartan seems to be doing at the moment. Lastly, my lovely boyfriend is half Scottish, and I've been toying with the idea of wearing something at xmas to further endear myself to the out-of-laws. The only problem with that is that his family tartan, Buchanan, isn't a glamourously festive red: it's the somewhat more challenging, predominantly yellow and green design at the top of this post.

Tartan is hard to wear all over, but not impossble. The horizontal lines are uncompromising in a tailored garment, such as this dress by Zara (£69) (gorgeous shoes, mind...)

but if the fabric is more draped, the colour contrast more muted or the pattern rotated through 45 degrees to create a diagonal, the effect can be more flattering. Dorothy Perkins come to the rescue (as long as your boobs aren't too big), with their Blue Tartan Tie-Waist Dress (£35), which rather handily incorporates all those factors.

I'd avoid tartan skirts unles you have the legs/confidence for a mini kilt - they're all a bit Barbera Woodhouse otherwise...

It's far easier to wear tartan in the form of accessories. Bear in mind that red tartans can sometimes look tacky and that tartan bows will make you look like a christmas tree, but otherwise there's a feast of tartan bags, belts, tights and shoes around. Stick to one item only, though.

I like tartan tights, and I think if you're thin enough to wear one-size tights (which all the brands seem to be), you should go for it. great with heavy black knee boots and a little black dress.
Primark seems to be a good place to go for tartan pieces - although you'll have to trust me, as they don't really have a web presence, and ebay is a bountiful hunting ground.

Remember: diagonal = good and no bows!

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