Pleats in Skirts and Dresses in 17 Different Styles Update 06/2022

If you’ve ever worn a sari, a tulle skirt, or even a kilt, you’ve worn clothes with pleats! Pleats can be found in store windows, on people on the bus, and even in your own closet if you start looking. Pleats in skirts and dresses of various varieties offer shape and volume to a variety of outfits.

A pleat is a folded piece of fabric that is usually pressed or stitched in place. Folded pleats come in a variety of forms and lend volume to skirts and dresses. From a typical accordion shape to a cascading, tapering shape, these folds come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

You will learn how to make pleats in this tutorial. You’ll also learn about the 17 most popular pleats for skirts and dresses. Finally, you’ll learn how to stitch your own pleats!

Different Types of Pleats

What are Pleats?

Pleats are the folds that give a garment its shape. These folds might be rectangular, triangular, irregular, or even curled, and they can be huge or small. Pleats can be found in a variety of styles on a variety of garments, from skirts and dresses to pants and jackets.

Pleats give garments a fuller look. A pleated skirt, for example, has tight folds towards the waist. Nothing holds the folds in place lower in the skirt, so they can flare out around your knees or ankles as you walk, giving you more mobility.

Pleated clothes often takes a lot more fabric than fitted clothing because pleats provide so much more volume.

What are Pleats

Pleats were utilized as far back as the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian societies, according to some of the oldest recorded photographs of individuals wearing clothes! In reality, complex folds in fine linen clothes have been discovered intact in thousands of years-old Egyptian tombs.

This sort of fold that doubles fabric over itself was later referred to as a plait in fashion history. Eventually, the word “pleat” was coined, and the varieties and patterns of pleats used in haute fashion exploded in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Many pleats are now pre-formed in synthetic textiles that can maintain their shape indefinitely. To generate perfectly folded pleats, most natural textiles require ironing.

17 Different Types of Pleats for Skirts and Dresses

There are around seventeen different types of pleats used in skirts and dresses in the fashion business, each with its own name and function. The accordion, knife, and cascade pleats are examples of this.

That said, pleating fabric just means giving it a folded shape, so you may be creative and make all sorts of interesting folds if you want to. High fashion, on the other hand, employs this type of intricate, origami-like fabric manipulation significantly more frequently than ready-to-wear garments.

If you prefer to sew, you’ll probably only come across a few number of pleating styles on a regular basis. In the section on the most common sorts of pleats later in this text, you can learn more about those types of popular folds.

This overview will give you an idea of the shape and applications of each of the seventeen pleats found in skirts and dresses.

1. Knife Pleats

Double-Knit Knife-Pleat Cheerleading Skirt - Cheer Uniform Skirt - Womens Sizes

Knife pleats are the most common type of pleat, describing an outer and hidden inner fold created by folding a flat rectangle of cloth on the garment’s surface. Knife folds have a wide range of widths, with accordion and crystal pleats at half an inch or an eighth of an inch being the smallest. Two knife folds facing in opposing directions are also used in box pleats.

Almost every pleating style has some resemblance to the basic knife fold! Knife pleats can be found on practically every piece of clothing. They can be found in skirts, dresses, fancy blouses, and even men’s formal slacks!

2. Accordion Pleats

CHARTOU Women's Premium Metallic Shiny Shimmer Accordion Pleated Long Maxi Skirt (X-Small, Red-Knee Length)

Accordion pleats are made up of small, uniformly spaced parallel folds that are usually less than half an inch wide. While some clothes use only a few accordion pleats, these symmetrical folds are more typically pre-folded in fabric and make up the complete garment.

For example, accordion fold skirts contain hundreds of tiny folds locked in place at the waistband that swirl out into a more open zigzag design at the entire skirt’s hem.

Accordion folds are technically a smaller form of the precise knife pleat. These folds are frequently made by factory-style pleating or heat-setting devices. All-natural materials keep their shape better than synthetic fabrics.

