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Item of the week: the plaid skirt

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) Images: Desigual, Brora, Madewell

What it is:

While the plaid skirt is most regularly linked to pop culture of the late 90s, its history is more complex than that. The pattern, also often known as ‘tartan’, descends from 18th century Scotland, where it was used by the Jacobite army, an anti-British group. Over time, however, the symbolism that comes with plaid has evolved over generations, as it regularly takes on new meanings in the eyes of the changing consumers. In fashion, some of its most famous iterations have been that of Burberry’s plaid, which rose to fame in the 1920s, its adoption by the punk subculture in the 1970s and its place in the 90s grunge movement, popularised by Kurt Cobain.

Image: Mexx

Why you’ll want it:

The ever-changing symbolism behind the plaid skirt has allowed it to remain relevant over multiple generations, without the need for major refreshes or touch ups. The pattern itself can come in many forms on its own, with a wide variation of colours readily available so it can appeal to a broad consumer base. This also rings true for the silhouettes it appears in, often seen in the form of mini skirts, midi length kilts or floor-sweeping designs, among others. Its current resurgence is largely due to the current interest in 90s fashion among younger generations, as they turn to such eras through a new set of eyes.

Image: Brora

Where we’ve seen it:

Next to its particularly prominent street style presence, the plaid skirt has also been heavily featured on the runways of notable designers for the current and upcoming seasons. For spring 2023, Miu Miu was among those that took on the plaid skirt in full swing, offering both mini and midi iterations of the style in the brand’s signature low-waist fashion. Awake also showed a plaid skirt, albeit in a maxi shape that swept the floor with patchwork plaid encasing the design. For autumn 2023, the look was also seen on the runways of menswear brands, most notably at Family First, Etro and Gucci, where plaids were spotted on knee-length and ankle-length styles alike.

Image: Nicowa

How to style it:

The plaid skirt can work as a casual item that is easy to pair with hoodies and cardigans as part of a daily wardrobe. If you want to mix it up, however, there are plenty of iterations that can be taken on to give a twist to the classic style. For the classic preppy look, pair the skirt with ankle socks and trainers or loafers and an oversized blazer or turtleneck. To elevate the look, add calf-length boots and polished accessories, like a satchel bag and bug-eyed sunglasses. Experiment further by opting for clashing patterns or other plaids that strongly contrast one another, bringing a bit of fun to an outfit.

Image: Etro

With its complex history and its influence on pop culture, the plaid skirt is an item that has firmly been cemented in the fashion world, rarely dropping out of trends as it continues to adapt to generations of shoppers. Designers have adapted the look this season for any gender, giving it even more breadth of appeal and making it a fluid item for every wardrobes.

Image: French Connection

Similar items available for (pre)order can be found in the FashionUnited Marketplace. You can find them by clicking on this link.

French Connection
Item of the Week