Plaidmania Exhibit Showcases Striking Plaid Fashion Designs

An award-winning plaid gown with leather bodice by alumna Jennifer Duncan Borrero ’95 serves as the centerpiece for the new exhibit.

From early Scottish Highlands tartans to iconic Burberry patterns and rebellious rock star outfits, plaids have been a vibrant force in fashion throughout the ages.

Plaidmania: From Royal to Renegade, a new exhibit at Philadelphia University, showcases striking plaid designs by fashion design students and alumni, paying homage to this important pattern. The exhibit will kick off with an opening reception Friday, Sept. 28, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Fashion Studio 107, Hayward Hall at Philadelphia University.

At its most basic, plaid is a simple checkered pattern.  But add in colors, mix with florals, or intersperse with a multitude of materials, such as leather and velvet, and plaid is always in fashion in some form. This year’s 2012 runway shows featured lots of plaid details, and Women’s Wear Daily spotlighted plaid in one of its most modern interpretations—combined with florals, chiffon and velvet–in the Sept. 27 cover photo of a dress by edgy Belgium designer Dries Van Noten.

“Plaids pop in and out of fashion as a trend,” said Clara Henry, director of PhilaU’s fashion design program, who curated the exhibit.  “In the early 90s, it was popular in grunge fashion and rock, and now it’s back.  Today’s designers are adding a modern twist, mixing and contrasting plaid with other patterns, and multi-layering it with different fabrics. Tartans were used for recognition in status and kinsmen, it is no different with today’s iconic Burberry pattern which identifies social status and affluence.”

The new exhibit explores the traditional use of tartans for identification of Scottish Highlands clansmen, dating from the third to fifth centuries, to the rebellious juxtaposition of modern pattern and form.  From the royal British monarchy and designers Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen to iconic rockers Madonna and Axl Rose, plaids have long symbolized tradition and lineage—coupled with a streak of rebellion.

A plethora of plaid is featured in the new exhibit.

Plaidmania: From Royal to Renegade features plaid in its many forms—traditional tartans, vibrant bright colors, mixed with other patterns and complementary plaids—and includes designs for women, men and children.

One stunning gown by alumna Jennifer Duncan Borrero ‘95 incorporated a leather bodice and a full skirt with three different plaids—an eye-catching design that won five awards at the Philadelphia University Fashion Show that year. (See attached photo)

The exhibit, which will run through October, is free and open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Hayward Hall at Philadelphia University is located at 4201 Henry Ave. in East Falls.  For more information about fashion design at PhilaU, go to


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