3. Box Pleats

Star Vixen Women's Plus-Size Sleeveless Box-Pleat Skater Dress, Fuchsia, 2X

The open edges of the folds meet in the middle of box pleats, which are made up of two knife pleats facing in opposing directions. This appears to be one big, flat fold tucked under at each side from the front of the garment. Box pleats can be found in the rear of a classically cut men’s dress shirt, as well as in the style of plaid skirts used for school uniforms.

Box pleats can be found in a variety of garments since they are a basic double fold that provides volume to a variety of garments. In today’s fashion, the simple box pleat is one of the most popular and often utilized pleat forms!

Box pleats, unlike accordion folds, frequently look as a single fold rather than a sequence of folds. They usually feature large folds and add extra fabric to a garment while also looking attractive.

4. Cartridge Pleats

Gauging, or cartridge pleats, use numerous rows of precisely measured basting stitches to gather many small, accurate folds of fabric into a small space. The procedure is similar to using a gathering stitch, except that instead of inconsistent gathers, the rows of basting stitches require careful measurement to make tiny folds.

Cartridge folding isn’t commonly employed in current garments. Cartridge pleats supplied the robust collected fullness needed for such heavy clothes a couple of hundred years ago, when ladies wore long, full garments like petticoats. Anyone interested in historical reenactment or costumes today often sews this type by hand.

5. Cascade Pleats

Made By Johnny MBJ WB1132 Womens Asymmetrical High Low Ruffle Hem Skirt M Olive

Cascade pleats use a tapering, vertical fold that gets larger as it cascades down the fabric, or simply folds at a slanted angle in symmetrical folds. This form of fold is used to shape six or more yards of silk into a wearable design in some sari types!

Cascade pleats are narrow sunray folds that descend at an angle toward the bottom of a piece of garment in technical words. These folds are also known as sunray folds, sunburst folds, or sari/saree folds.

6. Crystal Pleats

Bonnie Baby Girls Newborn Crystal Pleat Mesh Dress with Dots

Crystal pleats have the distinction of being the tiniest and sharpest pleat found in clothes. These folds are similar to knife folds but are only 1/8 of an inch wide.

These narrow folds are all symmetrical in breadth and face the same way. To make them, pinch the needed quantity of fabric together and fold it to one side. These little folds resemble fluting, yet fluting appears to come from an industrial machine.

These are most commonly employed for pleated skirts or to give a thin, gauzy fabric in a dress a crimped appearance.

7. Fancy Pleats

“Fancy pleats” is a general term that refers to the intricate and sometimes ornate folding motifs used in couture apparel and formal evening dress. Contortion pleating and ornamental pleating, for example, are two methods for adding texture to a garment rather than increasing volume.

Fortuny pleating is another designer-level style you may have heard of. This procedure makes small, unequal folds in silk or polyester imitation silk and is normally used on an entire bolt of fabric at a time.

8. Fluted Pleats

Fluting in garments creates a collected flounce. A flutter is commonly used in this method, although fluted pleats can also be made by hand with care and patience. These delicate, rounded folds give lace or fabric a little firmer drape than basic gathering, but they still necessitate tiny, precise folding and stitching.

Hand-made fluted pleats can be seen in lovely doll costumes, as well as in ornamental accents on ready-to-wear clothing. A flirtatious fluted hem on a pencil skirt, for example, may give it a classy upgrade!

9. Graduated Pleats

Graduated pleats are pleats that flare out toward the bottom of the fold, containing more fabric at the bottom than at the top. This tapering provides a gorgeous profile that is suitable for a wide range of body types.

Graduated pleats, such as sunburst pleats, are a sort of graduated pleat. As you would imagine, making these folds by hand necessitates meticulous measurement.

They do, however, look gorgeous and elegant, and they give a skirt a lot of movement. These folds can be found in a dress’s loose sleeves, but they’re most typically seen in a pleated skirt.

10. Honeycomb Pleats

Honeycomb pleats, also known as honeycomb smocking, are made up of tiny collected folds spaced out in rows over the fabric in a honeycomb-like pattern. This decorative element is still prevalent in today’s elegant children’s apparel. It could come back into trend for women at any time–it was popular in the 1970s, when peasant-style blouses were in high demand!

