Types of Plaids

by Jennifer Blair

Mary J. Blige pairs a tartan pencil skirt with a fur jacket and knee-high boots.

Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You can choose plenty of eye-catching patterns for your wardrobe, but when it comes to classic designs, it's hard to top plaid. Whether it's a plaid skirt, blazer or scarf, a touch of the elegant pattern can dress up any outfit. While all plaids feature some sort of grid design, you can incorporate several different types into your closet. Some have a sedate, sophisticated look, while others offer a bit more whimsy, so there's a plaid for nearly any occasion.

Tartan

Tartan is a classic plaid. It features intersecting stripes that vary in width and run both horizontally and vertically through the fabric. Tartan plaid can feature as few as three or as many as five colors -- red/black and red/green combinations are the most common color schemes. It is often used for skirts, dresses, blazers and scarves. Tartan is the plaid pattern used for traditional Scottish kilts.

Gingham

Gingham plaid pattern is a simple design. Like tartan, it features intersecting stripes that run both horizontally and vertically, but the stripes are all the same width for a checkered effect. The color scheme involves only two shades, one of which is usually white. Blue and white gingham and red and white gingham are two of the most common color combinations. Gingham is usually used for men and women’s shirts, women’s pants, shorts, dresses and home goods, such as tablecloths and curtains.

Glen Plaid

Glen plaid is a subtle plaid pattern that uses just two colors, which are usually muted shades like black, gray or white. It features an alternating “boxes” pattern, incorporating both stripes and cross sections to form a motif of broken checks that usually has a more modern look than other types of plaid. Glen plaid is often used for suits and blazers, though you can also find ties, pants and overcoats in the pattern.

Tattersall

Tattersall is a plaid pattern that features thin vertical and horizontal stripes that are spaced evenly to create subtle checks. It is similar to tartan plaid, but tattersall usually features a light background with colored stripes forming the grid pattern. The color scheme can feature just two colors or as many as four. Tattersall is often used for men’s button-down shirts, but some vests also feature the pattern.

Houndstooth

Houndstooth features a checkered design, but the corners of the checks are notched to resemble a dog’s tooth. The pattern can have small checks for a subtle design or large checks for a bold look. It uses a two-shade color scheme – black and white houndstooth is the classic combination, although you can find bolder versions of the pattern, such as red and white or pink and yellow. Houndstooth is often used for blazers, overcoats and skirts.

Photo Credits

  • Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.