There's one word that causes me to cringe almost as much as seeing a scrunchie: flannel. So imagine my dismay when local teenage girls boasted the lumberjackesqe fabric as the look of the season. I thought, "what have I missed and where have we gone wrong?" Immediately I had flashbacks of the horrible flannel I wore with a ratty T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes around 1995. Then, I remembered seeing plaid patterned shirts recently on celebrities, whose sense of style I sometimes question.
There was only one place to turn for help. I went home and began frantically flipping through the last seven issues of Vogue looking for signs of flannel. In only the February and August issues I found plaid patterns demonstrated by the minds behind the magazine. That was somewhat of relief, the tops were cotton and the skirt was wool- not the horrible fabric that is flannel - and both ideas were tasteful and feminine. Teen Vogue and television is a different story - plaid is everywhere, just as the girls noted.
I just can't jump on board with the idea of plaid. It looks too much like a rustic cabin couch cover. Despite my personal disdain for flannel and plaid, especially when combined, I realize we'll be seeing it this season on not only teens, but adults as well. After all, chain stores have stuffed the racks with the pattern and fabric.
While visiting the Web sites of stores where high school students plan to buy their clothes, I saw masculine shirts, simply fitted around the waist to make them less boxy and baggy. Little creativity or femininity was put into the ensemble draped over the models - plaid shirts with a T-shirt underneath and paired with jeans, some of which are torn. This trend is set to be all the rage in the area; and plaid can be tolerable, if it's worn right and printed on fabric. So forget flannel all together, it's inappropriate, even for your cat patterned pajamas.
Depending on the look you're trying to achieve, the described clothing movement is missing only a few accessories: Converse sneakers and greasy hair or pigtails, a cowboy hat and a milk bucket. To avoid being mistaken as a musician from Seattle or a farm girl ready to gather eggs when wearing plaid, try setting yourself apart by avoiding ripped jeans, denim skirts, cowboy boots and a large belt buckle.
Instead of the harsh, masculine collared shirt, look for a plaid chemise, ruffled or peasant blouse. Class-up the plaid shirt with a solid color pencil or A-line skirt or dress pants. If you're set on pairing a plaid top with patterned pants or skirts, avoid overly busy patterns or break the two up by wearing a large, solid colored belt around your waist. There was one example of plaid at American Eagle that piqued my interest. It was a strapless black and white plaid dress with a sweetheart neckline. It was worn with a white buttondown underneath, which covered the shoulders and arms.
Plaid can also be a reasonable pattern for a belt, purse, scarf or jacket. These simple touches are an easy and inexpensive way to take part in the trend and complement the cool fall temperatures without going overboard or being stuck in the pattern until you can change again.
Consider, too, a plaid skirt, but don't hit it one more time with the short, Catholic school girl kind. That length and style has been over played. The skirt should be paired with a solid top, which you'll be able to wear with basically anything.
As with all clothes, consider the fit and the cliche saying: "If you got it, flaunt it." Accentuate your best assets and try to hide your worst with some simple alterations, such as adding darts or letting the seams out. A quick trip to the seamstress or a friend acquainted with the sewing machine and alteration techniques will do wonders for your wardrobe and self-esteem.
To top off plaid at ground level, go with heeled Mary Janes, pumps or heeled boots - leave the cowboy and combat boots for another time. Other accessories should also be taken into account when wearing plaid. Your necklace is likely to get lost in the active pattern and make the upper-half of your body look cluttered. The same goes for large, dangling earrings.
I'm not sure when I finally got rid of that plaid flannel shirt, but I'm glad I did because this is one fleeting fad in which I don't plan to partake. If you want to give your clothing investments a longer shelf life than five months, this season stock your closet with plenty of black and white and classic cardigans. With the economy still in question, we'll continue to see less extravagance, more simplicity and throwbacks to the basics.