We love to go a wandering
I've always fancied a pleat. Maybe it's a flashback to the plaid skirts and kilts of my 50s childhood. Plaid and pleat went together: probably my mother was trying to emulate the Royals striding around Balmoral up to their killing tricks.
Unaccountably, I am still sporting versions of this, Morag inspired tartanesque tweedy garments, bearing the woolmark with pride and often made in some kind of mill north of the border. And no, I am not Scottish whatsoever. It is heartening that Cath Walshaw, a printmaker living in Whitley Bay who is this edition's Portrait, has a similar look she calls her Flora Robson.
A pleat means more movement, of course: more movement for the wearer, but also movement in the garment itself, the swing and ripple that almost makes it look like the skirt or kilt is wearing you. Perhaps it also expresses extravagance: the devil may care use of fabric, cramming in as much as possible, and hang the expense. Plus that amount of fabric, especially if it's all wool, is going to keep the wind out, as all those handsome Scottish boys know. I wore an all wool red tartan pleated skirt in Berlin in December, and scarcely felt a breeze. Of course, I was wearing full thermal undies also.
Vivienne Westwood knows all about tartan and pleats, and her early 90s fling with tartan couture was also a nod back to the late 70s when punks strutted about like unloved members of the clan, mixing kilts with bin bags. Some of Westwood's designs are on display at Vogue 100, showing until May 22nd at the National Portrait Gallery in London. And yes, they are worn by the very very tall young models of the day: Campbell, Crawford, Evangelista. I like to think my own take on tartan is more a Miss Marple with a make over look, and I make no apologies for this. I still love the extravagance and weight of the fabric, and the security of knowing it will keep my bum warm in a blizzard.
Pleats come in many guises: the accordion, the box, the knife pleat, to name a few. And let's not forget, even a tiny pleat can bring joy: the kick pleat, for example just makes you want to dance. A line of stitched pin tucks on a beautiful blouse. Mouthwatering.