Today’s plaid is influenced by the 1990s grunge movement and the 1920s lumberjack look. But what is the story behind the clothing pattern? The beginning dates back to the 1500s. In 16th century Scotland, “plaid” was the word for Celtic skirts worn to protect people against the brutal winter weather. What we call plaid, they called “tartan”. This was various materials of different colors woven together in a striped pattern. Today, it has lasted throughout the centuries and may be the most well known pattern to date.
In early Scotland, weavers would create different tartans for clans. Each clan had its own design. We can relate this to today’s society. Picture yourself dressing up in scarlet and grey along with thousands of other fans for an Ohio State football game. This scenario is very much what clans did. Later on, the tartan design was used for military in Scotland. The Royal Regiment of Scotland, which remained the country’s pride until 2003, wore one tartan design called “Black Watch Plaid”. It consisted of dark green, blue, and black.
How did plaid become so popular? When American and British manufacturers latched onto the design, everyone wanted to be a part of the plaid craze. However, it wasn’t until the mid 19th century in America when we first called it plaid. In the 1850s, the Woolrich Woolen Mill’s company introduced the ever-popular Buffalo plaid: red and black. This design was commonly worn by lumberjacks. Then, in 1936, plaid was changed forever. A small town called Cedar Springs manufactured “the flannel”. This revolutionary design promoted the plaid and made it a winter staple.
In he 1970s, plaid went crazy. From suits to interior design, the look became extremely popular with manufacturers everywhere. At the same time in England, plaid was becoming a symbol of rebellion. With ripped jeans and more, the look was becoming punk style. One famous British designer, Vivienne Westwood, became an outspoken leader for the rebellion. She was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England in 1941. Her father was a cobbler, and her mother worked at a cotton mill. At 17, her family moved to Middlesex, where she started teacher training. Westwood never saw luxury in her life, and she had never seen an art book. After she was married, it seemed her life was set. She had a son and became a teacher. However ,when her marriage broke in the 60’s, she discovered a new partner, an art student. His name was Malcom McLaren, and he seemed to help her with everything she needed to do. She was brought into a whole new world when she discovered jewelry making. Now Westwood saw a world of art and freedom. She went on to become one of the more famous designers of her time due to her outspoken style and grunge look.
This is one of Westwood’s creations: A knee length cocktail dress with separated sleeves. It is made with green, red, and black plaid silk. The bodice is a one piece with a boned interior, making it much like a corset of the 18th century.
Present day, plaid is worn in a variety of ways. From chic and adorned in pearls to traditional punk and hipster, it is a staple for every style. What started with a pattern on a Celtic skirt has come so far, and what it is today is what the wearer makes of it.
Lewis, Danny.”A Brief Story of Plaid”.Smithsonian.com.Last modified November 20, 2015. Accessed November 5, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/brief-history-plaid-180957342/
Biography.com Editors.”Vivienne Westwood Biography”. The Biography.com Website. Last modified June 5, 2018. Accessed on November 5, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/vivienne-westwood-20624587
Atwood, Tyler.”How did Plaid become Popular? A Brief and Grungy Fashion History”.Bustle. Last modified April 10, 2014. Accessed on November 5, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.bustle.com/articles/20343-how-did-plaid-become-popular- a-brief-and-grungy-fashion-history