Plaid Outerwear

The universal appeal of plaid is certain; you can associate everything from Paul Bunyan and bagpipe players to prep school uniforms and punk rock. While the distinctive fabric is really a classic, we're seeing it with fresh eyes this fall. In particular, the key piece to purchase is a statement coat featuring a sizeable check, as illustrated by Gwen Stefani, above.

The fall runways showed the wide range of outstanding outerwear options available this season. The school bus yellow of Jean Paul Gautier's Technical Tartan Trenchcoat, far left, is cheerful on a gray fall day and we also like how it comes with a black patent leather belt. At 3.1 Phillip Lim, the designer showed a three-quarter sleeved coat in a red-and-black buffalo plaid, an item that's already sold out at most retailers. We found one online here, but we suggest also checking out Lim's same-fabric Editor Bag ($485). Made out of wool and leather, the tote is a perfect way to get a little plaid into your life if a coat seems overwhelming. Our final inspiration point is Chanel's short-sleeved tweed coat, which is simultaneously cool and chic.

If you're mad about plaid (sorry, we couldn't resist), perhaps you'll get a kick out of our picks. The orange plaid Dressage Swingcoat from Twelve by Twelve has a sweet, late 50's style and a sensible price ($89). If you want to channel Lindsay Lohan's recent plaid of choice, do so with the lumberjack look of Delia's Hayley Toggle Coat ($70.50). Runway watchers will note that the above-featured Marc by Marc Jacobs Plaid Coat made its debut at the designer's fall show, we're keen on the oversized collar and bracelet sleeves ($658).

Photo of Gwen, Pacific Coast News.