Mark a square grid on a piece of fabric to make this unique, decorative pattern of folds. After that, you attach all four corners of each little square with a needle and thread. The end product resembles shirring, but without the elastic thread or machine gathers.

11. Inverted Pleats

Tahari ASL Inverted Pleat Skirt, Black Ivory Foulard, 0

Inside-out pleats with the folded piece on the outside of the garment rather than the inside are known as inverted pleats. For example, an inverted box pleat places the flat, large fold on the inside of the garment and the two folded-over edges of the cloth on the outside of the garment. Behind the folded edges, a swishy, hidden dimple of fabric is created.

Inverted pleats are made in the same way that ordinary box or knife folds are made. You simply flip the fabric over and work on its opposite side!

Inverted pleats are used in a wide range of garment styles. This form of fold provides volume to a garment without leaving any visible creases on the surface. Inverted folds can be found on many skirts, dresses, and even curtains.

12. Kick Pleats

French Toast Little Girls' Kick Pleat Scooter, Khaki, 2T

Kick pleats are reversed pleats that are typically found on knee-length and A-line skirts. These concealed folds can sometimes be found towards the lower back of a skirt to give your legs more wriggle room. Alternatively, they could be spread evenly over the lower half of the skirt to produce a fuller, more flexible hem.

For extra style, another color is sometimes placed to the interior of the inverted kick pleat.

Kick pleats can be made in the style of an inverted box pleat or as inverted knife pleats on their own.

13. Kingussie Pleats

This one-of-a-kind pleat pattern is named after a Scottish burgh and is used to fold kilts into ready-to-wear shapes. The central pleat in the series is a large box pleat, with knife pleats added on at each side until all the plaid fabric forms a neatly folded line ready to be belted around the waist.

Kilt pleats are another name for this pleating technique. Of course, most kilts these days are sewn in a kilt form with convenient zippers and pre-pleated pleats. Traditionally, the wearer folded all the folds in a large, flat rectangle of plaid by hand before belting it in place!

14. Mushroom Pleats

Almost all mushroom pleats are machine-made and pre-set in cloth. They have a looser, more linear shape than Fortuny pleats and create a whimsical, elegant type of fabric popular for formal wear. Unlike Fortuny folds, which work best with silk, this design works well with synthetics like polyester.

Is it possible to make this style of fold by hand? All pleating was done by hand or using specially built handcrafted equipment around the turn of the twentieth century! Of course, this was before synthetic materials were invented.

To set the folds on some synthetic textiles, commercial machinery are required. As a result, and to save time, you might want to consider purchasing prefabricated mushroom pleat cloth.

15. Plisse Pleats

Plisse pleats are similar to cartridge pleats, but they are maintained in place by dampening the folds with water and drying them under a weight. This method is now most commonly seen in a form of cloth known as plisse fabric. Crinkle crepe is another name for this material.

Plisse pleats, like many other “fancy” folds, are frequently seen in couture garments. In principle, you could make your own plisse fabric with a fine tulle-type material and a cardboard pleating board, but this would take a long time!

16. Rolled Pleats

Pleats that are rolled up create a tube of fabric. This results in a puffy, expansive pleat that appears bulky. Organ pleats are a sort of rolling pleat that is often utilized for puffy, voluminous skirts.

Because the cloth rolls over itself to make each tubular pleat, this unique approach uses a lot of fabric. Perhaps this is why it isn’t as common in ready-to-wear garments as a flat pleat. If you enjoy vintage trends, you might be able to buy it in couture clothing or even produce it yourself to make period-authentic apparel!

17. Sunburst Pleats

Tahari ASL Women's Sunburst Pleated Skirt Skirt, Military, 16

Sunburst pleats are similar to graduated pleats, but they’re cut on the bias of the cloth to give them a particular flare. These lovely folds like rays extending out from a narrower center to a wider bottom. In a dress, this style of fold might be employed to create exquisite short sleeves.

Sunburst pleats are most commonly seen at the hem of a skirt for an exquisite, flared look. They’re thin at the top and spread at the bottom, creating a swirly, high-volume skirt that’s far more attractive than a conventional gathered skirt!

