Pleats are folds of fabric that add fullness. Pleats can be added to the bodice, skirts, dresses, sleeves, pockets, or any other part of the garment.   Pleats can be added for a functional purpose such as making a pencil skirt easier to walk in, to add fullness or simply for the purpose of style, or visual interest.

Here are the main types of pleats:

  1. Box Pleats
  2. Inverted Pleats
  3. Accordian Pleats
  4. Knife or side Pleats
  5. Accordian Pleats
  6. Sunburst pleats
  7. Tucks (a narrow stitched pleat)

These pleats, with the exception of the sunburst pleat, is shown in the image below.

types of pleats

Pleat Terminology

Pleat Depth
Distance from the outside fold to the inside fold.
Pleat Underlay
The part of the fabric that is folded underneath; this underlay is always twice the pleat depth.
Pleat Spacing
Distance between pleats.

pleat terminology

Use of Pleats  in Garments

Here are some examples of how and why pleats are used in various parts of a garment:

Pleats in Skirts

  • Adding fullness in waist, hips and/or hem;
  • For functionality; i.e. kick pleats.
  • As a design element; box pleats, knife pleats and sunburst pleats.

Pleats in  Bodice, Dresses, Sleeves, Blouses, Jackets

  • Box pleat in centre back of shirts or blosues for extra ease, allowing the arms to stretch forward and up
  • Pleat in the cuff of shirts
  • Tuck pleats as a design element on dresses, tops
  • Jackets and Jacket linings have an inverted box pleats to ease of movement

Other Pleats

  • Trousers often have pleats below the waistband on the front
  • Pockets often have pleats as a design element to add some visual interest

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