A pleat (older plait) is a type of fold formed by doubling fabric back upon itself and securing it in place. It is commonly used in clothing and upholstery to gather a wide piece of fabric to a narrower circumference.
Pleats are categorized as pressed, that is, ironed or otherwise heat-set into a sharp crease, or unpressed, falling in soft rounded folds. Pleats may also be partially sewn flat and allowed to fall open below.
Small pleats sewn in place down their entire length are called tucks.
Types of pleats
- Accordion pleats are the most basic form of pleat, consisting of a series of permanent folds of equal width in alternating opposite directions. When pressed flat in one direction, accordion pleats become knife pleats. Accordion pleats are rarely used in dressmaking, but are used to make folding fans.
- Box pleats are knife pleats back-to-back, and have a tendency to spring out from the waistline. They have the same 3:1 ratio as knife pleats, and may also be stacked to form stacked box pleats. These stacked box pleats create more fullness and have a 5:1 ratio. They also create a bulkier seam. Inverted box pleats have the "box" on the inside rather than the outside.
- Cartridge pleats are used to gather a large amount of fabric into a small waistband or armscye without adding bulk to the seam. This type of pleating also allows the fabric of the skirt or sleeve to spring out from the seam. During the 15th and 16th centuries, this form of pleating was popular in the garments of men and women. Fabric is evenly gathered using two or more lengths of basting stitches, and the top of each pleat is whipstitched onto the waistband or armscye. Cartridge pleating was resurrected in the 1840s to attached the increasingly full bell-shaped skirts to the fashionable narrow waist.
- Fluted pleats or flutings are very small, rounded or pressed pleats used as trimmings. The name comes frm their resemblance to a pan flute.
- Fortuny pleats are crisp pleats set in silk fabrics by designer Mariano Fortuny in the early 20th century, using a secret pleat-setting process which is still not understood.
- Honeycomb pleats are narrow, rolled pleats used as a foundation for smocking.
- Knife pleats are used for basic gathering purposes, and form a smooth line rather than springing away from the seam they have been gathered to. The pleats have a 3:1 ratio–three inches of fabric will create one inch of finished pleat. Knife pleats can be recognized by the way that they overlap in the seam.
- Organ pleats are parallel rows of softly rounded pleats resembling the pipes of a pipe organ. Carl Köhler suggests that these are made by inserting one or more gores into a panel of fabric.
- Plissé pleats are narrow pleats set by gathering fabric with stitches, wetting the fabric, and "setting" the pleats by allowing the wet fabric to dry under weight or tension. Linen chemises or smocks pleated with this technique have been found in the 10th century Viking graves in Birka.
- Rolled pleats create tubular pleats which run the length of the fabric from top to bottom. A piece of the fabric to be pleated is pinched and then rolled until it is flat against the rest of the fabric, forming a tube. A variation on the rolled pleat is the stacked pleat, which is rolled similarly and requires at least five inches of fabric per finished pleat. Both types of pleating create a bulky seam.
- Watteau pleats are one or two box pleats found at the back neckline of 18th century gowns and some late 19th century tea gowns in imitation of these. The term is not contemporary, but is used by costume historians in reference to these styles as portrayed in the paintings of Antoine Watteau.
Clothing features pleats for practical reasons (to provide freedom of movement to the wearer) as well as for purely stylistic reasons.
Shirts, blouses, jackets
Shirts and blouses typically have pleats on the back to provide freedom of movement and on the arm where the sleeve tapers to meet the cuff. The standard men's shirt has a box pleat in the center of the back just below the shoulder or alternately one simple pleat on each side of the back.
Jackets designed for active outdoor wear frequently have pleats (usually inverted box pleats) to allow for freedom of movement. Norfolk jackets have double-ended inverted box pleats at the chest and back.
Skirts and kilts
can include pleats of various sorts to add fullness from the waist or hips, or at the hem, to allow freedom of movement or achieve design effects.
- One or more kick pleats may be set near the hem of a straight skirt to allow the wearer to walk comfortably while preserving the narrow style line.
- Modern kilts may be made with either box pleats or knife pleats, and can be pleated to the stripe or pleated to the sett (see main article Kilts: Pleating and stitching).
Pleats just below the waistband on the front of the garment are typical of many styles of formal and casual trousers including suit trousers and khakis. There may be one, two, three, or no pleats, which may face either direction. When the pleats open towards the pockets they are called reverse pleats (typical of khakis and corduroy trousers) and when they open toward the zipper, they are known as forward pleats.
Utilitarian or very casual styles such as jeans and cargo pants are flat-front (without pleats at the waistband) but may have bellows pockets.
A bellows pocket
is patch pocket
with an inset box pleat to allow the pocket to expand when filled. Bellows pockets are typical of cargo pants, safari jackets
, and other utilitarian garments.
- Fan, Japanese.png of accordion pleated folding fan, Japan, 19th century
- GrandsMagasinDuLaSamaritaineSaionDEte1886page21 detail 1.jpg with box pleated skirt and unpressed box pleated bodice panel, France, 1886
- Conde nast fortuny.jpg pleated tea gown, 1917
- Norfolk Jackets.jpg with inverted box pleats in the back for movement, 1920s
- Highland Dance 002.jpg with pleats sewn down to the hip line, 2005
- Antonello da Messina 060.jpg gown, Florentine, 1470
- Wiktor Elpidiforowitsch Borissow-Mussatow 002.jpg with Watteau-pleated backs, Russia, 1899
- Arnold, Janet: Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women 1560-1620, Macmillan 1985. Revised edition 1986. ISBN 0-8967-6083-9
- Arnold, Janet: Patterns of Fashion 1 (cut and construction of women's clothing, 1660-1860), Wace 1964, Macmillan 1972. Revised metric edition, Drama Books 1977. ISBN 0-89676-026-X.
- Kohler, Carl: A History of Costume, Dover Publications reprint, 1963, ISBN 0-4862-1030-8
- Owen-Crocker, Gale R., Dress in Anglo-Saxon Englandrevised edition, Boydell Press, 2004, ISBN 1-8438-3081-7
- Picken, Mary Brooks, The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0308100522)
- Tozer, Jane and Sarah Levitt, ''Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870, Laura Ashley Press, ISBN 0950891304