What Are the Most Common Forms of Pleats?

Knife, accordion, and box pleats are the most frequent forms of pleats found in off-the-rack clothes. Kick pleats and inverted peats are also prominent.

Knife pleats can be found on everything from pockets to skirts to sleeves. Knife folds have a sharp, pressed edge and add a little extra volume to a garment for ease of movement.

Accordion pleats can be found in a pleated skirt, which is a skirt with small, symmetrical folds all the way around.

Box pleats can be used in a variety of ways. They’re commonly seen in the lining of a jacket’s upper back or the middle back of a dress’s middle back, where they provide extra room for arm movement. They’re also seen on skirts around the waist or hip level to enhance volume and facilitate leg movement.

Kick and inverted pleats are frequently (though not always) used near the lower edge of a skirt, particularly a tight skirt like an A-line or a pencil skirt. This makes it easier to walk. Of course, as the name implies, kicking!

What are the Types of Pleated Skirts?

Pleats can be used in many various styles of skirts, but the kick pleat skirt, the accordion-pleated skirt, and the A-line inverted pleat skirt are the most common. A new form of maxi skirt or dress with box pleats has arisen in recent years, and it appears to be growing in popularity.

Kick pleats, as you may know, offer a small flare of extra fabric to a skirt’s lower edge. This makes walking much more enjoyable! Kick-pleat skirts come in a variety of styles, from plaid schoolgirl skirts to exquisite wool pencil skirts with one or two hidden kick pleats at the back for extra volume.

Accordion-pleated skirts are circular skirts or elastic-waist skirts composed of pleated fabric that has been pre-pleated, usually in a lightweight satin or tulle. These skirts have a nice flare to them and look great in both knee and ankle lengths!

A-line skirts can appear overly simple, but the addition of inverted pleats adds comfortable volume and visual appeal. On a skirt, the folds may be seen at the waist, hip, or knee level.

How is Pleated Fabric Made?

The majority of pre-pleated fabric originates from facilities that use chemicals to permanently freeze the fabric into lengthy rows of accordion or mushroom folds. However, depending on the type of fabric, this technique may differ.

When synthetic materials are exposed to high heat, they melt, necessitating the chemical procedure. Under heat or pressure, natural fabric can be permanently set.

Permanent pleating usually works well with light, thin, or translucent textiles. These unique fabrics are available from huge online fabric companies like Mood Fabric, as well as a small assortment at your local sewing store.

How to Sew Pleats

If you’re new to pleat-making, a basic knife pleat is a good place to start. This simple fold will teach you the fundamentals of pleating, and as you gain experience, you may progress to more sophisticated folds!

Most sewing patterns provide instructions for producing pleats, however some patterns contain ambiguous stages or even omit key aspects that new sewers may not be aware of.

You can make a basic knife fold in any garment by following these simple steps!

  1. To begin, trace the pleat patterns on your sewing pattern onto your cloth. These usually take the form of dotted parallel lines. You can do this with pins, a sewing pencil, or chalk.
  2. Fold the fabric in half with the right side facing you. By stacking the lines you just marked in the direction of the arrow on the sewing pattern, you can match them up. One on top of the other, the lines should be completely aligned.
  3. The fold should be pinned or clipped in place. Pleating is made more easier with the use of quilting or sewing clips, which can be simply removed while sewing!
  4. Press the folds in place to give them a distinct edge if your fabric can hold it.
  5. Sew along the top edge of the folds with a basting stitch on your sewing machine, about half an inch from the raw edge of the material.
  6. The pleated section can now be sewn into the remainder of the garment!


Pleats fold the cloth to give a garment more volume, ornamentation, and texture. Knife, accordion, and box pleats are the most common styles in off-the-rack clothing, although couture garments feature many more sophisticated forms of pleating.

Some pleats, such as Kingussie pleats for kilts and cascading pleats for sarees, are specific to certain styles of clothing. Various folding patterns are used in many sorts of skirts and dresses, particularly kick pleats to broaden a skirt hem and box pleats in the central back of a dress.

Have you ever attempted to make a pleat? What fold style did you use? Please let us know in the comments section below!

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