Autumn/Winter 2013 Tartan Trend: How to Wear It

Tartan, plaid, check: given your fall wardrobe an update this year with a sartorial injection of the print everyone’s talking about.

Tartan was the ubiquitous print on the Autumn/Winter 2013 runways, seen everywhere from Saint Laurent to Emilia Wickstead. Fashion designers’ multiple interpretations of the print proved that there’s a tartan style for everyone: whether you’re a grunge girl or preppy at heart or anywhere in between, there’s a way for you to work this trend.

For many people tartan brings to mind ancient Scottish clans, for whom particular colors and the widths of the horizontal and vertical stripes signified which clan the wearer belonged to. Others might think of the Kenyan Maasai tribe’s bright red tartan clothing, or recall wearing a tartan school uniform. Tartan also has associations with the ceremonial dress of the British royals – but the fabric also bears subversive undertones. The anarchic youth of the 70s gave tartan a punk twist, and in the 90s the grunge era appropriated tartan shirts for themselves.


Choosing the Right Tartan for You

Tartan might seem like an unwearable trend at first, but the rich history of tartan means it’s easy to find a way for the trend to suit your style. If you favor a preppy, heritage-inspired look you can turn to chic tailored blazers and dresses. But if you have a more rock chick kind of style, you could layer up tartan skirts and dresses with a leather biker jacket. The key to avoiding a tartan outfit looking like something out of a Scottish souvenir store is to find a modern tartan print.

Bright red tartan often come across too costume-y; instead, opt for green tartan, which is still a heritage hue but not as bold as red. This season we’re also seeing more navy, grey and mustard tones coming through, which are less traditional colors but just as effective for this year’s trend.


Tartan on the Runway

The most popular tartan style seen on the Autumn/Winter 2013 catwalks was at Céline, where designer Phoebe Philo unexpectedly transformed the mundane checks of woven laundry totes into effortlessly chic womenswear. The subtle red, white and navy tartan because one of the season’s most definitive prints, gracing the covers and fashion pages of many a glossy magazine.

Other designers such as Emilia Wickstead and Tommy Hilfiger showcased head-to-toe tartan looks. Clashing multiple tartan pieces together isn’t a completely unwearable look for the everyday, either: choose simple silhouettes with patterns that have at least one hue in common to pull this look off.

Emilia Wickstead also mixed her tartan pieces with florals – again, the key is to pick out matching hues – a tartan skirt looks gorgeous with a floral-print blouse, as evident in this street style snap. Tartan also looks gorgeous mixed with leopard print; try a leopard-print court shoe with a knee-length green or navy tartan dress.

Tartan and Floral

How to Wear Tartan

To ease yourself into the trend with a more subtle approach, opt for a tartan accent piece. A woolly tartan scarf is the perfect way to do this – and because the nature of the pattern calls for multiple colors, it’s bound to match most of your winter coats. Alternatively, try a tartan clutch for an evening out, or bundle up in a tartan jacket or coat. Dolce & Gabbana’s catwalk featured a beautiful grey tartan coat, and another with tartan lining for an even subtler take on the trend.

Tartan Pants

Tartan pants are another key piece, favored by magazine editors and fashion bloggers. A chic pair of tailored cigarette pants in a tartan pattern add a much-welcomed splash of color to wintry office wear – just add a plain cream or black blouse and a simple pair of pumps.

Tartan pants are also a great alternative to the tartan mini-skirt, which seems to have something of an ubiquitous presence on the high street at the moment, if you’re not so comfortable baring your legs. Tartans in colors such as navy, dark grey and emerald are the most flattering – make sure they fit you perfectly, or get a pair tailored. Simply add a slouchy knitted jumper and ankle boots for a cosy autumnal everyday outfit – or dress them up with a bold red lip, a white tee and a leather biker jacket for an on-trend evening look.

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About the author

Natasha Cornall

Natasha Cornall is the editor of Drawdrobe. She's a keen baker and a writer specializing in fashion and beauty.

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