Tartans ‘n Plaids are beloved patterns in the South. The plaids of my youth were- constrained by rules, like all fashion and design statements. Tartans ‘n Plaids have rules:
- Wear Tartans and Plaids in Fall and Winter. with rare exceptions
- The weight, size and color of Tartans or Plaids ( you must think scale here)
- There is an appropriate Time, Occasion and Location to use Plaids (with an emphasis on appropriate)
Some Southerners identified the Tartan Plaids of their Scottish forbears as far back as the mid 19th century. Therefore, some of us do tend to get historical about these things, mainly because we’re clannish ourselves. Sir Walter Scott declared every Clan should wear their Tartans for a royal visit by George IV- give a Southerner about a fourth generation of anything and we’ll do as we’re told! I’m not well versed in the many official Tartan Plaids. As a young person, I attended an International Fair held in Birmingham during the 60’s and 70’s- Scotland was the highlighted country… I have to admit I looked up our Plaids! The descriptions were wonderful-
- Red and Black Plaid shot through with Gold,
- Royal Blue and Medium Green shot through with White (Canadian version),
- Classic Green and Navy Blue shot with Gold on an uneven line.
Tartans aren’t ordinary plaids- Oh no, Tartan is of Scottish origin. Therein lies the difference- a Tartan is a Plaid but a Plaid is not always a Tartan! Oh my, ordinary Plaid has appeared in some awful interior designs and fabrics!
Even now, I’m certain that you will find, in some terribly rustic hunting camps – plaid cast off furniture in particular, large and awful color combos– with a ‘Herculean’ claim to be indestructible. Let’s just say- you can’t put a bullet through any of this Plaid! Whole Living Room Suites (we pronounce that suits) were made up in brown, black, harvest gold or avocado green shot through with cream in patterns the size of Hercules himself! This is definitely NOT Tartan… that Herculean Plaid made it’s way into homes as Christmas gifts for dear old Dads- a Recliner sitting alongside Momma’s floral cut velvet- a big ol’ ugly Plaid– situated center stage in front of the TV- wide arms, maybe a built in beverage cup holder. The Recliner had to be given a wide berth in case Dad decided to Recline, flopping it backward with a lever on the side, he loved it!
I’ve seen whole horrid plaid suites tossed out on the side of a rural road– living proof that the rough plaid fabric will never die. The foam cushions might crumble, the springs might rust- the wood might rot… but that heavy plaid fabric will be there for you as a rural effort at starting a Roadside Rest Stop. Tacky is too mild a word! And, then there were… awful Leisure Suits made of Plaid Polyester – enormous plaids- always large and loud…for some reason never discreet or to scale! Both the plaid furniture and outrageous attire might have been touted as indestructible- but let me ask you-who wanted it to last? Neither offered Comfort and Joy.
Tartan Plaids- aren’t tacky. They are made in comfortable cotton, soft wool or taffeta. Not tacky or loud but we did have our rules on wearing them. With the exception of the Cradle and the Grave, most Tartan Plaids can be worn by all ages. Infants did not wear large plaids. Tiny muted plaids might be acceptable in a baby boy’s room- though never nurseries blanketed or wallpapered in loud plaids- who knew what could happen?
- Colic, Rash,
- Thrush or Cradle Cap?
- Loud plaids can be unsettling!
- Think soft and to scale for children.
Tiny Toddlers could sport Tiny Tartans- smocked with Christmas Tree inserts or monogrammed on white pique, even garments topped with lace insertion collars. Little boys wore Plaid Shorts buttoned onto White Collared or Smocked tops. No trip to see Santa would be quite as adorable as little ones dressed in Tartan!
Older children might wear a Tartan Plaid Jumper, a Pleated Skirt, Pants or Shorts but rarely put plaid close to cherubic faces. Think Tiny- to scale.
For ladies, we love our plaid blouses and Tartan Kilts. For men, classic Tartan Plaid shirts often pair nicely with a V Neck Sweater and Khakis. For Holiday Fashion, there’s no fabric as festive as Tartan plaids-
- Ribbons Sashes, Hair Bows and Scarves.
- Tartan Christmas Stockings, Tree Skirts, Table Linens,
- Dishes, Invitations, Tartan Throws and Blankets- all bring holiday warmth and cheer to the Home.
- Formal Taffeta Hostess Skirts and Dresses, Cumberbunds, Bow Ties, even Vests, if not overdone;
- The discreet lining of a Jacket or Wrap also lends a festive flair to Holiday Parties.
- For School Girls- Tartans are always in Fashion. Festive and classic are the operative words.
Wearing a loud plaid to a Funeral is highly discouraged, though certain dark discreet and solemn tartans are acceptable. Nothing bright and loud. We Southerners completely love Funerals accompanied by Scottish Bagpipers- Men in Tartan Plaid Kilts (Black Watch Pattern) with highly polished Black Shoes and Knee-high Dark Socks are considered solemn and appropriate. The Bagpipers should stand on a slight slope if possible, but stand a decent, discreet distance away from an Open Grave. The sound of Bagpipes always makes me cry.
These were the Old Rules- nowadays anything goes and I have to admit I like some of it- but I do miss Dress up Parties where ladies actually wore Hostess Dresses and Skirts with smart black velvet shoes. Tartans ‘n Plaids rank among my favorite Holiday Patterns. Nothing can dress up a Wreath or a Package quite like a Red Plaid shot through with metallic gold thread!
You may be asking- why all of this talk of Tartans ‘n Plaids? Well… Saint Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland, is celebrated at the end of November. Andrew happens to be one of my favorite Apostles, a rank and file man, apparently uninterested in personal fame, keenly interested in the Cause of Christ. Every time we see Andrew in Scripture- he is bringing someone to Jesus. Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus and brought a little lad with an even smaller lunch of loaves and fishes to Jesus when thousands were hungry! And really? Isn’t that the best reason to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas Season and Scotland’s Saint Andrew with classic Tartans ‘n Plaids? I think so…let the Holidays begin!
Love y’all, Camellia
*Photograph of our lovely young model at her first professional photo shoot is used with permission! Photographs of the adorable and festive little girls are also used with permission. Please respect their ages and please don’t use without permission! * The Herculean fabric had a name- Herculon® it was indestructible and I never saw a plaid pattern of it that I liked! It must have been enormously successful though!In a region once filled with textile mills, if it was made in the South, we’re all grateful! *All other photographs are mine!