Life with a Smile: A plaid love affair

Published 7:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2016

By Kate Snyder

Contributing writer

When my mom was in high school, she made matching plaid jumpers for herself, her three younger sisters and her mother. Her brother and father got plaid vests. That’s right: a coordinated plaid ensemble for a family of seven. And not just any plaid, either. They were a brilliant holiday plaid — that cheery red with green, yellow, and white crossbars.

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I tell you this story so that you understand — really understand, deep in your soul — what I mean when I say that my family loves plaid. We really, truly, deeply love Christmas plaid. There’s no cultural grounding for this familial love affair. I’ve got Scottish roots in the distant past but it’s not our official tartan or anything understandable and reasonable like that. Nope, we just like it.

A couple years ago, my aunt showed up at a family gathering with red plaid ballet flats. Lots of them. She’d discovered a great deal at Target and scooped up every single pair in stock she could distribute them to the women of the family.

They were absolutely fabulous. I wore them to work with a pair of dress capris and a red scoop-neck top and it was the perfect look — professional, but with just the right touch of sass. But oh! The pain. The pain! My gorgeous plaid footwear was clearly designed by a sadistic male. Or someone without feet. Or both. It took about 15 band-aids to make it through the day and even then I had blisters for a week.

Now the men who are reading this are thinking: “What the heck? Why on earth would you do that to yourself? Over shoes? Over funny looking shoes?”

And the women are sagely nodding and thinking: “Yes, my sister. We feel your pain. But be strong, for a truly beautiful pair of shoes is worth great sacrifice.”

Snazzy Christmas plaid is a fashion trend that ebbs and flows but I’m happy to report that its star is on the rise this season. Imagine my delight when I received the new Lands End holiday catalog and saw the plaid —my plaid — on the cover, in all its vibrant glory. It was a puffy down vest and I ordered one for myself immediately, even though they’re a tricky article of clothing.

There’s a very small window of time when it’s cool enough to warrant a down vest, yet warm enough to avoid freezing when you wear it by itself. The lovely model on the cover of the catalog was wearing hers while engaging in a light-hearted snowball fight with her gorgeous husband and perfect children. I don’t have a gorgeous husband, my kids cry when I throw snowballs at them, and when I venture out in the winter I’m usually dressed in at least 20 layers to stay warm. But whatever, the vest is awesome.

I may also have ordered a button-up flannel shirt in the same pattern, but I promise not to wear the vest and the shirt together. Even I recognize that there are (a few) limits when it comes to plaid.