There are plaids I find easy to style (black & white plaids, mostly) and plaids that I find…tricky. And high on my list of tricky plaids are plaids with big, beautiful, bold strokes of color.
When Maureen (one of the moms behind small biz Social Threads) texted me a picture of this plaid shirt jacket, I swooned. It has enough of my comfort colors (black, navy) to ground it, but brighter shades to feel festive. That said, I knew that this plaid was far enough out of my usual comfort zone to necessitate a little styling session.
4 Tips For Styling A Pretty (Yet Tricky) Plaid Shirt Jacket
To further complicate matters, I’ve yet to fully embrace this shirt jacket (shacket?) trend (I know, I know)…so the challenge, then, was to figure out both the right proportions AND color.
After upending the contents of my closet, I managed to come up with a few tips on how to style colorful plaid shirt jackets. Each outfit below has some styling notes on the combination (or proportions,) as well as a few notes on color, if you’ve been eyeing up another pretty plaid.
1. Mix Plaid With Stripes…Carefully
Stripes + plaid is an almost foolproof combination, one that many a blogger (including *this girl*) werked nearly to death a decade ago. But it’s a classic combo, and one that I’m all too happy to add back into rotation.
WHY THIS WORKS: Plaids and stripes both have a nonchalant vibe, and, when properly mixed, look effortless and cool. The easiest way to mix plaids and stripes is to make sure that they have at least one color in common. That said, I’ve always found it infinitely easier to mix stripes and plaids when the one color in common is black (or something equally dark and neutral…like navy or gray).
A note on color: Bolder, brighter colors can work as the one matching color, but the vibe will definitely change. For that reason, I tend to stick with black & white stripes or navy & white stripes.
The red striped shirt does work (I actually really like it), but the overall outfit vibe on the right is brighter and happier. I guess I prefer my outfits a little more dark and gloomy, haha.
2. Do The Long-Short Outfit
This styling trick is an old favorite: if the top is long, make the bottoms short. It’s why oversized sweatshirts and bandage mini skirts will forever look good, and this trick works with longer shirt jackets, too. Just button up the shirt jacket and wear it as a top.
WHY THIS WORKS: I’m not *exactly* sure why this long-short proportion play works so well, but I suspect it’s because the longer top actually draws the eyes up above your waist. Conversely, if a top hits at (or just below) your hips, the eye tends to get stuck right there. But with a longer top, the eye is actually drawn upwards to your shoulders, with the visual effect overall of lengthening your legs — despite the cropped jeans.
A note on color: You’ll get a longer line by thinking monochromatically. Rule of thumb? Make sure the jeans are similar in tone to the top OR the boots OR both! So if the beautiful plaid you’re drooling over is light…consider a pair of light-wash jeans.
3. Play Up The Relaxed Vibe…But In A Balanced Way
Shirt jackets are inherently casual. Plaid is inherently casual. So I love playing up this uber-casual vibe by pairing the plaid shirt jacket with a pair of relaxed, boyfriend-ish jeans.
WHY THIS WORKS: This combo lets the really pretty plaid be the star, without making the vibe overly fussy. HOWEVER: this outfit can easily become sloppy, so one easy fix is to add in a pair of sleek sneaks. Some street-chic footwear helps to keep this casual outfit looking intentional. While I’m obsessing over my furry rag & bone sneakers, a pair of sleek white sneakers (like my Adidas Superstars) would also work.
A note on color: I’m keeping the base outfit (sweater, jeans, sneakers) all in the lighter family, so they literally just fade into the background, letting the gorg plaid take center stage.
4. Give It Dress Vibes (Try Leggings, Tights, Or An Actual Sweater Dress)
My sister swears by the plaid shirt jacket + sweater dress combo, saying that it’s the best way to make her sweater dresses feel fresh. It’s a genius tip, and one I fully endorse (her shacket, btw, is really flattering). But if you don’t actually have a sweater dress in your closet, just treat the shirt jacket like it IS the dress and layer it over a pair of leggings, fully buttoned.
Be the dress, Shirt Jacket. BE THE DRESS.
WHY THIS WORKS: It’s literally just playing up the whole ‘girl next door’ vibe of an oversized plaid flannel shirt. It’s the winter equivalent of a white tee and cut-offs.
For the daring (or the easily overheated), ditch the leggings. Admittedly, this depends greatly on the length of the shirt jacket and your height.
(This look may or may not have been inspired by a hot flash — HA!)
A note on color: Sometimes black starts to feel overwhelming, especially when paired with other bold colors. One easy fix is to add in tan accessories. The combo is usually surprisingly chic and fresh.
Hope this helps!